You don’t need to walk far in the Summit office to come across strong, professional, and talented women. One third of our board is female, and a large proportion of our senior team are women – from our Head of Operations to our Account Directors.
In short, Summit is, and will be, an equal opportunities employer, focused on celebrating the person doing the job, not the gender they identify with.
On International Women’s Day 2023, we asked these female powerhouses across the teams to reflect on their career so far, to share some pearls of wisdom and advice with those who are at the start of their journey.
So, read our stories, share our highs and lows, and learn from our mistakes.
Dr Jill Anderson, Product Development Director
One of the first tasks I was given at the start of my career was to network and make connections with potential supervisors across my department. I was in a new city, a new University and, as an extremely shy introvert with no self-confidence, I was terrified! Many, many years on, here is what I’ve learnt about confidence:
- Fake it till you make it is a real thing! No matter how confident you are, there are going to be situations that make you uneasy. Positive self-talk, ‘Power-poses’, wearing your favourite clothes – find something you are confident about in every situation.
- Confidence can be learnt, and practice really does help. When you are in an uncomfortable situation, remember it’s not going to last forever. Be prepared and practice. And remember to reflect, not just on what you’d do better, but on what you did right.
- Having confidence gets easier with time, or maybe you just stop worrying what other people think! And if you feel your pulse rising, you’re starting to sweat and butterflies are going in your stomach, take a deep breath and smile, at the least, it will trick your brain into thinking you’re happy and get you back on track!
Michaela Shepherd, Finance Manager
A long time ago I was responsible for the payroll of a busy call centre. And one week I forgot to press the button to finalise their payments! I had a lot of angry people in my office the next morning, but with a bit of lateral thinking I managed to get our local bank branch to pay everyone in cash that same day. It wasn’t ideal, but it was a solution for everyone. That day I learned that
- Mistakes are never the end of the world (even if they feel like it at the time). Owning and providing a solution to any mistake will ultimately earn you respect.
- Try and learn at least one thing from everyone you work with, even the people you don’t agree with.
- Be brave. You don’t have to be the loudest in the room to make an impact, but make sure you are heard.
Rebecca Wilkes, Client Services Director
The biggest learning of my career is taking the time to understand your strengths and being confident in what you can bring to the table. I think this is especially true at the start of your career or when you’re constantly pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and looking to the next step in your career.
This was a big learning for me when moving into a different part of the business. It was a new role in a new industry with a lot of the day-to-day contact being with more senior stakeholders than me. Imposter syndrome can really get the better of you in these situations, but taking a step back, reminding yourself why you’re in the room, the learnings, the strengths and the unique perspectives you bring and having the confidence to speak up is a really important lesson.
Becky Roberts, Senior Account Manager
In my early days of being a manager I made some recruitment mistakes. Most notably I prioritised experience and knowledge of the role ahead of attitude and fit within the team.
Now I look for people with the character and personality traits I’m looking for, mapped with the right attitude and ability to learn the skills required. I’ve found that although there’s more training and support required initially, those people are happier, stay longer, progress within the company and the whole team works better.
The lesson I learnt from this is: You can train for skills, but you can’t train for attitude.
Emily Redfearn, Head of Operations
I’ve been extremely lucky to have outstanding women as line managers throughout my career, all who have taught me different things and given career-changing advice. Three women stand out because of the support they’ve given me, and what I took from their guidance…
My apprenticeship line manager, Jenny, put so much trust in me and showed me how to stand up for myself in a room full of more senior, experienced professionals.
- Your ideas and thoughts have value, and you should always have confidence in sharing them. The more you share, the more confident you’ll become.
Natalie is now (unsurprisingly) an MD, and she was an incredible mentor to me while I set up a new team. She gave me the confidence that I could succeed even when I felt like I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.
- We all have to wing it sometimes when we take on new responsibilities. You’re not alone. Find people who will support you and you can bounce ideas off when you’re unsure.
At Summit, Jill helped me through some of the most challenging moments in my career. She helped me work through them, take a step back before jumping in and helped me to better understand my own thought processes.
- Don’t surround yourself with ‘yes’ people. Find mentors and colleagues who approach situations in a completely different way to make sure you’re getting a well-rounded view. Eventually you’ll get better at challenging your own approach before someone else does.
Rachel Longstone, Senior Account Manager
My role before Summit was a big turning point in my career and personal development. Seeing strong, intelligent females in managerial positions who were successfully juggling a demanding role and family life, especially during lockdown where they also had to home school their kids, as well as looking after their health and fitness, was truly inspiring to me.
My female boss offered me a high level of trust within my role, giving me confidence in my ability whilst also pushing me. This meant that I had to level up not only in my role, but also my organisation and problem-solving skills. She would always recite ‘bring me a solution not a problem’, which to this day I even quote to my partner…
So, my advice to ambitious young women (and men!) would be as follows:
- Everyone makes mistakes – don’t hide from them. High trust is worth more than high performance, ‘I’ve done this, but here is how I can fix it’ is good – hiding problems / blaming others can destroy teams.
