Women in Business: Betty-Ann Heggie

Betty-Ann Heggie

Betty-Ann Heggie

After 27 highly successful years in the corporate world,  Betty-Ann Heggie retired from her position as Senior Vice President of Potash Corp in 2007, and now serves as a corporate director, advocate for women, professional speaker and blogger for Huffington Post. She was also inducted into the Hall of Fame of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women and received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee medal, the YWCA Lifetime Achievement Award, the University of Saskatchewan Alumni Award for Mentorship and the Stevie Award for ‘Women Helping Women’.

Currently, she serves on the board of Allana Potash, a TSX traded company. She has used her  retirement to spearhead the Betty Ann Heggie Womentorship Foundation, aimed at getting more women to the decision-making table. To this end, she founded a groundbreaking mentorship program at her alma mater, the University of Saskatchewan with more than 1800 women having participated in the program’s networking events, professional development and its annual women’s film festival. A graduate of the University of Saskatchewan she has also completed the Senior Executive Program at the Columbia Business School in New York.

Tell us about your journey to where you are today.

I grew up in a small town hotel which encouraged my love of business and my appreciation for the importance of service. After moving to the city to attend university I became the first female beer representative for one of Canada’s leading brewers, Labatt’s. I always loved sales and over the next few years tried my hand at advertising, Xerox and potash. In each job I was hired as a ‘token woman’ and had to prove my worth in male-dominated environments. My main career was at PotashCorp, the world’s largest fertilizer producer, and I worked my way up the ranks at a time when the elevator didn’t necessarily go all the way to the top for women. It was a great career but as a life-long learner I eventually realized that new learnings were only going to be at the margins. That’s when I decided to turn the page and enter the next chapter of my life. Since ‘retiring’ I have fed my passion for helping women step into their energy and ‘stand tall’ through keynote addresses, professional development workshops and one-on-one mentorship. I thoroughly enjoy sharing my stories to help others avoid the school of ‘hard knocks’. These stories are rooted in my theory of ‘Gender Physics ‘which says that both men and women have Masculine and Feminine Energy inside of them which can be accessed as their circumstances warrant. Life hasn’t always been serious- I love to laugh and have had some fun along the way performing as a belly dancer, doing numerology readings and participating in a reality TV show. While my career was important to me I am lucky to have been able to combine it with wonderful relationships with important women in my life: my two daughters, my mother and sister. It is these bonds that put everything else into context.

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

Growing up in a small town hotel I first learned the importance of hard work. Then I learned that hard work wasn’t enough- you have to cultivate relationships with your customers, your suppliers and with your staff. It is important to know people’s birthdays, to take time to ask about their families and to hear their stories. Such are the things that not only build loyalty and allow you to grow your business, they provide soul satisfaction. Human nature thrives on connection and that is a key element of who I am. When I went to PotashCorp I used the principles I learned as a girl in the hotel to establish relationships with our customers, and then again with our investors when I became responsible for raising investment capital. It was in creating these external power bases that I was recognized and acknowledged internally. At one point I was named the top investor relations person in Canada by my peers and one of our brokerage analysts wrote a testament that said, a full two points on our company’s superior multiple could be attributed to my ability to form relationships. I considered this the highest possible compliment. Another thing that influenced me was the fact that in all my careers I was navigating the narrow mine-field allotted to women trailblazers. These experiences drove home to me the different ways that men and women approach situations and that formed the basis of my ‘Gender Physics’ theory. Since retiring and focusing solely on helping women advance I have had more time to travel and hear the stories of other women all over the world. It has convinced me that at our core, women are the same everywhere, and that we need to bring forth our collaborative, consensual Feminine Energy to help balance the world’s current Masculine Energy leadership style.

What have you learned from these highlights and challenges?

