Women in Business: Alison Love

Alison Love

Alison Love

Alison has over 30 years practical experience as an HR practitioner, employment lawyer and business leader. Prior to qualifying as a solicitor she spent 8 years as an HR practitioner in the public, retail and consumer finance sectors.

Alison practiced as an employment lawyer for almost 20 years with 12 years as a Partner.

Alison set up her own business (Alison Love Limited) in 2011, providing workplace mediation, conflict resolution training and associated services. Alison is more and more convinced that workplace mediation and positive approaches to conflict management provide a better way to resolve or even avoid damaging conflict in the workplace for the benefit of both business and the individuals concerned; a real win-win. She is also a firm believer that the ability to positively manage conflict is a key leadership and management skill.

Tell us about your journey of how you got to where you are today.

I went straight in to HR from school following A levels. It was expected that I would go to university, but as I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I joined the civil service and completed the Institute of Personal Management qualification, now known as CIPD.

After completing my IPM, I worked for my parent’s retail business; I set up an HR function and acted as a buyer before joining a consumer finance company as an HR executive. I began to regret not going to university by this stage so gave up paid employment to go to Cardiff University to study Law. This was with the view of utilising the employment law element with my HR experience, but I then went to law school and qualified as a solicitor. Twenty years later I found myself as equity partner for one of the biggest law firms in Wales before leaving that all behind to set up my own business.

I sum up leaving a successful career and starting on my own in the middle of the deepest recession in the UK as my midlife re-evaluation! I’d reached a plateau in my career; and wanted new challenges. At the same time, I found myself attending two funerals in two months of close colleagues following which I completed a very challenging charity walk along the Great Wall of China. These events were a trigger for reflecting on “what next”.

The seeds for Alison Love Limited followed some career counselling with a good friend where we worked out what was important to me in going forward. Alison Love Limited then came to fruition about 8 months later. I provide workplace mediation and associated training, executive coaching and employment investigation services. I love what I am doing, it feels far more positive to be seeking to resolve workplace issues or developing skills rather than picking up the pieces when disputes are heading towards a tribunal.

Three years on, the business is thriving and about to enter a new era. I’ve already achieved on of my long terms goals of writing a book.

How has life experience shaped you as an individual?

If I’m in a situation where people tell me I can’t do things or there is a set back this increases my determination to prove I can do it! There have been a number of situations where there has been a set back and this has often prompted a change and greater determined to succeed and I rise to the challenge.

My drive and determination comes from both my parents, in particular my Dad, he started his own business having left school at 14 with no qualifications and built a successful business. My work ethic very much comes from them.

As I said earlier, I haven’t taken the traditional route when it comes to both education and career, having gone to university as a mature student and with a number of career changes along the way.When I went to university I did wonderhow I would compete against younger students who had come straight from school. However, it certainly worked for me. I’m prime example that much can be gained from a different approach and changes in direction. Life is too short to be stuck doing something you no longer enjoy or which no longer challenges you. It’s never too late for new learning and new opportunities if you have the desire to create them.

What have been the highlights and challenges in your career to date?

For me, it has to be highlights in the plural. It’s about having the faith in myself to take ‘the leap’ on a number of occasions and with faith that a net will appear. The message for me, is that you have to go for it and not to worry too much as things have a habit of working out. This is not necessarily in the way you anticipate but then that is part of the fun. In the words of Charles Handy, “You have to be in the orchard to catch the apples.”

My challenges are ones that I and many women see as their challenges too. That is managing my career and family, or perhaps more accurately managing the almost inevitable guilt that mothers seem to have. It’s about doing the best you can and realising that sometimes your best just has to be good enough.

What have been the challenges in setting up your own business?

Learning to do everything for yourself; it was a rude awaking when I realised there was no IT or marketing department to fall back on. In some way, I’ve really enjoyed the learning that this has brought as it’s forced me to gain skills and appreciate that I can do things that I didn’t think I could. This has given me a great sense of satisfaction.

The business has now grown to a point where I have to “say no” or rely on others to help. As I can’t say “no” it’s got to be the latter.

What do you think are the biggest challenges for women in the workplace today?

Whilst women still don’t have parity in the main in the workplace, we women need to worry less about it, stop complaining and just go for it. We should celebrate our differences and prove that we can do anything.

Whats been your greatest career achievement to date?

