From pursuing a corporate career specialising in international leverage banking to running a tech-based SME, my career has taken me into an industry and position that I never envisaged. Pursuing an entrepreneurial venture was certainly a change of direction from being a salaried employee, but the experience I gained working in the financial sector has been crucial in shaping my career.
While I believe that working for large firms, especially at the beginning of your career, is really beneficial, pursuing what you are passionate about is one of the most exhilarating things you can do in your professional life.
You may have a set career path, but it is crucial to always be open to change and to consider new opportunities as they arise – these may in fact become the best move for your career.
With this journey in mind here are some of the key insights I have gained along the way as a leader and CFO of SimplyBook.me.
Bring your experiences with you
As you move up the corporate ladder, from one position to the next and from one firm to another, it’s important to never forget your past experiences, as both a team member and in a position of leadership. Some of the most important lessons you learn will come from when you were a junior in your first role. Whether these experiences haunt you or give you a confidence boost they make you who you are and will shape the leader you are to become.
At the same time, it’s important not to let your previous roles define the future trajectory of your career because it’s never too late to change direction. I spent much of my career within the financial sector, but the fast-paced tech sphere has subsequently proved to be an invigorating area to work in. My experience just goes to show that with the right spirit you can pursue your passion and carve a successful career that breaks down industry boundaries and preconceived career paths.
Take a wider view
As a leader, it is important to have a genuine interest in all aspect of the business and an awareness of your employees’ roles, because if you don’t understand what is going on, then how can you respond to events in the best interests of your company and your staff?
What’s more, a leader who is engaged is always better for a team’s morale. Not only do they feel valued and respected, but as a leader you can stand to learn so much from those around you. No matter how well you know your business, or how involved you are with everyday operations, you cannot be a specialist in every area required – but your employees can be!
Even though as CFO I am in charge of all the finances, I always try to participate in most aspects of the business, joining in on brainstorming sessions and overseeing the development of new products – that way we can all work as a team towards a common purpose, whilst all continuing to develop and further expand our knowledge and understanding beyond our individual remits.
Persistence, persistence, persistence
Having that team spirit and trust in each other is key. When the going gets tough, everyone needs to stay united and strong. Building up any company takes a lot of hard work and persistence as nobody is going to hand you everything on a plate. You inevitably will encounter challenges along the way and as a leader you have to step up and take responsibility. If you are hardworking and have faith in your original idea it will be that bit easier to reach your goal and is worth every struggle that comes along the way.
Keep one eye on the competition…
In the world of technology, challenges come thick and fast – competition is always fierce and markets can move incredibly quickly. It is vital to be organised and efficient in order to stay ahead of the competition and continue to move forward. While it is important to be aware of what your competitors are doing, it should not become the driving force behind your decisions. Healthy competition is good for business and will help you push forward, but it’ important to hold true to your own business mantra and not to get swayed by others.
… and one eye on your goals
Keeping sight of your original ambitions can be a challenge for anyone in a position of leadership. It is crucial that you are always working towards an end goal, that way everything you do will fall into line and continue to build on the progress being made. At the end of the day, if you don’t have long-term aims and objectives what are you actually working towards? It becomes easier to drift in the wrong direction, lacking a purpose which will only be detrimental to the success of your team.
In spite of this, it is also important to maintain a degree of flexibility as you never know what lies around the corner. It is crucial to have a goal, but at the same time not to remain rigid in your objectives. Markets change, as do consumer demands, therefore should an appropriate opportunity arise as a good business leader you may need to adapt and re-focus your direction – ignoring changing demands will only be detrimental to your business in the long run.
More importantly, it is vital to maintain that passion which brought you to a position of leadership in the first place. If you lose sight of this and no longer truly believe in what you are building, then your customers and employees will soon realise, which will only lead to wavering confidence in your capabilities to fill such a role.
Don’t let your work consume you
A final challenge is not to let your work take over your life. Whilst it is important to be proud of your career and everything you have achieved professionally, your personal life should not take a back seat. My family has been one of my greatest achievements and without it I doubt that I would have reached where I am today. It is important to be able leave your work behind when you go home, not spending all your time consumed with business matters – in that way your personal life is not neglected and that will benefit your career in the long run.
With family in mind, I also like to think that what we do today will make a positive impact on future generations. As a leader you have a unique opportunity to forge your own path and leave a lasting legacy. Personally, I want to be a good role model for younger women entering into business, especially the technology sector, demonstrating that anyone can rise to a position of leadership and that women no longer need to decide between having a career and having a family. Ultimately all of us have the chance to effect real change for the future, it is just a matter of stepping up to the opportunity when it arises.