Merry Christmas to You!

As another year draws to a close our thoughts turn to all that has passed and what we are looking forward to in 2019. Change Gear celebrates its fifth birthday in the New Year, it doesn’t seem five minutes since we started, let alone five years. We would like to say thank you to all our clients who have partnered with us over that time; we have been lucky to work on some interesting and absorbing projects, delivered by our incredibly talented team who continually achieve brilliant results – thank you to you all.

We are both off to mainland Europe for our festive breaks, Carrie to the snowy Italian Alps and Karen to the countryside of Auvergne in France; a chance for us both to unwind and recharge ahead of what will undoubtedly be another busy year. Wherever you find yourself over the Christmas period we hope that you will find time to relax, be with your loved ones and polish off the odd box of chocolates or two!!

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2019.

Karen and Carrie xx

 

 

 

TIPS FOR GETTING ONTO A BOARD

I had the pleasure of meeting with Author, Selina Siak Chin Yoke earlier in 2018 who was happy to share details of her remarkable background with me. A most inspiring lady, Selina has written two books – ‘The Woman Who Breathed two Worlds’ – loosely inspired by her great-grandmother’s life and ‘When The Future Comes Too Soon”. (I’ve yet to read the second book but it’s on my reading list!). As well as discussing her successful and diverse career we found ourselves chatting about women in leadership, something we both felt passionately about.  Being a writer I couldn’t resist asking Selina if she would mind writing a guest blog for us which has just appeared in my inbox. Very timely with our up-coming seminar this Wednesday on bridging the gender pay gap.

When Carrie invited me to write a few sentences many months ago on the challenges of joining a company board, the media was awash with scandals involving pay, women and naked prejudice. Not only had the BBC been paying Martina Navratilova ten times less than John McEnroe for – as far as I’m concerned – the same work, but a report by the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy revealed eye-opening excuses as to why many FTSE companies had no women. The excuse that sticks out most for me is: “My other board colleagues wouldn’t want to appoint a woman on our board”. That’s precisely the point, though, isn’t it?

With so much focus on the topic, I thought that I should dust off my CV and try to get appointed as a non-executive director to another Board before writing this guest blog. This has taken longer than anticipated. Like many women, my career has gone down an unusual path and my main occupation today is as a novelist. I’m a traditionally published author and my agent had asked me to rewrite parts of my third novel. In the middle of that, it was almost impossible to think about revamping a CV.

Once I did, though, things moved pretty quickly. Within weeks I was approached by a headhunting firm and my name was put onto a list of candidates for a board position (still in process). I’ve since also been asked to join another board whose chairman is an acquaintance. All this to say that there’s plenty of hope! If you’re wondering how to get onto a board, below are a number of suggestions.

First, use your networks. If this sounds obvious or trite, it’s not meant to be. Telling as many people as possible expands your realm of possibilities. Speaking to other businesspeople has helped me clarify what I may want and what I’ll avoid when it comes to board roles. For me, being a non-executive director is not a career – it’s an add-on. I’m working on another book already, but at the same time I have twenty years of solid experience in finance – first as an investment banker and then as a quantitative trader – which some board is hopefully going to appreciate. A slight digression here that may be reassuring: the fact that I left finance eight years ago isn’t necessarily a barrier. A non-executive director needs to be independent. Being a little removed from the industry currently can actually prove helpful. So don’t discount your abilities just because your experience dates back in time.

Secondly, make sure you have a profile on LinkedIn, that the profile is up-to-date and puts your experience forward in the best possible light. This was how the headhunter mentioned above contacted me. A disclaimer: I was appointed to the board of a corporate finance boutique many years ago and have remained on it. Being already on one board is immensely helpful for getting on to the next board. Yet, I didn’t even think to put my board experience on LinkedIn until recently!

Thirdly, have your CV critiqued. Show it to a friendly audience first if you wish. Also, let a headhunter look at it. I had to rewrite my CV completely!

There are many websites which claim to connect companies with possible non-executive director candidates. You have to pay to join some of these without really knowing how effective they are. A website I can vouch for is nurole. I hadn’t heard of it, but as soon as I started talking to friends and acquaintances, three of them independently recommended nurole. It’s free to register, and your registration is first vetted before you’re sent an invitation email. You check off your interests and receive regular notifications about new roles. nurole works.

Finally, it’s worth giving thought to what you’d like to get out of being a non-executive director. There are hundreds of opportunities and you’ll have to decide which to pursue. Do you want to be compensated? If not, how many pro bono positions are you prepared to take on?