To have success in both our professional and personal lives each of us must be authentic. People are attracted to those who are being true to who they are and no one likes a phoney. In fact, if you are doing what you were meant to do you’ll get 80% of your results from 20% of your energy and we all need more energy! To stand in our own authentic power each of us must become aware of our energy sources. Then we need to do more of the things that give us energy and delegate the rest. To get in touch with what energizers you, follow your passion. If you are working on something you feel passionate about you’ll find that you are ‘in the flow’, stepping outside of time and space. You’ll have more energy; people will be drawn to you and will want to help you reach your goals. As each of us need the assistance of others, women need to network to form a friendship group to turn to when the going gets tough. That means that you’ll need someone safe to whom you can blow off steam at lunch and come back to the office appearing composed. It also means that you’ll need a mentor to sponsor you and a group of like-minded people to replenish your energy when you feel drained. To establish such relationships women must ‘give to get’. They have to establish the relationship first before they ask for assistance. Most importantly, you’ll need to take risks. Too often when things aren’t going as desired, women expect someone to rescue them. Each of us must pick ourselves up by the bootstraps and do it for ourselves. That is how we learn resilience. When we venture out and take a risk not everything will turn out as we would like. In my experience women tend to fall into negative thinking and then ruminate on it. We have to learn to put unhappy experiences behind us and move on. In summary, women need Awareness, Assistance and Autonomy for achievement and these are the basis of the Womentorship curriculum in the program that I sponsor.

Tell us about Womentorship and how it is making real difference.

When I was making my way in my career there were no women higher than me in the corporation to turn to and I needed someone to whom I could go for advice. Thus, I looked for men who had wives or daughters breaking into management as I knew they would be sensitive to my situation. It worked out well as I was lucky enough to have a great number of male individuals who opened doors for me, promoted my accomplishments and included me in meetings. Later in my career I did a lot of mentoring in my department so it was natural that I would continue after I left corporate life. In fact, I was doing so much that I couldn’t handle the volume. So I turned to my alma mater, the Edwards School of Business at the University of Saskatchewan. We made an agreement that they would administer my model for a women’s mentorship program and I would fund it. The ‘Womentorship’ program is my way of giving back. Each year we match aspiring young women with more experienced women to form a mentorship relationship. Throughout the year we offer professional development and networking opportunities and a women’s film festival. We have reached more than 1800 women. Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than to see young women who have come through the Womentorship program become more confident and openly offer their opinions; put up their hands and volunteer for assignments; take a risk by leaving unsatisfactory positions to start their own businesses or form a valuable network. Most of all I have watched them become more of themselves, leave their frustrations behind and live fuller lives. Best of all women who have entered our program as protégés have come back to mentor others. It truly is a winning legacy.

You are one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women Hall of Fame members. How are has this changed or reinforced the work that you do?

With recognition comes responsibility. I was delighted with the Top 100 Hall of Fame acknowledgment but also know that the universe bestows these honours so that we can use our position to help make the world a better place. I do that through my Womentorship program but also through my writing and speaking. My theories of Masculine and Feminine Energy are a bit far out for many (especially men) but the recognition that I have as a business person makes it more difficult to dismiss me and my thoughts. Also, we extended our Womentorship program to women from Afghanistan which was ground breaking. It wasn’t easy to get visas and certainly the credibility of this award helped convince officials that our program was legitimate. The four women who came to Canada for a month of mentorship with successful women were astounded at the number of female leaders in Canada. When asked how we accomplished this one of the women in our legislature said, “we stood on our mother’s shoulders, now you have to stand on ours”. That’s how it works. Many of the things that were seemingly insurmountable hurdles for me are now handled routinely by the next generation of career women. For example, I remember early in my career, being told that I wasn’t going to be included in a sales meeting because I might hear swearing! I fought that antiquated policy, was included in the meeting and women have been attending sales meetings at that company ever since. I believe that it is important to share these stories so women know that while they might face obstacles they can overcome them and have good careers. My recognition as one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women Hall of Fame members gives me the platform to offer this inspiration.

How did you maintain a work/life balance?