As I said earlier one of my longer term goals was to write a book. This has happened much quicker than I ever imagined. The book is a managers guide to workplace mediation but also demonstrates how the mediation skills set can be used to improve day to day people management skills

I was approached by publishers out of the blue; being active on social media has meant that my business profile reached far beyond the UK. With social media, you can compete on a global basis, and it shows you don’t really need a marketing department. The most important thing is that my personality comes through enabling clients to see the real me. As I control what I write in my blog and tweet feed I can be more creative and I have enjoyed the freedom to develop this. If you are part of a corporate environment, you have to tow the party line as you have to have one eye on the corporate brand.

I was approached by an American publishing house to write a book and several drafts later, it is being published! Following the book, I’m now being asked to run mediation workshops in the Hong Kong and Singapore this Summer. Alison Love Limited is really going global, who would have thought that in year 3!

Whats the one word that sums you up?


Guest Post: How to Utilise the Law of Attraction for Career Success in 3 Simple Steps By Career Transition Coach Natalie Ekberg

Natalie Ekberg

Natalie Ekberg

The Dalai Lama once said that “in order to carry a positive action, we must develop a positive vision”. This, in a nutshell, describes how you can use the wonderful powers of the Law of Attraction for your career success. In theory, it is very simple. In practice, it requires patience, deliberation and consistency. Once it is mastered, though, you can use this skill for achieving anything else in life, so it is worth trying!

1.)   Create a detailed vision of your ideal job or business and put it down in writing. This might sound like something you have heard before, but honestly, how many times did you actually do it? I can tell you from the experience of my clients that those who did this exercise properly got their “career happy ever after” moments in abundance. When doing the exercise, describe your office building, its environment, the vibe and the people, and most importantly, feel the whole atmosphere in your body. If you feel excited about your vision, bingo! That is the right working environment for you.

2.)   If you already have a career you like, but you would like to be more successful, you need to define what exactly that “success” means. Is it a higher position, bigger projects, more money, better boss…? Only you know what career success means to you. Again, once you have that vision, write it down and keep adding to it or changing it as you see fit. The important part is to connect emotionally with this vision on a regular basis. Read through it when you wake up in the morning or even when you are on the Tube. What you are trying to achieve is to imprint that vision on your subconscious mind so achieving it will become second nature to you.

3.)   Use the power of intention or, in other words, ask for it! This simple tool can give you a huge advantage over your competitors for a promotion or during a job interview. Intend and state how the situation that is important to you will go. You have to be firm and own the process one hundred per cent. You are not asking questions here; you are making decisions. Do you feel the difference in the statement you have made? If you create your intention, stand behind it fully, and go into the situation with that power in your presence, you will get the result you have intended. I have to reiterate: your intent must be strong and you must believe in it; only then can the energy of that intent be transferred.

Most importantly, even though the universal laws are always working on your behalf, they can’t do your part for you. Therefore, whether it is an ideal job, success in your career or a fun working environment you want, you still have to go and put your best effort forward to achieve your goals. When you work in tandem with the Universe, miracles happen!

For more info on Natalie Ekberg and her services see www.LBCareercoaching.com

Follow Natalie on twitter @LBCoachNatalie

Women in STEM: Alice Gray, STEM Blogger

Alice Gray

Alice Gray

Alice Gray is a Neuroscience graduate and STEMinist blogger from Pembrokeshire, who is passionate about working towards a society that values equality. She hopes to one day publish a book that she is co-authoring, Women in White Coats, which discusses the issues that face women in scientific careers and celebrates their achievements.

Tell us about your journey to where you are today.

From a young age, I was interested in two rather opposing subjects, art and science, and was unsure which I would like to revolve my future around. I soon became more active in forming a career in science, partly due to competition between my identical twin sister (who is a fantastic artist), and decided to pursue further education in medical science.

At eighteen I began my degree in Neuroscience at Cardiff University, with a particular interest in Autism and Savant Syndrome. During my time at university, I became passionate about women in academia and encouraging more women into the industry I loved, science, which lacks an equal representation of women. I started blogging about the issues that I came across as a woman in science, leading me to begin working on a book Women in White Coats, which is in it’s early stages.

As well as blogging and working on my book, I use my spare time to volunteer as a STEM ambassador, where I visit schools to educate children about the possible careers in STEM and talk about my scientific area, neuroscience. This role allows me to use my experience to engage children in an area of research they may not of heard of before. It also allows me to act as a role model and hopefully encourage more girls to realise a potential career in STEM.

How has your life experience made you the individual you are today?

I think having strong female role models in my family has shaped how I view the world. My mother and her mother have been very influential in how seriously I take my ambitions and not sacrificing them for others or to fit into gender stereotypes. I have noticed their attributes in my personality throughout my lifetime, in my stubbornness and ambition to achieve my goals despite the opinions around me.