The world is our oyster now, but getting onto the right board(s) will take time. Good luck!

 A big thank you to Selina for sharing her advice and recent experiences with us.  I’m sure you will have all found this interesting and useful. If you’d like to hear more about Selina and her work please visit her website at http://www.siakchinyoke.com– and do read her books – a great Christmas gift too!

And don’t forget it’s not too late to sign up for our free breakfast seminar in collaboration with Moorcrofts Law this Wednesday 28thNovember. https://www.facebook.com/events/580144002414838/?ti=ia

 

A CHANGE IS CERTAINLY AS GOOD AS A REST

Way back in June my husband surprised me with a gift of a flight to Rio for our 20thwedding anniversary; a generous, but slightly unusual present as it was a trip just for me. My oldest friend had moved to Brazil 3 years ago and I’d been itching to visit her, coupled with the fact that I desperately needed a break from work.  Despite banging the drum to others on self-care, taking time out and not working too hard, I was guilty of not practicing what I preached. I was my own worst enemy; working late nights and weekends was the norm rather than the exception and I was feeling worn down. Brazil (as exciting as it sounded) could have been Brighton – as long as there was a bed and no work, I’d got to the point that I wasn’t too fussed.

Of course, well known for my love of a travel book, I bought the Lonely Planet guide to Brazil which sat by my bedside as I had no time to read it – plus I was lucky enough to have the best tour guide in the world at my disposal when I arrived, so I honestly hadn’t given much thought to what I was about to experience (was desperately trying to ignore those warning me of the current political situation and danger in the favelas too).  I arrived in Rio late evening greeted by my friend, her husband, a garland and tropical plant pot with much excitement about my two weeks of downtime and was presented with a suggested itinerary I greedily lapped up.

Despite being on my knees with tiredness the adventure began on Day 1 – we had 72 hours in Rio before setting off for our first mini trip.  I experienced beach life in the amazing Ipanema and Copocabana beaches, a trip to the jockey club and a flutter on the horses, authentic Brazilian food and shopping at the beautiful town of Santa Teresa, visiting local street markets, sizzling samba in bars and city squares with the locals, jazz in the favelas – not to mention the obligatory visit to one of the ‘Wonders of the World’ – Rio’s most iconic Christ the Redeemer; an early start gave us an advantage over the hordes of tourists flocking to see the Big Man – and views from the top were certainly worth the trek.  A local told me that his arms are open wide ready to applaud the day when a Brazilian completes a full day of work (I can honestly say I get this now – with so much to do in this beautiful, diverse city I’m sure I’d feel the same if I lived here).

I seriously had a smile on my face for my first three days which didn’t disappear as we headed off to the airport to our next port of call, the incredible Foz do Iguacu.  We were lucky enough to stay at a hotel based in the National Park itself which meant we had the added advantage of being able to explore the park and the falls without the crowds.  I can honestly say I have never seen anything quite so spectacular – for those of you who haven’t been I’d certainly recommend trying to see the falls from both the Brazilian and the Argentinian sides – each offering its own unique panorama and feel.  And whatever you do, always go for the ‘wet’ rather than ‘dry’ boat trip option you are offered – but do wear waterproofs – my plastic poncho was absolutely pathetic compared to the full-on wetsuit and galoshes our boat man was wearing. No surprise he was the only one not looking like a drowned rat when we emerged from the fall force of the falls.  If Iguacu is not on your bucket list please don’t miss it.

After 3 full days of national parks in both Brazil and Argentina we headed back to Rio for a couple more days of galleries, beaches, sunsets, lunches and weather watching as storms were predicted and putting a question mark over our next adventure to the beautiful historic town on Paraty on the Costa Verde.  Being a terrible traveller, my friend was anxious about taking me on the 5-hour coach journey and arriving to 3 days of torrential rains but I was keen to go.  I wanted to see this place that she was raving about and knew it would be another diverse view of this country I was already beginning to get so fond of.  So 8 days into my trip I took my anti travel sickness pills and off we set for the bus station with clothes packed for all eventualities of weather.  I can’t even begin to share how glad I was we took the chance – for to have missed the wonders of Paraty would have been a terrible shame.  The ‘sturgeon’ worked a treat – not only did I not feel sick, I was also able to enjoy the stunning views along the coast line and couldn’t have felt happier as the sun began to shine and thankfully stayed with us our whole 3 days in this beautiful little part of Brazil.  Paraty was a little piece of heaven that will forever stay in my heart.  From cobbled streets to beautiful coves, rain forests, yoga classes in Portuguese and samba bands on the beach and in the square, Paraty packed a punch.  A special highlight was a private boat trip around the gorgeous islands where we visited deserted coves, hand-fed a rare species of monkey, swam amongst the turtles – and I even managed to conquer my fear of SUP boarding.