I had two daughters 18 months apart and at the time had a demanding job with lots of travel. Because I was the primary bread-earner in our family I only took six weeks off with each child. I tried to go to every meeting to be a good executive, while also expressing milk on the road, in an effort to be a good Mother. It was a recipe for disaster as I got very run down and eventually caught mononucleosis. My recovery, which should have taken 3 weeks to 3 months was slow to non-existent. After more than a year I was diagnosed as the first person in our province with Epstein Barr Syndrome. While I was happy to know that I was actually sick and not crazy, I was distressed to learn that there was nothing that traditional medicine could do for me. That’s when I took my healing into my own hands and learned to meditate. Each day, for 20 minutes, I sat quietly and visualized my body healthy and it worked! First, my boosted immune system protected me from catching every cold and flu that went around and then I recovered my previous energy levels. That was 30 years ago and meditation is a practice that I continue to this day. After that experience, I realized that I couldn’t do everything perfectly. I relaxed my standards and looked at ways to balance work and home during the child rearing years. My solution was to try to do reach two goals at once. If I wanted to talk with a girlfriend we did it on a walk so I was getting my exercise at the same time. I spent time at the dining room table colouring with my kids to allow me time with them while feeling that I was doing something creative. I let my kids help with everything (which meant giving up on perfection). I really focused on never beating myself up or feeling guilty. In that way I balanced positive self-talk with the never-ending list of things to do . I also learned to compartmentalize- My goal was to be fully present when I was with my children but not to worry about them when I was at work. Finally, I couldn’t have done it without a supportive husband who did far more than his fair-share with the children. We need our husbands to be intimately involved.

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

Early in my career our company, which was based on a commodity, was performing badly. A man who was a mentor to me took me aside. He told me there would be layoffs but that I should hang in with the company. Using his wealth of industry experience, he said that our product was cyclical, that we had good assets, that our industry would turn around and that I was destined for a good career with the company. Shortly thereafter, he was a victim of the layoffs. I continued with the company but it was a difficult place to work: budgets were slashed; people were trying to make others look bad so they could look good in case of another layoff; wages were frozen and the reduced workforce increased the workload of every individual left. In the midst of this I was offered a job at a different company. I seriously considered taking it but the advice of my now-departed mentor rang in my ears and I decided to stay put. He was proven right. The market did turn around and I was rewarded with an increase in title and salary. A mentor’s experience provides a broader horizon and each of us benefits from looking at the world through their eyes. Earlier I mentioned being excluded from a sales meeting on the basis that I might hear swearing. It is worthy to note here that a different mentor was an important part of getting that decision reversed. These are two examples of mentors who were an integral part of my career success bit there were many. They have spoken up on my behalf to secure me a higher bonus, awarded me projects so that I could demonstrate my abilities and offered advice on when was a good time to have a baby!

Which female leaders do you admire and why?

I am a big fan of Aung San Suu Kyi. For many years I wanted to go to Myanmar but refrained from planning a trip there while the military had her under house arrest. When she was finally freed and became an elected official, I admired her ability to set aside the harsh treatment she received and work in the government alongside the people who imprisoned her. Her focus is democracy for her people and she is able to rise above personalities to focus on making steps to achieve the principle. I also admire Sheryl Sandberg, who wrote the book “Lean In”. While she has been criticized for representing an elite group she showed courage and vision in using her position to speak out on what it is like to be a woman in business. She could have ignored the issue and carried on making millions but she opened the door for important conversations. For example, she was open about her lack of confidence, which is something that far too many women battle. I also admire Arianna Huffington for her encouragement of women. She rightly tells us to get enough sleep, say “NO” and ignore the obnoxious roommate in our heads. Like Sandberg, she could have continued to run her media empire but she has stepped out and used her position to change the role of women. Both are great examples of my former statement that with recognition comes responsibility. Who couldn’t admire Malala Yousafzai, the young girl who was gunned down by Taliban for going to school? Not only has she spent many years fighting for the right of girls to get an education she is now using her notoriety to encourage peace and dialogue on the importance of girls getting an education. I also commend any woman in politics, regardless of the party, as I believe that women are still unfairly maligned in that world. Again, we need these trailblazers.

Which words sum up where you have got to today?

People-oriented, intuitive, creative, generous, focused, hard-working, determined.