- Stay humble and patient. You might be good at your job, but there is much that only comes with experience, and you will never know everything.
- Keep learning and embrace change, especially important within our industry!
- Don’t feel personally attacked by constructive criticism – instead see it as a development opportunity.
- Don’t over think it – a big one for me as a serial over-thinker! Know your job and do it, don’t worry about anything else, simple
- Look after yourself, be self-aware and know your limits, it is much harder to come back from burnout than you think. You don’t have to be wonder woman – lower the expectations of yourself to a sustainable level, call on your teammates and wider colleagues to help you, it’s faster and less stressful than figuring everything out on your own.
Gina Farrow, Account Director
My piece of advice is believe in your own knowledge (and yourself) to push through a difficult situation.
Once over a key trading time, we had an issue with a piece of technology that could have a large impact. It meant a lot to me, so it was also a very emotive situation, with tensions already heightened due to the time of year. Trying to sort out the issue whilst on a train was not the most ideal situation, however, my female manager at the time empowered me to make the right decisions to ensure that everything went smoothly. I knew the way to solve it, I just needed that kick to do it!
Ellie Clark, Senior Account Manager
I would say the most important lesson you can learn as a woman in business is to trust in what you know. I’m a marketer by trade and at heart, and that is 100% what I know, and remembering that has helped me get to where I am in my career.
It doesn’t matter if you’re talking to a colleague, a superior, or the owner of the business, you know what you know, and if you know you have the right answer, even if it goes against the general consensus, then you need to share that with them.
That confidence in what you do know will help you and those around you make the right decisions. So, no matter where you are, or who you are surrounded by, remember to speak up and share your opinion.
Rachel Williams, Account Director
I’ve been asked to lead a few curveball projects during my time and although daunting at the beginning, on reflection I have found them so rewarding. What I’d recommend when facing something similar is:
- Believe in yourself – think about why you’ve been asked to take on this project and embrace your strengths.
- Ask lots of questions – someone once told me that ‘no question is a stupid question’, put yourself out there and ask any questions you need so you can ensure you understand things.
- Make a pain of yourself – if something is important, don’t be afraid to ask for help or people’s time until you’ve got what you need. Ultimately if this is needed to make something a success, then it’s in everyone’s best interests that you ensure its completed.
Rebecca Tomlinson, Account Manager
I’ve always valued female leadership and working with fellow women in the industry. The female managers I have had over the years were friends as well as colleagues, always recognised when I needed support and were never too busy to help.
I have learnt so much from the women I’ve worked with throughout my career including:
- Be a warrior not a worrier – Take every opportunity presented to you even if it means leaving your comfort zone.
- Comparison is the thief of joy – Having strong role models and people you can look up to is important but never compare yourself to anyone else and stay on your own path – it’ll pay off in the end!
- Your opinion matters – Whether it’s a thought, idea, opinion or question the best way to develop your confidence and knowledge is by getting involved in conversations and sharing what you have to offer.
- Communication is key – I might be biased but I think women are the best communicators! Jargon and fancy words might convey intelligence, but the true indication of successful communication is that you are understood.
Lily Polak, Sales Manager, Productcaster
Here’s a few things that I’ve learned about confidence over the years
- Fight for what you know is right: even if you receive push-back, if you know that you are right to fight for it, go for it.
- As for help and bank the knowledge you learn to use it in the future. And when you get it, remember to genuinely listen to what people are saying.
- Bring solutions to the table: try to come up with options and choose your favoured solution. This is more valuable than simply presenting a problem.
- Ask for feedback and learn from it, you won’t grow without receiving and applying it.
- Don’t panic. Very few things are a life-or-death situation, and you can resolve the issue without the world ending by the time you’ve found the solution.
- Be considerate & kind, but not a push over. Stand up for what you believe in.
Nicole Graham, Head of Data
Growing up in the 1980s in the former East Germany, working women were the norm. On Women’s Day, women were really celebrated – they received flowers from their husbands and bosses and gifts from school children – and for some it was a bigger deal than Mother’s Day, as it was an appreciation of the work you did.
Returning to work after children was easier as childcare was free, and in addition to annual leave, women were entitled to an additional day each month to attend to housekeeping chores! A different time.
Regardless of the political associations, the fact that women were so celebrated in the workplace during this time has given me a different perspective. I never considered NOT working after finishing school and university, and certainly not after becoming a mother. Earning my own money is important to me, and I have really fond memories of singing songs like “My Mum is Head of Department” at school!
Maia Wooff, Support Manager
What I would advise to other women, especially those just starting their careers, is to be in a place and work with people that let you be yourself. If you’re not able to be yourself then you’re in the wrong place.
I spent many years trying to be somebody I wasn’t. I ended up in a role that was right for me, but I was always unhappy & depressed. One day after I’d had too much, I decided that I was going to stop pretending about who I really am. I could never go back to those days and my life both in and out of work has colour in it once again.
If you’d like to come and work alongside some of these amazing women (and some impressive men as well!), take a look at our vacancies on our Join Us page.