After sadly saying goodbye to a new favourite place in our world we headed back to Rio for my last few days in the city.  Keen not to miss anything we managed to visit the Instituto Moreira Salles with its incredible architecture offering views of Christ the Redeemer and a current enviable collection of African and Italian photographic exhibitions, then stroll through the beautiful botanic gardens with the biggest collection of cacti I’ve ever seen and visit a few more of Rio’s residential districts to lunch with the locals.  Of course I couldn’t come home without a visit to Sugarloaf Mountain – so on my penultimate day, with air temperatures on the street hitting 40 degrees we trekked up the mountain to pick up the cable car to get to the summit. It was certainly worth it for the breath-taking panoramic views it offered across the city – once again causing me to load the family WhatsApp with more enviable photos of my trip.

With one day left and a sense of not wanting to let my new found love leave me, my friend and I headed off to the Copacabana Palace Hotel where we had been invited for lunch by the Manager at our hotel in Iguacu National Park.  Over a lazy lunch I reflected on all of my adventures with my dear friend and had one final caiprinha before heading back to the apartment to pack my last few things in my suitcase.

So now as I sit at the airport waiting for my flight back home I can honestly say I have truly had the most magical of holidays in this incredible country and come home with a renewed energy and spirit ready for work and a desperate need to see my family (and my dog).  I have fallen in love with a country that wasn’t necessarily on my bucket list but now can’t wait to return to. In the words of my dear Mother – a change has certainly been as good as a rest.

I hope this little travelogue has whet your appetite for a visit to Brazil.  To find out more go www.visitbrazil.com

MOVING ON UP: CHANGING THE BRAIN WITH EXERCISE

A few weeks ago, on my birthday, my husband knocked present giving out of the park and presented me with a top of the range activity tracker and watch, one that I had been coveting for some time. Let me put this present giving into perspective; he once gave me a wooden chopping block as a Christmas gift! So, you can imagine my delight when I received something that was actually on my wish list.

I’ve had an activity tracker for many years and have worn it sporadically. Sometimes when I have felt virtuous, I have worn it continuously, tracking: my steps, my pulse, calories burnt, water consumption etc. Other times it has languished on my bedside table as life got in the way and having to think about yet another piece of technology with all the information it imparts just felt impossible.

As my birthday this year was a “semi” large milestone and coupled with supporting my ageing parents as they have attended numerous hospital appointments over the past few months; I decided it was time to take a serious look at my health and fitness. As a lover of structure, I sat down and created an exercise plan, one that made use of all the wonderful features of my new activity tracker. I am delighted to report that after nearly a month of wearing it I am starting to feel the benefits. I’ve lost a little bit of weight, my skin is clearer, I have more energy, I sleep better but most surprisingly (to me anyway) my mood is brighter, and I feel generally less stressed, even though my to-do list is longer than ever.

Nothing has changed in my working or personal life. I’m incredibly busy with my work as usual – juggling many more projects and clients than I have ever done. So, what is making the difference to how I feel about life? As part of some research I am doing for the development of a Leadership Programme for a new client, I stumbled across a Ted Talk by Wendy Suzuki, titled “The brain changing benefits of exercise.” Now, you may be thinking, “nothing new here Karen, we’ve been told this all before by so-called health gurus.” The interesting thing about Wendy is that she is a Professor of Neuroscience and her research is showing exactly how the brain changes with regular exercise and activity.

I am not going to repeat in detail what she shares in her talk; I encourage you to log in to YouTube (

This content is blocked. Accept cookies to view the content.

and watch this inspiring and eloquent woman for yourself. But here is what I am taking away from her research into the impact of exercise and activity on the brain.

  • Decision making, focus and attention are all improved, even for the most difficult of tasks
  • The ability to form and retain long-term memories is increased
    Mood and energy levels are boosted as serotonin, dopamine, and neuro-adrenaline levels increase
  • The anatomy, physiology and function of the brain are changed, providing long-term health benefits
  • Brand new brain cells are created that can protect against neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline in ageing

The science behind the positive impact of exercise on brain function has made me realise that exercise/activity is something that I “need” to build into my day, but most importantly, I don’t have to become a gym bunny! A walk around the block or as Wendy says, some “power hoovering” are still activities that will boost and protect my brain way into the future.