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Women in Business: Kristin Smith, CEO of Code Fellows

Kristin Smith

Kristin Smith

Kristin Smith is the CEO of Code Fellows, a digital trade school based in Seattle. Prior to joining Code Fellows, Smith served as Vice President of Supply Chain at Zulily where she oversaw the development of fulfillment processes, systems, and teams that were pivotal to the company’s rapid growth and sustained success. Prior to Zulily, she held several titles in eight years at Amazon.com, most recently serving as Senior Manager in charge of Product Management, Site Merchandising, and the Design teams responsible for Amazon MP3 and Amazon Cloud Player. She holds a Master’s degree in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering from the University of Michigan, a Master’s degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from MIT, and a Master’s degree in Business Administration from MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

How has your life experience made you the individual you are today?
I always loved so many different things. I was good at math and in music. I liked the law and journalism. I liked theater and music but also participated in sports. My dad and my grandfather were both very well educated, hard working, and successful – and my whole family encouraged me to try everything, even if it meant I might fail. And I grew up in a very diverse area outside of Detroit. I think that the combination of this well-roundedness and the ability to break out of the paralyzing fear of failure has led to my being drawn to earlier stage companies and cross-functional, building roles. It’s also led to my being around so many different types of people and enjoying the diversity – of thought, of experience, of motivation, of life.

What have you learned from these highlights and challenges?
For all of the business, education, technology, and data in my background, everything comes back to people. If you can help people, create great places to work, build a team that works well together – then the possibilities are endless.

You also have to let go of the perfectionism or fear of failure to the point where you aren’t paralyzed. Instead, use that deep-seeded anxiety you might feel to better prepare yourself. Use the resources and data that are available to you to dig in and identify, analyze and understand where mistakes might be made – and then find ways to avoid them, so that you’re never at risk of failing in an unrecoverable way. Prioritize the things that you absolutely must do well, and be prepared to learn quickly and iterate on the other stuff.

You’ve recently been appointed as CEO of Code Fellows. What excites you about this opportunity?
This company is truly special. Coding is a sort of super power, and our instructors are like Yoda, training students how to develop and harness this super power. Seeing our graduates then go out into the world and get great jobs where they get to build cool things and feel extremely valued is so incredibly rewarding. I’m also excited to help companies, large and small, engage these builders and fill the seemingly endless number of open positions that are critical to an organization’s performance and growth. We are in such a uniquely gratifying position – and that keeps me motivated for the road ahead. . We want to continue to grow and scale so that we can bring this super power to more students and expand our universe of partner companies. I’m excited to work with the team to make this happen.

How is Code Fellows shaking up the coding industry?
Code Fellows gives people who have been teaching themselves from online courses and self-study – or who discovered software development through a class or two on campus – an efficient and practical way to become professional web and mobile developers, or improve their existing software skills and find a job. There are several paths to this, and we’re a part of a movement to offer an alternative to the traditional educational methods.

However, unlike others in our category, we offer a variety of course offerings that address the broad spectrum of student skills, training and experience levels. Code Fellows offers an 8-week Development Accelerator course for more experienced developers looking to accelerate their career. And for less-experienced students, we’ve introduced night Foundations classes and 4-week full-time Bootcamps . We do guarantee that select students participating in the Development Accelerator programs – those with previous developer experience – will be offered a job that pays at least $100k per year. It’s a very unique opportunity that I’d dare say is shaking up the coding industry.”

Why do you think coding is so popular, particularly as an important skill in the digital age?
Technology and coding is not just for tech companies anymore. There are still so many new products and skills that technology is central to – as even traditional industries that are not thought of as tech industries need software developers. Every business has a website, a mobile app, some systems that run things on the back end, and technology is becoming omni-present. Universities can only graduate under 60,000 computer science majors every year, and the gap between the number of new jobs in software development and the number of people who can do them is widening at an accelerating pace every year.

Eventually, coding will be part of the core curriculum for kids as they grow up, but until that time, Code Fellows and other companies like us are trying to help fill the gap.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
This is always tricky. I’m so fortunate to have an amazing family and great friends as well as a great place to go home to. Once I go home, I try to leave work behind as much as possible and focus on spending time with my family and learning new things (like wake surfing, which I finally figured out last summer) outside of work. It’s not a hard-and-fast rule, but I resist the temptation to be connected and monitoring everything that is going on when I don’t absolutely need to.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have worked with some of the brightest and most inspiring people who have also become friends. Everyone needs a support system, and having a supportive, safe place to learn, get ideas, get coaching, and talk things through is so key to getting ‘unstuck’ or feeling confident enough to challenging myself. It’s also a great way to face my weaknesses and get help as I constantly try to improve.

