On her childhood: My dad always used to describe me as “difficult to please”. Growing up in a tiny rural Hampshire village with no shops, no pavements, no streetlights and one pub, I was definitely the feisty middle child. My grandfather and father both worked as engineers; when my school took part in the Young Engineer for Britain Scheme, I discovered a passion for it too. I studied engineering at Cardiff University, and worked as a fan blade engineer for Rolls Royce during my placement year.
On her early career: Although I graduated with a first, I pivoted into management consulting and spent the next four years working for LEK in London and LA, then got a Sainsbury Management Fellows scholarship to do an MBA at INSEAD, studying in France and Singapore. After the 10-month course, I still hadn’t figured out what I wanted to do with my career so I worked as an independent consultant and hoped that inspiration would strike. I was at a New Year’s Eve party when one of my friends from INSEAD asked me to join his business – a group buying platform competing with the likes of Groupon. He’d started it in Clapham and wanted to launch it in new zones across London, bringing local deals to local people. That night, kitted out in lederhosen (it was an Austrian bar), I agreed to do it. I spent the next six months striking up deals and growing the enterprise. I didn’t get a monthly pay cheque but I had skin in the game – and we sold the company to Wowcher in 2011. That entrepreneurial experience helped me land my next job with Notonthehighstreet and, three years later, Etsy.
On her current role: As managing director my remit is to grow Etsy in the UK: as a brand, platform and community of buyers and creative business sellers that make Etsy such a thriving and unique marketplace. My daughter, Amelie, was born last year. My husband and I took shared parental leave – we had four months off together then we split the next six months – and I now work four days a week. As any new parent will tell you, it’s bloody hard getting the balance right but you just have to accept that you can’t be perfect. “You can have it all” is a really dangerous (and impossible) mantra.
On her role model: My mum is such an inspiration. She worked as a microbiologist, took a career break to have three children, then retrained in podiatry in her 40s and started her own practice – with my dad joining the business as her secretary. She’s technically retired now but still teaches sculpture and sells her own art. Even though her CV looks random on paper, she used her talents to have a really varied and fulfilling career.
On her go-to style: When I worked in consulting, I dressed like a man. My standard “uniform” was a starched shirt and suit. I’d never wear that now. My style is much more casual and feminine: a skirt or jeans and patterned top with metallic trainers or leather ankle boots. I prefer vintage and second-hand to fast fashion and I go for comfort and colour. I’m a sucker for British brands.
On her style icon: My grandmother Pam was always impeccably dressed with coordinated outfits. She’d wear a blouse, matching scarf, smart trousers and patent shoes – right up until the day she died at the age of 97.
On her toughest challenge: Without a doubt, breastfeeding. Amelie was born with posterior tongue tie so feeding her was excruciatingly painful. I was even offered gas and air in hospital to get through it. Unfortunately the people we sought advice from weren’t trained to spot it and the word “formula” wasn’t mentioned. After ten anxious weeks, my own research paid off: I knew it had to be tongue tie and we saw a specialist. I spent all that time feeling like I’d failed but I didn’t really have the chance to succeed.
On staying sane: On my daily commute I listen to podcasts. Desert Island Discs is a favourite as I love to learn and feel inspired through people’s stories. I’m still getting into the groove of motherhood but I try and snatch the odd, child-free night out with friends for a sanity check.
On her most powerful piece of advice: Get comfortable with being uncomfortable and take risks. We’re too scared of failure in this country. What’s the worst that can happen?
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