I hope you watch Wendy’s talk and if you are up for it, do the exercise at the end. Have fun being “Wonder Woman Strong” – I know I did!

Keep moving and happy viewing!

 

A SEASON FOR CHANGE

With the long sunny days of Summer behind us, Autumn is often a season of change and new starts – school, university, jobs, careers, homes, lifestyles. In the UK, many women are choosing new beginnings by setting up their own businesses. It is reported that female entrepreneurs account for nearly 10% of the UK working population and having attended a number of networking events across the Summer, I have certainly seen how women are grabbing the hand of opportunity and carving out a new future for themselves.

We have the great pleasure of working with Bettina Siddiqi who owns BusyB Solutions. As a fellow business owner experiencing the ups and downs of running a company, I was curious to know more about why Bettina has made the move from corporate life to working for herself.

Karen:  If you had to sum up your business in a nutshell, what would you say you offer?

Bettina:  I offer Social Media Marketing with the aim of raising my clients’ profiles on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook; helping them to gain traction and increase business. I train people 1-2-1 to use LinkedIn, helping them to effectively use this superb marketing tool. LinkedIn is a great way to gain new business, retain existing customer relationships and re-establish contact with old clients. In collaboration with my extensive contacts of photographers and web designers, I can help my clients have a more visible presence across a range of social media platforms.

Karen: What led you to set up your business?

Bettina: Having worked in corporate Sales and Marketing for 15 years I was approached to undertake some freelance marketing work. When the contract ended I thought to myself, “if I can do this for one client I can offer this service to many others.” I also wanted the flexibility to spend time with my young children and be able to attend their school events such as Christmas shows and sports days.  Commuting into London took up much of my time and I felt I could be much more productive working from home. I like the variation my work gives me: from attending meetings, networking, delivering an exceptional service, to being able to focus on home life as well as getting the right amount of exercise –  worklife balance is incredibly important to me.

Karen: What did you do before you set up BusyB Solutions?

Bettina: I worked for a Records Management Company called Iron Mountain in their Sales and Marketing Department and helped to implement a CRM system and trained all the Sales and Marketing team in how to use it effectively.  I also worked in Law in a Marketing department, helping to organise events, CRM and campaigns.

Karen: What gave you the confidence to take the step of working for yourself?

Bettina: Having children gave me the confidence to start my business. It hasn’t always been easy as I’ve had to work hard at networking with potential clients and building the visibility of my business.  When the children were very little I only had 3 hours between nursery runs, but I managed to do lots in that short time – telemarketing, online marketing as well as attending network meetings.

Karen: Now you’ve made the change, how are you feeling about it?

Bettina: I feel great about it! I couldn’t have made a better decision; the joy of being with my family and being able to pick up my children from school is a wonderful feeling, as well as eating a lot healthier and getting that all-important exercise.

Karen: What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

Bettina: Time management – making sure I have enough time to get everything done (there are never enough hours in a day), getting the right clients and also regular, consistent clients. As a sole trader I get approached by many different people, so making sure I invest in the right type of business is important in how I will grow my business, whether that is finance, marketing, web design or IT support.  Another challenge is not having a team to work with; there is no-one to delegate tasks to as I did when I worked in the corporate world. I also miss the camaraderie that comes with working in a team.

Karen: Looking back is there anything you would have done differently on your journey?

Bettina: Yes – a few things. Most of the time I have been extra careful with my budget, although I did once overspend on a networking membership, which didn’t result in me winning any work. So, I would definitely re-think which networking meetings are worth attending,

Karen: What advice would you have for anyone setting up a new business?

Bettina: Always be careful about what you spend, especially on your marketing.  Find a group of people you can trust and maybe even collaborate with. Outsource things which are time-consuming such as Finance, IT and Social Media,  as there is always someone out there that can help.

Karen: What does success look like for you?

Bettina: To be content in what I am doing.  Seeking ways to expand my knowledge, skills and collaborative relationships and most importantly to always have a goal!

 

A very big thank you to Bettina for sharing her story with us.  You can find out more about Bettina offers at www.busy-bsolutions.com

And finally, if you are contemplating the move to working for yourself, be reassured that you are not alone, there is a wide and supportive community of female entrepreneurs who will warmly welcome you into their fold. If you would like to hear more about how we support aspiring female entrepreneurs, then please get in touch at hello@change-gear.com

 

This content is blocked. Accept cookies to view the content.