As a mentor, I also find it inspiring at how much I learn from the people I am mentoring. If you truly listen, you can learn so much, even if you are supposed to be the coach. It’s really a great way to dedicate yourself because you are giving back and still getting so much in return.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
The female leaders that I truly admire are the women I’ve gotten to see up close and in person. Jane Park, the CEO of Julep, is a good example – though I’ve only met her but a couple of times at Seattle-area events.. However, when you’re in her presence, you can’t help but be inspired. She’s such a positive person and a passionate leader with a driving desire to build things for the world.

Also, I once had the opportunity to take a class from Kim Crawford, the former Prime Minister of Canada. She ‘retired’ from politics only to teach at the Kennedy School, start an organization that helps to spread democracy throughout the world, and support women world leaders. She was so giving of her time and her experience just to her students, which was amazing given all that she had done and everything that she still had to do.

And then there are the women I’ve worked with – particularly in my time at Dell. Inspiring, smart, driven, well-rounded leaders – as well as great friends and terrific people overall.

Which words sum up where you have got to today?
Incredible. Inspiring. The best is yet to come.

Women In Web’s Weekly Round-Up

WEEKLY ROUND UP TEMPWelcome to the latest instalment of Women In Web’s weekly round-up series.

This week we spoke to Gina Nelthorpe-Cowne, Founder of Kruger Cowne. Kruger Cowne is one of Europe’s leading talent management agencies and speaker’s bureaus. Click here to find out more about Gina and her business.

We also featured Sydney Carver, aka Summer Wind. Sydney is the owner of the Summer Wind blog, and covers her life and interests in Pittsburgh on a daily basis. Click here to check out why Sydney loves blogging!

Other stories that caught our attention this week include…

National women in engineering day: the battle to be taken seriously

Women need to accentuate the positives to get on in business

Women’s nationality is the focus of new campaign for gender equality

Women in Business: Gina Nelthorpe-Cowne, Founder of Kruger Cowne

Gina Neithrope

Gina Neithrope

Gina Nelthorpe-Cowne is Founder and Managing Director of one of Europe’s leading talent management agencies and speaker’s bureaus, Kruger Cowne who represent a stellar roster of over 100 entrepreneurs, disruptive leaders and personalities varying from globally renowned icons and entrepreneurs such as Sir Bob Geldof, Eurythmic star Dave Stewart and Harvey Goldsmith, to Jamie Oliver, Elle Macpherson, current UK World Chocolate Master Ruth Hinks and BBC World Affairs Editor John Simpson CBE.

Tell us about your journey to where you are today.

I worked as a part time model and make-up artist from the age of 15 and started my first business when I was 17. With lots of ideas and huge ambition, I started and developed a model agency and a promotions & PR company, focusing on the beauty and fashion industry.  With some success and some failure, I understood I had to move on to something new.  Working for a boss was never an option for me.  I had too much energy and drive to accept defeat by accepting a salaried job. I continued on my own entrepreneurial path, turned to my passion for wildlife and conservation and started the African Wildlife Club.  A club for nature and conservation enthusiasts in South Africa. The club offered its members social events, lectures and courses in different aspects of nature and conservation, tours and more.  At the height of the business a decision was made for my husband, two boys and I to move to the UK.  I gave up everything I knew and loved in South Africa and started a new life in a new country. For once in my life I was stumped and rather clueless as to what I’d do next. Then, as if by magic, my brother-in-law, John Simpson CBE (BBC World Affairs Editor) offered me a part time position as his assistant.  I accepted and within the first month, the part time job, turned into a 24/7 commitment.  I started to manage John’s life and business and became his agent and so, with one client, started Kruger Cowne Speaker Bureau and Talent Management.