My experience as a woman in science has made me want to be involved in gender equality projects. It has made altered my ambitions and career goals completely. In response to the barriers I observed as a woman in a male dominated industry, I want to address the issues and create an even playing field for women in all industries to prevent women from being deterred in the future.

Tell us about your blog and the topics you cover.

I started my blog in 2013 after becoming incredibly aware of the barriers I faced as a woman in science and a lack of trust people feel towards science. I use the blog to explore a variety of topics, ranging from interesting pieces of scientific research, discussing issues in scientific research and important discussion about the issues of gender discrimination that occur in science. I aimed to create a platform for discussion that was somewhat informal and relatable for those from a non-scientific background, that confronted issues, inspired public interaction with science and added to a community of encouragement for women in STEM industries.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your time as a blogger?

My biggest highlight of creating a blog has been that I have thoroughly enjoyed it. It has given me the opportunity to utilise a variety of my skills that I don’t often get to use in collaboration. I have been able to use my artistic abilities, my interest in scientific engagement, my background in science and passion for gender equality to contribute to a project that I am really passionate about.

However, my biggest challenge has been confronting issues in an industry I really loved. When I was pursuing my career in STEM, it was disheartening to find that the subject I enjoyed had barriers up to deter me. But this has led me to become involved in projects that address these issues for women in science and industry, finding a new passion in gender equality and wanting to address these problem for future generations.

What tips can you offer those who are looking to make a difference in STEM?

As long as you are consciously trying to make a difference in STEM, you will. Whether that is by simply making yourself aware of the issues that occur in STEM or by getting involved in projects, you will make a difference.

The best suggestion I can make for women in STEM is to become a role model, for example by becoming a STEM ambassador. Your presence as a female in STEM is enough to make an impact that will make a difference, helping to inspire young girls to pursue a career in STEM and realise their full potential.

How do you want to make a difference in the STEM environment?

I am really passionate about improving the representation of women in STEM industries. I want to prevent girls at a young age from being discouraged from pursuing further education in STEM and want to stop the ways gender stereotyping can affect the performance and participation of girls in STEM subjects.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandbergs Lean In book and movement?

I am really looking forward to reading it, it is on my list of books to read. I am especially looking forward to Lean In For Graduates, released in April. I think the book (and the movement) has been able to help to make business a more accessible career avenue for women, helping to dispel myths that make a lot of women feel that they aren’t cut out for it. It will also be interesting to see whether the new book will encourage female graduates to feel confident in their abilities to start a business.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

As a woman in science, female role models were specifically important to me. So, it is a rewarding feeling that by being a STEM ambassador that I could be somebody’s role model.

I also think that by assuming the role of a mentor, not only am I able to contribute to society and projects I am passionate about, but it has really benefited me. I think that by being a role model, it gives me the opportunity to not only improve my confidence and experience, but it has also has strengthened my own idea of what I have achieved.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

As a child I looked up to Michaela Strachen. I really identified with her and she inspired me to become interested in life sciences. That made it harder when last year she published her opinions in an article in the Daily Mail, where she discussed how women will always struggle in science as they aren’t as enterprising as men. As I grew older, I looked up to Professor Alice Roberts. She was another woman in science that inspired me and I could identify with, especially as she studied Anatomy at Cardiff University.

I think the biggest influence on who I am today, outside of family members, is someone who fairly recently triggered a massive change in the way I think. Until my second year of university, I, like a lot of science students, just learnt everything as if it were the law. However, during a lecture Professor Jenny Kitzinger (a Professor of Media and Communications Research) came into to talk to use about cultural, social and ethical dimensions of coma and severe brain injury, as we were learning the neuroscience of consciousness. She taught me to question science. That has contributed to a massive change in my attitude towards science, that is was in fact a community that in some ways needs to change.

What is one word that sums up where you have got to today?


Women in Web Weekly Round-up


It’s the weekend, so why not take some time out to catch up on our features this week.

We featured a Q&A with Jean Martin Executive Director of CEB’s HR Practice

We also wanted to remind you not to miss Careercake’s event on 14 June.  Read more here!

This week’s Thursday’s question was:  Do you have job interview coming up? Preparing some well researched questions for the panel can potentially tip the job in your favour. Anyone had experience of this recently? Let us know.

Other intersting articles that caught our attention this week include:

Britain needs more risk takers, says Annoushka Ducas

Harriet Green, the Thomas Cook CEO has boosted share prices by 950% and turned around a failing company.

