Amelia: You started out as a historian and then moved to global politics, Middle Eastern affairs and counter terrorism…
After doing a masters in Nuclear Nonproliferation Issues, you became a policy advisor in Iraq and Afghanistan, moving onto the British Embassy in Baghdad, a policy advisor to the US State department, British Ambassador to Yemen, and awarded an O.B.E. Now, Director of the Joint International Counter-Terrorism Unit, you oversee the UK’s approach to terrorism overseas. Did you always want to be in politics or foreign affairs? Did you ever have an ultimate plan in place?
Jane. No, I didn’t. I’ve always been interested in foreign politics and remember watching Kate Adie in Tiananmen Square as a little girl and thinking, “How brave, standing there telling the world about all of the important things that are happening”. I actually wanted to be a foreign correspondent for a while and somehow ended up in Foreign Office, largely by accident and partly related to the fact that I did my masters in Nuclear Nonproliferation Issues (how to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world). On the back of my degree the Foreign Office got in touch about a job on nuclear issues and said “why don’t you apply?”, so I did.
A. Sheryl Sandberg famously talked about careers being more of a ‘jungle gym’ than a career ladder. How much of your career has been a ladder and how much of it hasn’t?
J. I’ve always had a five or ten year plan. In my head I always wanted to be an ambassador but I didn’t have a specific way of getting there or what country I wanted to be an ambassador of, so it’s more of a loose five and ten year plan. But I’ve discovered that doing quick zigzag moves has quite often got me to places that I wouldn’t expect.
Doing quick zigzag moves has quite often
got me to places that I wouldn’t expect.
Jane’s Criteria for a Fulfilling Career
Is it going to make a difference?
What’s going to make a difference and how are you personally going to make a difference in whatever field you’re in?
Is it going to be interesting?
At the end of the day, you want to be passionate about your job and want to come home and talk about it.
Is it going to be fun?
Life is too short for work and the work environment not to be fun.
On mentors, sponsors and confidence
A. There’s been lots of talk about sponsors, mentors and coaches. Are there any defining characteristics of people that’ve helped you think about your career?
J. I’ve had four different sponsors, all of whom have been middle aged white men. At the time, certainly the first year, I don’t think I realised they were sponsors. They were looking at a 25-year-old, ambitious young girl faking confidence a lot of the time and just took a chance on me. I remember one ambassador saying, “I’m not feeling very well, can you read the speech out to the United Nations” and only with hindsight do I think that actually, he was perfectly fine that day, he just saw something and took a chance and that really helped build up my confidence.
A. Have you ever asked somebody to mentor/sponsor you or is it usually a lot less formal?
J. The sponsorships are much less formal and more about networks and pointing out opportunities that I didn’t necessarily realise were there myself. Mentoring and coaching are a bit different – I’ve specifically sought out the people I wanted to hear from.
A. So you asked them to mentor you? Has anyone ever said no?
J. No one’s ever said no and I’ve always tried to say yes when people have asked me. Sometimes I worry that people see mentoring as this incredibly formal thing and that you must meet on the first Tuesday of every month and you must have a set agenda but actually, I’ve managed to build up a huge network of people who will just call me out of the blue and say “I’ve got a career decision coming up, can I come and grab a coffee?” I’ve probably got around 50 mentees but I’ll only see them once or twice a year or simply when they need it which works works out better for both parties!
Meet the speakers
Jane Marriott OBE
Director, Joint International
Jane is a previous Fold Woman Competition Winner and former Joint FCO Director for the Middle East and North Africa. Also Ambassador to Sana’a and Yemen, Jane was appointed OBE in 2004 for services in Al Amara, Iraq.
Media Guru & Former Chief Strategy Officer,
Fold Woman Amelia is one of the most senior women in advertising, has worked extensively for some of the world’s most famous brands in London and New York and enjoys being at the forefront of technological innovation.