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

I’ve experienced it all. Had some good and had some bad.  I’ve had successes and I’ve had failures. I’ve met incredible people from all walks of life.  Each of these events have made me a richer, better person.  I’m happy for learning through my trials and errors.  Had it all been plain sailing, who knows where I would have been today.  But by choosing never to give up and following my heart, going my own way, mostly, I pursued and achieved. I am a survivor, but having the privilege of meeting some really special people helped me along my way.  I believe that not only networking, but also nurturing the right connections is what made me who I am.

What have you learned from these highlights and challenges?

Working with people as ‘products’, is a big challenge.  People have minds of their own, they have emotions and they have wills, but high-profile clients are leaders and they have – and are used to getting their own way.  I’ve learnt how to deal with and understand people from all walks of life. I’ve learnt to persevere and I’ve learnt to have patience.

Why did you want to start your own business?

I didn’t necessarily want to start my own business but have never liked the idea of working for a fixed salary or having a boss.  Kruger Cowne just happened as a result of working with John Simpson.  I have a huge imagination and my mind is full of ideas. I had to explore some of them and when I did I got hooked to being my own boss and following my own direction. I enjoyed leading my own way an putting my ideas to the test. When I tasted the smallest morsel of success, I had all the ammunition I needed.  Luckily, I had the guts and the energy to go with it.

What have been some of Kruger Cowne’s successes?

Making people believe in us and getting our clients and customers to trust in our ability. Developing a business with a name that is internationally recognised in the industry, which is synonymous with care, trust and knowledge of our products and services.

Tell us about your passion for conservation and why it is such an important cause.

Every living thing has a purpose and a reason. Every aspect of our natural world is beautiful.  If we open our eyes and really see things for what they are and appreciate why we are all here, then we’ll have a better understanding about the importance of every tree, plant, insect, bird. reptile, fish and animal.  The world was never meant for humans only.  Without conservation, our natural world will disappear and we will become a heartless, useless species. I think the German poet, Goethe’s words couldn’t ring any truer “Nature is, after all, the only book that offers important content on every page.”

What advice can you offer to women looking to start their own business?

Follow your heart as well as your head.  Women have great intuition. If something feels right, give it a try. Don’t give up.  If you fail at something, try something new – again and again.  It’s never too late to have an idea and it’s never too late to try your hand at something new. Surround yourself by knowledgeable people. Take expert advise, but don’t necessarily take their word as if it’s set in stone.  Experts can be wrong sometimes too, but employ the very best people you can afford.  Make sure they know and understand their game. Learn from your mistakes and realise that you can also learn from your employees.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

This is hard, as my husband and one of my son’s are involved with the business too.  We are all passionate about Africa and nature though, so we travel back to Africa a couple of times every year to spend time in the bush – I call it getting my ‘bush–fix. Other than that, I’m lucky that my work takes me to interesting places and I work with inspirational people.  Even though, I am very busy, I love what I do and therefore, it doesn’t always feel like hard work.

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

I don’t have a mentor. I have been inspired by a great number of people and think I may have learnt things from each of them but there has been no one individual.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

A number of my female clients are hugely inspiring, but I have to mention, Dr Jane Goodall, DBE as one of the most inspirational women.  She is passionate about what she does. She lives and lived her life for her cause.  At the wonderful age of 80, Dame Jane still travels 300 days per year, to spread her message, to teach and to protect – all to make the world a better place. I find someone with such incredible determination admirable.  And then to top all that, she has a brilliant mind and is one of the kindest and most gentle people I know.

Which words sum up where you have got to today?

Passion, commitment, ideas, patience, understanding, empathy, determination and ambition.

Women In Web’s Weekly Round-Up

 

WEEKLY ROUND UP TEMP

Hello there! Welcome to our weekly round-up, and what has been happening in Women in Web this week.

We caught up with Allison Dorst, founder of Pinks and Greens. Allison started the business having identified a gap in the market for stylish women’s golfing clothes and, just two months after giving birth to her first child!

In a guest post for Women In Web, Boris Wertz, a founding partner of Version One Ventures shares his thoughts on the rise of VC backed female founders and the future of the market.