Women in Business: Jean Martin, CEB

Jean Martin

Jean Martin

Jean Martin’s infectious enthusiasm coupled with her deep knowledge of human resources lead Chief Human Resources Officers at some of the world’s top organizations to look to her and CEB for guidance on the critical problems keeping them up at night.
As executive director of CEB’s HR Practice, Jean directs the research, business practices, and operations and together with the leadership team, sets the strategic direction for CEB’s HR research. Her areas of expertise span the HR spectrum and range from the future of the HR function to leadership to labor market trends. Specifically, Jean spends time working on issues relating to employee engagement, how companies can attract and keep the best employees, and how companies can seek out top talent globally and build out their global leadership bench.

Jean is often asked to share her knowledge in larger forums and has spoken at venues such as the Gathering of Leaders, Wharton Women in Business Conference and the European Union. Jean also regularly presents to executive teams including Bombardier, Intel, Cisco, BBVA and Eskrom among others. In addition, her work has appeared in publications such as the Associated Press, Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Businessweek and Human Resources Executive Magazine.

Prior to CEB, Jean served as a special assistant to President Clinton’s Domestic Policy Council. Additionally, Jean was a Presidential Management Fellow serving as a Special Assistant to the Senior Vice President for small business/community development banking at Bank of America. Also during her time as a PMF she was project manager for microfinance and microenterprise development at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Jean received a Masters of Public Policy with a concentration in Economics and Finance from the Kennedy School at Harvard University and a Bachelor of Arts with highest distinction from the University of Virginia.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

Growing up as the daughter of a social worker and a teacher, I learned very early that leading successfully requires leading through the success of others. My leadership approach focuses heavily on inspiring and supporting talented people and then getting out of the way. By not “helicoptering” I have seen talented people rise to new heights and it ties up more time for my own creative contributions – the things that only I can do for the business. Working for former President Bill Clinton I learned similarly that if you give people full information about the context for the work and the goal you are trying to achieve, they will use their own smarts and initiative to get to better solutions than those you could engineer. Whether they be welfare program administrators or hospital workers or prison guards, when each person knew what we as leaders wanted to do, communities carried the ball further toward the finish line. In my career at CEB, I’ve learned to plant the flag of achievement on the most aggressive targets possible – as one of our executives put it, if you, as a leader, don’t frame real truly aggressive goals for yourself, everyone working for you will be less aggressive, causing the organization’s real potential to be undergunned. Key as a leader is to inspire, empower and direct, and-only if absolutely needed, dive in.

How have your previous employment experiences aided your position at CEB?

My previous work in consulting, government and non-profits has assisted me in several ways:

1)    Previous employment has provided me with an ability to work across boundaries with many different types of people with differing priorities – being “multi-lingual” in this way is crucial in serving the thousands of organizations we serve at CEB;

2)    My prior work has allowed me to hone an analytic and operations skillset that means I can get quickly to the root-cause of problems and identify the underlying issues and work quickly and efficiently resolve them; and

3)    My work has always revolved around persuading and influencing extremely senior executives whether they be heads of companies or Heads of State – therefore, excellence in articulating ideas, building business cases and communications is something I have focused on throughout my career and has been a key to my success.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at CEB?

Highlights during my time as an executive director at CEB include:

1) Publishing groundbreaking studies in the areas of performance management, leadership development, succession management and employee engagement;

2) Growing our offices from to two to 12 globally;

3) Contributing to the launch of our services for small and medium-sized enterprises – now one of our fastest-growing businesses; and

4) Witnessing many of my staff rise up into other senior roles within the company.

Challenges have included creating new information platforms for regions like Asia, Latin America and the Middle East where cultures and histories make management very unique, and growing our sales and service capabilities to now include more hands-on application of tools and knowledge. Both efforts were highly rewarding in the end, but required fundamentally rethinking how we do business.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

For both men and women, I believe that work/life balance emerges first from having a strong definition and understanding of the values one plans to live by – for each person, these values and priorities can be different, but knowing and defining for yourself the full life you want to live and then living it is key to being truly successful. Knowing that family is a top value for me, I prioritize separating my time with my husband and three young children from my work time. Office work ends at 6:00 p.m. and dinner and bedtime are “no work” zones during which all calls and emails are deferred. When I am on the road, I FaceTime with the kids every day or show them pictures of where I am when I am traveling – they like seeing the sites through the photos I send and hearing my stories about what I am eating or doing and what the weather is where I am. During periods where travel and work is heavy, I try to make sure to reserve special time with each of my kids, my husband and my extended family where we can do things for just us and make sure that I am investing deeply in my relationships with the people closest to me. I think of it as “making deposits in a bank” ensuring that the balance of my time stays high enough even when work forces me to “make withdrawals” against my time with them. As with most working parents, for me caring for my family and myself means every day is its own journey and there is no magic formula. That said, how I spend each hour is a choice and I try to be extremely mindful of each choice I make since, with a family, the tradeoffs are high. I have found that being a working parent is the greatest management challenge I have ever faced and I have learned the most from it as a result.

