Could you give a brief description of your career to-date?
I don’t think I set out with a clear career plan and I have worked in both the private and academic sectors, with a diverse range of roles. My first degree is in English and Classical Studies and my Masters is in Management and Business Studies. My early career was in the Health Service, merchant banking and marketing consultancy. My academic career was focused on design management, where I founded a department offering the first undergraduate and postgraduate courses, which brought together the full range of design disciplines (graphic design, product and 3 dimensional, fashion and textiles) into an integrated strategy to create the customer experience.
My current role as a Director of Hemsley Fraser Group entails a combination of strategy for the business, with working with some of the world’s largest, blue chip organisations on equipping their leaders and employees to perform to their highest potential. In today’s world, despite all the advances in global technologies, having high quality leaders and people is still central to how organisations differentiate and succeed over the long term.
What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do?
Seeing people becoming inspired to achieve in their working lives beyond anything they thought possible, so their organisations deliver to their customers, with healthy business results.
What is the most important life lesson you have learnt from another woman?
I learned, from one of my largest and longest standing client, that we can be personally accountable for being the best we can be – every day – and this alone makes a profound difference.
Your office is in a spectacular listed building. Could you tell us a bit of its story?
The origin of the Hemsley Fraser business was open courses. We decided that, rather than using third party premises, such as hotels and conference centres, we wished to own the whole learner experience, from the moment they walk into the building. Our business is about 21st Century learning and we have invested in state of the art classrooms, with additional facilities to enable us to work, in the moment, with our clients to design innovative and creative solutions. We also believe that learning should be fun and memorable – so, this is why you see some of the more unusual features around the building.
You are located in a beautiful area. What are your favourite places around?
I am really spoilt! We have Green Park, Hyde Park and the Serpentine all within walking distance. Round the corner is an enclave of small shops, including Patisserie Valerie, a Waitrose and some small restaurants. There is just the sense of working in the heart of gracious, historic London.
What are your top tips for maintaining a good work-life balance?
If you truly enjoy your work and believe in what you are doing, then much of the debate about work/life balance disappears. I’m in the hugely privileged position of doing work which is totally aligned with my personal values and having colleagues and clients who have become friends over the years. So, I accept that, at times, the ‘work’ part of it becomes larger, as a proportion of time, but overall, the time comes back to enjoy other things in life (music, walking, reading, yoga). I see that as balance at the deepest level.
Do you feel it is important for women to present themselves in a particular way for work?
I feel that the opportunity to present yourself at work is actually more enriching for women than for men. We have the scope to make choices about our individuality and to decide how we want to stand out. For example, I will often deliberately choose a structured and formal dress, but team it with a distinctive piece of jewellery – and I am known for my collection of red shoes! I don’t necessarily make a hard distinction between day wear and evening wear – why should we have fun with some sparkly and glitter during the day? I think this is the difference between fashion and style – style is about being confident inside of yourself.
What are your ultimate workwear staples?
I love tailored and structured dresses, pencil skirts and silks blouses. High heels are a must! And a collection of Swarovski jewellery (some of it is vintage by now).
And finally, what is your favourite dress from The Fold AW14 collection?
The Eaton has to be my favourite this season – but I also find that I can just put on one Fold dress after another and they all feel so right, so I am spoilt for choice.
With help from the Fold team, I have combined the top from the Camelot with the skirt from the Berkeley design. It has become known as the ‘Combo Dress’, but I now have it in various colours and fabrics and it feels totally ‘me’. I was so delighted to have this flexibility with The Fold.
Pictures from Amelia Allen Photography