This Thursday’s career development question was about getting you prepared for 5 potentially tricky situations you could encounter in an interview.

Other stories that have caught our eye this week include…

A video of Arianna Huffington discussing meditation, balance and the importance of sleep

Army to review female close combat roles

Teenager unleashes computer power for cancer diagnosis

Why we need more women in sport

The rise of VC backed female founders

Boris Wertz

Boris Wertz

In a guest post for Women In Web, Boris Wertz, a founding partner of Version One Ventures shares his thoughts on the rise of VC backed female founders and the future of venture capital. 

Boris Wertz is one of the top early-stage tech investors in North-America and the founding partner of version one ventures. His portfolio encompasses over 50 early-stage consumer internet and enterprise companies, including Clio, Edmodo, Flurry, Frank & Oak, Indiegogo, Julep, Top Hat, Unbounce, and Wattpad. Boris is also a board partner with Andreessen Horowitz and one of the founders of start-up accelerator GrowLab.

Before becoming an investor, Boris was the Chief Operating Officer of AbeBooks.com, the world’s largest marketplace for new, used and rare and out-of print books which got sold to Amazon in 2008. Boris joined the company in 2002 after JustBooks, the German company he co-founded in 1999, was acquired by AbeBooks. At AbeBooks, Boris was primarily responsible for marketing, business development, product, customer service and international operations and lead a team of about 60 people. This deep operational experience helps Boris to help other entrepreneurs start, build and scale companies passing on some of the lessons he learned the hard way over 8 start-up years.

He successfully finished his PhD as well as his graduate studies at the Graduate School of Management (WHU), Koblenz, majoring in Business Economics / Business Management. In 2005, Boris was named the Pacific Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year award winner.

How are females changing the entrepreneurial landscape?
As investors who seek opportunities in underserved verticals, we are excited about what diversity in gender can bring: new ideas, perspective and approaches to solving problems in areas that may be overlooked by male founders.

What funds are available for female entrepreneurs to access?
Technically, the same funding that is available to male founders is accessible for female founders. There are some resources that are targeted specifically for female founders, however. For example:

  • http://37angels.com/: a community of women investors committed to funding early stage startups.
  • http://women2.com/: a media company designed for the next generation of female tech leaders. They hold pitch events at their conferences with provide great PR and exposure to VCs.
  • http://www.girlsraising.com/: a community with online and offline resources to assist female founders in starting, building, funding and growing their businesses.

What valuable advice can you offer to women who are seeking funding?
Advice is not gender specific, but in some cases women may have to overcome stereotypes as they seek funding.

Some tips:

  • Understand the technology stack of your product well. You don’t necessarily have to code, however, you must be able to communicate not only what your product does, but how it does it.
  • Find the right balance of confidence and humility. We so oftentimes see founders (both male and female) come in over-confident, which ultimately only hurts their pitch in the end.

Tell us about some of the projects that you are investing in.
We generally invest in passionate entrepreneurs that want to solve big problems. Of the 20 companies in our portfolio, 5 have female founders:

  • Julep – a cosmetic brand and e-commerce platform for beauty products
  • Mattermark – a data platform for venture capitalists to quantify signals of growing and potentially lucrative startups
  • Tindie – a marketplace for makers to fund and sell their hardware creations
  • Two companies have yet to be announced

What is the future of venture capital and female entrepreneurs?
Women have been underrepresented in both tech and management. As a result, the types of startups led by female founders have been limited to selling to a primarily female audience. We are now seeing, however, women build companies across all verticals. This is portrayed even by our own list of female-founded companies above.

Women in Business: Allison Dorst, Founder of Pinks and Greens

Allison Dorst

Allison Dorst

Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, Allison Dorst attended Auburn University and received her Bachelor of Science in International Business. Allison worked for many years as a finance and technology recruiter in New York, during which she created and ran a successful multi-million dollar IT recruiting division.  In 2010, Allison struck out on her own to launch Pinks and Greens, and in only 4 short years has grown the business to become the premier online destination for stylish women’s sports and active-wear, with over 100 brands for Golf, Tennis & Fitness.

Tell us about your journey to where you are today.