What research has CEB been recently working on?

CEB is focusing on several topics of great interest to the C-suite and business leaders:

1)    How to accurately identify and engage high-potential employees and how to drive high levels of employee performance – this work leverages insights from neuroscience and organizational design to understand what are the most effective innovations in driving employee productivity;

2)    Building leaders in New Work Environment – given the way in which work has become more dispersed, virtual, horizontal, this work studies how leaders need to behave differently to be effective; and

3)    The Future of the Corporate Functions – given our privileged position managing the largest networks of C-suite executives, we have been able to study the continuum of practice within each function and map the overall direction we believe Finance, IT, HR, Marketing, Sales and other functions will take in the coming decade.

 What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

The biggest issue for women in the workplace today is the fact that many workplaces and many jobs – especially senior jobs are not designed in a way that is attractive to women. A recent CEB study showed no difference in women’s abilities to handle senior roles, there were dramatic differences in whether women wanted these roles, with as many as 30 percent saying they did not aspire to the roles of senior executives above them. Part of this is the work-life balance question and the fact that many of the senior roles are not dual-career or family friendly. Also interesting was the study’s conclusion that women prefer more collaborative and constructive work environments and that their perception is that many senior positions exist within senior teams that do not support constructive collaboration. Because these senior roles are the stepping stones to Board positions, we will not solve for the dearth of women on Boards until we make senior leadership roles in corporations more appealing to women. Until more women are in senior roles and can contribute to changing these roles to make them more attractive to a broad group of candidates, we will struggle to attract women to top jobs.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In book and movement?

I am appreciative that Sheryl has raised women’s issues again and energized the discussion around women in the workplace – she has ensured women and men of all generations are reflecting deeply on the progress of gender integration in the workplace. In particular, her book is a terrific rallying cry for the soon-to-graduate cohort of women who will benefit from setting the highest possible aspiration for their careers and as Sandberg suggests, “going for it.” Her “Ban Bossy” campaign is vital to keep attention on places where double standards may exist for the acceptable behaviors of boys and girls. My argument with the book is only that I think the answer of “Lean In” oversimplifies the reality of the profession-life challenge women face. Those of us who have been in the workforce for decades know that in most organizations it is never just a question of leaning out or leaning in, but rather a subtle mix of activities and attitudes that may vary day to day or even hour to hour. We may lean in at a CEO/ Board presentation in the morning – only to lean out in the afternoon at a child’s doctor appointment or school event. We may have weeks or even years where the focus needs to be on an aging parent or a soon-to-graduate teen and work hours must taper, followed by years when the balance is such that a full-throttle lean in is possible and desirable. The other critical side of the Lean In need is also the need of organizations and societies to “Lean In” to meet women (and men) half way as they seek to support complex, multi-dimensional values-driven lives. The smartest companies are realizing that when they design programs and careers in a way that dedicates this kind of flexibility and lifetime commitment to top performers, they can attract and motivate a very different level of talent and keep that talent contributing longer to their mission. Yes, women need to lean in, but organizations and societies are also responsible for creating environments that allow men and women the resources to “go for it” at work even as they make positive contributions outside of work. I do not believe an employee’s outside life should be thought of as “Leaning Out,” but rather as living a full life and in a way that can often amplify their capabilities at work.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

Mentoring has been essential to me in my professional and personal life. Mentoring relationship perhaps because they are driven by more personal, less structured interactions have contributed more to my learning than any other experience. My mentors have been and are men and women, professors and business leaders, experts and friends. Borrowing an approach created at GE, I have recruited and maintain a “Personal Board of Directors” that meets with me off-line to help me guide my investments in myself and in my career. This diverse group has been invaluable at challenging my thinking and pushing me to the question of “Why not you? Why can’t you accomplish your wildest dreams?” Their real-world experience has also helped me with innumerable lessons in work-life balance, creative problem solving, team management and persuasive skills. All of the key transitions in my career were driven by mentors who saw an opportunity and encouraged me to reach for it. In my view, there is nothing more important, regardless of one’s profession or aspiration, than cultivating a terrific set of mentors to serve as guides through work and life. Notably, for rising female leaders, I do not think these mentors need to be women.

