Q. When you started your career, did you know what direction you’d take?
EJ: I had no idea what I wanted to do when I left school, and had decided that going to university would just be ‘ticking the box’ unless it supported a specific career I was interested in pursuing. I got a job at Direct Line and over four years, I’d worked my way up to become a Team Leader.
I got involved with various people issues and that’s when my interest in HR first started. I began to realise that working in HR could be a career in its own right, and after I was made redundant, I took the leap in my first HR role with a Lloyd’s Managing Agency in 2007. Since then I’ve not looked back, and after completing my Level 7 CIPD Advanced Diploma in 2012 which is equivalent to a masters, I joined Asta.
Q. When did you start the Lloyd’s Advance programme and what does it involve?
EJ: I started in July 2021 and have just completed the development programme. It required personal time commitment but I was honoured to have been asked to join the programme and was prepared to put the work in and get the best out of it. There are four modules designed to develop personal attributes, capabilities and networks that enable women across the Lloyd’s market to advance their careers in a supportive female-led environment.
In addition to the modules, you also benefit from some additional coaching sessions and you are assigned a mentor for the full duration of the programme and an internal sponsor. This is aimed at developing greater confidence and capabilities for women to operate effectively in a male-dominated industry.
Q. What attracted you to the programme and how were you nominated?
EJ: My manager, Ann Bearwish, put me forward as she felt I’d reached a point in my career where I needed to step out of my comfort zone, learn more about the world beyond HR, and demonstrate that I had the ambition and potential to go further.
Of course, that’s more easily said than done! I’d not long returned from maternity leave and it was a particularly busy time for the team, so I was learning to juggle family and work life. At that point I was quite happy to just settle back into my role and be part of the team again. Then the pandemic struck and the last thing I expected was the opportunity to join a leadership programme at Lloyd’s!
But I was quickly convinced that the course would be a huge benefit both personally and to my career. HR is often there to support other people with their development, so I’ve never had much time to focus on my own. I felt that Lloyd’s Advance would further my own learning, help me reflect on my personal goals and decide where I’d like to take my career. There are also limited opportunities for non-technical functions to participate in Lloyd’s programmes, so I was excited about the chance to broaden my outlook and meet with a range of likeminded females in the market and expand my network.
Q. What was the most challenging aspect of the programme?
EJ: One of the modules focused on ‘unlocking self-limiting beliefs’ which took me completely out of my comfort zone. I had to do a lot of self-analysing, reflecting about how I felt about myself and how others perceived me. Whilst I didn’t enjoy this session at the time, it did have a lasting impact on me and as a result it has increased my confidence and made me trust my own judgement more and not feel I have to double check my decisions with my manager all the time.
Q. What’s changed at work as a result of being on the programme?
EJ: As I’ve said, the programme has certainly increased my level of confidence and helped transform the way I engage with people.
One of the course modules focused on ‘Influencing and navigating stakeholders’ which gave me some very effective tools and techniques that changed the way I behave, and this helped to make me be more assertive and confident. I stopped apologising to people for no reason (although that may be a trait of the British).
Q. One of the modules explores personal brand. How would you define yours?
EJ: For me it was about understanding what was important to me – trust, respect, working hard, honesty, loyalty and having strong moral principles are all things I hope I live by, whilst also making time for my family, friends and health. If I have a ‘personal brand’ I guess that’s how I would describe it.
The most useful thing I learned from the module was how these values linked to my career and helped to define what I wanted for myself, and where I wanted to be in the future. I also hope that I’m more confident about ‘putting myself out there’ now, and that others can recognise and value who I am, what I stand for and the way I work.
Q. How has networking with other female leaders in the industry changed your outlook or benefited your career?
EJ: I found it really interesting talking to such a wide range of people – there were some who were of a similar age and stage in their career to me and who had young children - and others who had 30 years’ experience and held very senior positions in the industry. This gave me a much wider perspective on my own position, and helped me define what’s possible and where I might go next.
For obvious reasons the course was held remotely but some of us have since met face to face for lunch, we have put a diary invite in monthly to catch up in person. We all know how valuable it’s been to hear about everyone’s experiences and learn from each other as we build our own careers. That’s something we all want to continue.
Q. Who was your mentor and what did you learn from them?
EJ: I was so pleased to have selected Caroline Dunn as my mentor, and I feel very lucky and grateful that she accepted me as her mentee. Caroline worked in Lloyd’s and RSA for many years and is now at Zurich as CUO. It was important for me to have a female mentor and one who had a family. I’d never had formal mentoring before in my career and I didn’t know what to expect, but my experience with Caroline has been nothing less than brilliant – I’ve learnt so much from her. Through our regular calls she taught me to think about my skill gaps, how to expand my network, enhance my profile, and ultimately make me think about where I want to take my career.
This has gone into a written personal development plan, and I now spend an hour each week focused completely on myself and the things I need to do to keep the plan on track. Caroline is always on hand to keep the momentum going and remind me to prioritise what’s important to me. She’s also highlighted the importance of networking within my professional sphere to share ideas and experiences, and has helped open up opportunities to broaden my network that I wouldn’t otherwise have had.
Q. Has Lloyd’s Advance changed how you see your future career?
EJ: Definitely. I’m still passionate about HR and that’s where I’ll stay. It’s exciting to see what the future holds and to take all the new confidence that I have gained from the programme and projecting that into new environments and possibilities that I would not previously have dreamed of. I’m so grateful to Asta and to everyone on the programme – my fellow course members, the facilitators, my sponsor, Lorraine Harfitt, and of course my mentor, for making Lloyd’s Advance such an incredible and positive experience.