I started Pinks and Greens because I was growing frustrated with my inability to find stylish golf clothing. Men always seemed to have plenty of options, from the big-box stores to pro-shops and even online; yet, women seemed to be left behind. Seeing this gap in the industry, I jumped at the opportunity to create a business that would fill the gap and change the sport apparel game. I launched Pinks and Greens from my 1 bedroom Manhattan apartment, just 2 months after giving birth to my first child. It was definitely a learning experience but I loved the challenges that I faced. From figuring out how to start a new business, to expanding our products to tennis and fitness, everything I’ve done with Pinks and Greens has allowed me to be in charge of my own destiny.

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

I started working when I was around 12 and really, I’ve been working since then. I was always looking for something to do and I always think I had the drive in me to start my own business, but I only discovered it through working in the New York corporate environment. Through working in New York, I saw that my assertiveness and my drive grew over time; it was always in me, but it took me a while to see it in me.

What have you learned from these highlights and challenges?

I have to say the number one thing I learned is that no one will do it for you. Anything that you want to do is completely on you to do. In any work that you do, you have to give all of your effort into it and know that there is no such thing as an overnight success. It all comes down to hard work and a lot of effort.

Why did you want to start your own business?

Like I said earlier,I saw there was a market in the sports apparel industry whose needs weren’t being met and I jumped at the opportunity to serve that market. I had no idea when I was starting out just how large Pinks and Greens would grow and the impact it would have on the women’s sports apparel industry.

How is Pinks and Greens transforming the women’s apparel industry?

Pinks and Greens is for women, by women. The sport apparel industry is so male dominated that it’s so difficult to find golf, tennis and fitness apparel that is actually stylish! Pinks and Greens is transforming the industry because we offer women, of every shape and size, high quality apparel paired with excellent customer service. We are a one-stop shop for stylish active wear and we carry over 100 designer brands. We believe that all women should be able to play well and look even better.

What have been some of the best moments since starting your own business?

To be honest, looking back, each quarter since I’ve been in business has had an amazing moment. From having my first customer, to hiring my first employee, every small accomplishment felt huge in the early months when I was working out of my one bedroom apartment. But the best moment for me since starting Pinks and Greens was discovering that there was huge appetite for stylish active wear in the women’s sports apparel market, and some women, particularly women over 40+ were being completely ignored.

What advice can you offer to women looking to start their own business?

My number one piece of advice would be to do a lot a research before starting anything. Learn about the industry that you want to go into and talk to as many people as you can find who work in that industry. It’s important to talk about the industry as a whole and all of the pros of starting a business in it but it is just as, if not more, important to talk about the negative aspects. Ask industry veterans what keeps them up at night, what were some of their setbacks early on and what advice they would have to get through tough moments. It is so important to ask these tough questions because the more you know before going into an industry, the better prepared you will be in your business.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

Wow, yeah that is a real challenge for me. Honestly, right now I don’t have much of a work/life balance because I’m really trying to grow my business. I have two small children at home and while I make time for them, once they go to sleep, I’m back working trying to make Pinks and Greens better. I think (and hope) that a work/life balance is something that will come later in life, once my children and my business are a little older.

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

Mentorship has really made a tremendous difference in all aspects of my life. I am constantly seeking knowledge and advice about my industry and there are so many people who know more than me who have been willing to share their knowledge and advice. I value everyone I have talked to in the industry, new-comers or veterans, because each has something valuable to offer when it comes to running a business. Right now, in the retail industry especially, technology is so stressed but I sincerely believe that the older generation, the industry veterans have such great insight and advice and it is so important to form strong relationships with them.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

Two female leaders who I really admire is Meg Whitman and Sarah Blakely. Meg Whitman ran eBay and is now running HP and I feel like she is such a great example of a female leader in corporate America; Sarah Blakely, the founder of SPANX, is such a great role model, especially for women because she founded her empire from scratch, all on her own. Both of these women and the work that they have accomplished have helped me become the type of leader, and business owner that I am.

Which words sum up where you have got to today?

Insomnia. Drive. Curiosity

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?

Determined.

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.

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?

Love.