Instead most important is that they are people with networks and experience that extend beyond your own in the fields that you care about and that they have an energetic and long-term commitment to you and your advancement.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

I admire Hillary Clinton for her willingness to really do the work to master a subject and maintain an exceptionally high bar for the quality of her own and her teams’ work. I admire Christine Lagarde of the IMF for her superb yet subtle ability to frame a national or international agenda. Finally, Melinda Gates is an inspiration for the way in which she quietly reframes countless health, development and education challenges by asking simply “What works in addressing this problem and how can we rapidly scale that solution?” In general, I admire women who ask those fresh, tough questions that go furthest to advancing dialogue and understanding and then have the operational skills and discipline to inspire teams and organizations to deliver a fresh approach

What are your hopes for the future of CEB?

CEB has an exciting future ahead. We are committed to unlocking and progressing the science and practice of management and my team specifically is focused on unlocking and progressing the science of talent management. This is particularly significant in that the dramatic changes in the work environment mean that many of the talent management solutions that worked a decade ago are no longer effective. At the same time, the market of providers – largely consultants and technology firms – has not kept pace with advances in employee behavior and organizational management. CEB sees a better way forward against the challenge of talent management and is assembling a suite of services grounded in the principles of economics and organizational behavior. We are committed to ensuring that every organization does not just have effective talent management, but rather the right talent management for its specific objectives. We are beginning to see breakthrough results from this business-specific approach and look forward to taking that to all of our operating regions and the thousands of organizations we serve. We continue to be energized by the mission of improving executives’ ability to harness both their personal and their organizations’ full potential during these challenging times.

Don’t miss the Careercake live event on June 14th!

Aimee Bateman

Aimee Bateman

Need to polish up your CV or want tips on how to perform brilliantly in an interview? Don’t miss the first Careercake live event taking place on June 14th!

This half day career workshop will take place at the University of South Wales Atrium Building in Cardiff, and you’ll get the chance to hear and learn from Careercake’s founder, Aimee Bateman. The event will cover the topics of CV and cover letter success, using social media to job hunt and build relationships, and an interview masterclass.

Tickets cost £50 but you can score a discounted ticket using the code ‘CCTVlive14’ at checkout. For more information on the event and to book your place click here.

Also make sure you read our exclusive Q&A with Aimee!

Women in Web Weekly Round-up


The weekend is upon us! So we have pulled together what’s been featured on Women in Web this week. We hope you enjoy our features and we really welcome your comments on our features.


Diane Smith, co-organizer of the first Know Your Value conference that took place in Hartford, CT last week shares her reflections on the event in this exclusive post for Women In Web. Read Diane’s conference reflections


The first Q&A this week was with Aimee Bateman, founder of Careercake.com. Aimee has held senior positions with some of the largest recruitment companies, helped thousands of people achieve their career goals and sourced talent for global corporations as well as smaller entrepreneurial businesses. Read more about her journey here.


Our second Q&A this week was with Julie-Ann Haines, Customer Director with the Principality Building Society. Julie-Ann is responsible for ensuring that the Society stays well ahead of the rapidly-changing nature of its customer base. Her new role saw her appointment to the Group Board. Read Julie-Ann’s Q&A here


This week’s question is: When did you last up date your skills audit? You’d be suprised what new skills you’ll have gathered. Do you include skills from any volunteer work you may do?


Other stories that have caught our eye this week include…
Accountancy is top sector for supporting and retaining female talent


An inspiring video featuring WomenOne CEO Dayle Haddon and how she is working with the Girl Scouts.


New Bentley University research shows who is climbing the career ladder.


#ThisBook Campaign Highlights Books Written By Women – What’s Your Favourite?



Women in Finance: Julie-Ann Haines, Customer Director at Principality Building Society

03.12.12Principality staff

Julie-Ann Haines joined the Principality Building Society in 2007, building and developing its e-commerce offering. In 2010, she was appointed Director of IT & e-channels and at the end of 2012, promoted to Customer Director, responsible for ensuring that the Society stays well ahead of the rapidly-changing nature of its customer base. Julie-Ann’s new role saw her appointment to the Group Board.

The role of Customer Director is designed to ensure a unified, consistent experience for Principality Group customers across all channels of the business, offering the right products and a service level consistent with what customers expect. Julie-Ann is responsible for marketing, distribution and operations at the building society. Julie-Ann is also responsible for providing a strong customer service operation that we consider to be instrumental in meeting the ambitious growth plans set out by the building society by 2017.  

principality logo

Tell us about your journey to where you are today.

Although, I studied Accountancy at University, I quickly came to realise through working in my father’s retail business that I much preferred customer facing roles!

I went on to study my Masters in International Marketing in Scotland. I was the youngest on the course and one of only four students for the UK. Following my Masters, I started working for a subsidiary of WPP, one of the world’s largest marketing services organisation, which introduced me to the world of advertising and branding. I worked for clients such as Fords, Haagen Dazs and Laura Ashley. The work was strategic, reporting the results of customer research to clients at board level.

Following that, I joined Sainsbury’s as market researcher, and then became their Fresh Food Marketing Planning Manager.  I was most proud of building up the organic fresh food proposition which over-took Waitrose in market share.

I relocated to Cardiff in 1998 to set up home and family. I worked in Sales and Marketing traveling across Europe, for Reckitt Benckiser, one of the world’s largest household and pharmaceutical companies. I spent more time working away from home than being at home.

I had a spell at Halifax Bank of Scotland.  I found the culture there was very difference.  I then moved to my current organisation Principality Building Society. My first challenge was to setup the digital side of the business. I am currently responsible for all customer facing areas of the Principality, which amounts to 550 staff.

How has your life experience shaped you as an individual?

I’ve learnt to be more of a risk taker, the older I get the more confident I am. Creating self-belief is a challenge for many women. I’ve always been quite strategic, big picture thinking. I worked in my Dad’s business from 11 years of age. Being the boss’s daughter, I didn’t wanted staff to think I was there to make up the numbers so I set the example.  This very much framed my business values.

My business values have always been the same:- good work ethic, the more you put in the more you get out. I very much value that in others and focussing on creating long-term value by focussing on the needs of others .

What have the highlights and challenges been during your time at Principality?

My biggest highlights to date has been winning the Best Internet Saving Account at the Money Facts Awards 2013.  In terms of challenge, it has to be balancing home and work commitments.

What characteristics do you think are vital to be a good leader?

Have courage, be a good listener and be prepared to make decisions and make mistakes.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

I feel there is still some subconscious discrimination.  The politics of the organisation, the way ‘stuff gets done’ requires women to change their style to ensure they have the impact they need to have.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

I’ve had mentoring from senior colleagues. It’s very helpful as it allows you the time to think in a very safe environment and to test some of your initial thoughts.

Who are your role models?

It has to be my Dad. I so admire his braveness.

What is one word that sums up where you have got to today?


Reflections on the first Know Your Value Conference

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Diane Smith, co-organizer of the first Know Your Value conference that took place in Hartford, CT last week shares her reflections on the event in this exclusive post for Women In Web!

Know Your Value really was a great event.  We sold out and had a waiting list….someone commented to me “Next year you’ll need the convention center!” We heard things like “This was so good I can’t believe it was your inaugural,” and “I am already looking forward to next year.” It was very high energy – Mika moderated the entire thing, and was very pumped up. Joe Scarborough came along and was entertaining, too. Gayle King was very funny and people loved her since she worked in CT for a long time.  Rather than give a speech she decided to have a conversation on stage with the Channel 3 anchor who was her “last TV husband in CT.”

We had some fabulous women on the panels — including Melody Barnes who was the senior domestic policy advisor to President Obama and Lisa Hughes – Vice President and Publisher of the New Yorker.

I was on a panel about health and being your best self with Lucy Danziger, former editor in chief of Self magazine. 

We gave away big prizes to random attendees – ranging from a half dozen of the the new TIVO ROAMIO with lifetime service to a work wardrobe from designer Nanette Lepore. 

A number of women told us the swag bag was the best they had ever gotten — we had a specially designed bag stuffed with everything from a JMcLaughlin scarf to Bobbi Brown mascara, Loreal’s new sunscreen, a journal/pen to take notes and much more.

Accenture gave a prize to one woman we had vetted ahead of time. Gladys Mercado was invited to the conference by an administrator at Goodwin Colleges–and had no idea she was getting a prize. She got 20 hours of one on one coaching with top Accenture execs, an IPAD and a $250 gift certificate to Nordstrom to buy a job interview outfit. She is Latina, a single mom of 3 kids, working full time and going to school full time, and when we called her up on stage she was radiant and then burst into tears.   She happens to work for Congressman John Larson from Hartford and he came to the event and joined her on stage to talk about how great she is.

One interesting angle Mika came up with was to give a ten thousand dollar bonus to a deserving woman who had to go up on stage and make a 2 minute pitch on what she would do with the money. The five finalists (chosen from about 300 entries) were each assigned a coach ( I was one of them) and we worked with them on the phone ahead of time, and then in person the day of the  conference. The winner is Darcy Sordo from Clinton CT. Her consignment/resale shop is in Madison. Poppies sells gently used children’s clothing, toys, etc. Her store gives to local charities, and she also is a platform for moms launching products. Darcy was there on stage on Friday after having a heart procedure at Yale New Haven Hospital on Wed. She’s using the 10k to set up website and e-commerce to take it to another level.

The 4 other finalists each got $2K. When one of the women mentioned in her pitch that she would put the money toward her college tuition (first in her family to go to college) a woman from the college who happened to be in the audience  jumped up and grabbed the mic and said they would make sure she got a scholarship!  Totally unexpected but apparently a terrific climax to the day!”

You can watch highlights from the Know Your Value conference here. 

Women In Business: Aimee Bateman, Careercake.com

Aimee Bateman, Careercake.com

Aimee Bateman, Careercake.com

Over the last decade, Aimee Bateman has held senior positions with some of the largest recruitment companies, helped thousands of people achieve their career goals and sourced talent for global corporations as well as smaller entrepreneurial businesses. In 2011, Aimee created Careercake.com.

Along with winning the 2013 Institute of Directors (IoD) Talent and Innovation Award in Wales, she was recently awarded the Canmol (Chartered Institute of Marketing) Marketer of the Year Award. She has also been voted one of 2013′s Rising Stars by Business Insider Magazine. Aimee was also a finalist for the prestigious Shell Live Wire Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2007 at the age of 26, became a Welsh Government ambassador for the ‘Dynamo’ programme.

Aimee is also the featured careers mentor on various shows for BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Learning and BBC Three, I have written careers articles for The Guardian, TotalJobs.com, The Undercover Recruiter and more. My advice has been featured in The Independent, Glamour Magazine, The Huffington Post and Jobs & Careers Magazine. Aimee delivers workshops and and key note speeches throughout the UK, is an ambassador for National Careers Week and the official careers coach for the AAT.

Tell us about your journey to where you are today.

I’ve worked as a commercial recruiter for over ten years, but as a recruiter, my purpose is to find talent for companies rather than jobs for people. Working with individuals to sell themselves proved more rewarding to me, so I left my job, bought a £25 video camera from Ebay and started making career advice videos from my living room.

That was 3 years ago and I now have videos on a number of Youtube channels totally 1.7million views. I have written for Glamour, Stylist Magazine, The Guardian and Jobs and Careers magazine amongst others. I’ve also fronted a number of careers shows for the BBC and work with more than 15 Universities to prepare their graduates for the job market.

How has your life experience made you the individual you are today?

We all have our journey to go on. Not everyone will understand it, but they don’t need to. It’s not their journey. We just have to remember we live the life we make, not the life we are given. We decide.

Why did you want to help others find their dream job?

I didn’t have a huge amount of confidence growing up and it wasn’t until I joined my first company that I realised how good I could be. I saw the value I added through my work and it gave my self-esteem a huge boost.

If we are happy in our work, we are happy in life. We become better friends, mothers, dads, brothers, sisters, husbands and wives. I’m not a life coach, but I believe by helping people achieve their potential in their work, I can help their overall life. To be part of that is so exciting.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your time at Careercake.com?

The biggest challenge was having a big voice very early on but no profile. I would make videos and write articles all day long. I would sit at my computer for 12 hours a day hustling until my eyes bled building relationships, talking to people, listening to people and responding to every email I received…even though people we not paying me for my advice.

It was tough, but also the most fun part of my journey so far. I had made a conscious decision not to monetise Careercake.com for the first 6 – 8 months. This allowed me to build trust, help people and build wonderful relationships. The people who I helped then helped me. They promoted my profile for me (and still do). People need to know we really care about them before we can expect them to really care about us.

What top tips can you offer to those looking for employment?

Make the employer feel special. Remember you are talking to a human not a logo, so give them a real reason to believe you want to work for them.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

I have great systems in place, which mean my business is very lean and organised. Not like my personal life at all. I play more than I work these days and I travel a lot. I built a business model that would allow me to travel and work from anywhere. My biggest motivator is freedom, which is why my business is mostly online.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

The only way to be better is to surround yourself with people who are better than you. I do this everyday. I have 2 business mentors and my life is full of lighters (people who inspire and motivate me). We are who we hang with!

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

Apart from my close girlfriends, I admire Marie Forleo, Danielle La Porte and Karren Brady.

What is one word that sums up where you have got to today?