Kim Palmer

Strategy director at Wunderman and the founder of Clementine app

Let me start with where I am today. I’m managing a portfolio career which includes a job in in London as a strategy director for a digital agency called Wunderman. I do this job 4 days a week. In the evenings and on the other 3 days I’m running my own business/brand called Clementine – which is an app for women to help them with better sleep, better confidence and less self-doubt. I juggle these two with family life with my 3 boys – hubby and two sons.

A lot of women ask me “How do you do it all?” or “Wow, you’re superwoman!” The reality, when you really look at my life, is so far from this. I’m dropping balls left, right and centre – daily. But I’m consciously dropping them, because I’ve now worked out that I can’t do everything.

It took becoming a mum for me to realise that something has to give: I can’t be everything to everyone, while also looking after myself, because I will burn out. I’ll have a meltdown. Use whatever catastrophic metaphor you like: that’s what will happen. However, as well as absolutely loving my role as a mother - I do love my career so I wanted to step this up too.

So, rather than leaving my career behind when I became a mum, I decided to look at what motherhood gave me, and to use these skills to further my career. I’ve become more proficient at time management, negotiation, looking after my own wellbeing, caring for others, being open about the struggles. These skills are invaluable for my strategy director role at Wunderman marketing agency and for running a business on your own.

But what I also learned on maternity leave was that I need to sometimes slow down. I had something of a mental breakdown during my first pregnancy. It was horrific. However, I found a way out through hypnotherapy and this led to me building an app, called Clementine, which helps other women to be more confident, get better sleep and feel less stressed. The Guardian voted it one of seven apps every woman should own.

These experiences of hitting rock bottom, of becoming a Mum have all helped me to step up in my career. I have a better handle on where my passion is – helping women to be their best. I have a better handle on what I’m great at in terms of skills and I’m using these to build the portfolio career that will (in time) fit around my family so that we have a better balance too.

It’s entirely possible to have kids and to have a full career. I feel devoted to my family, but also to my day job and to my business. It’s possible to juggle these three aspects of my life because I’ve learned what my limits are. Last month, I won the Women of Tomorrow Awards. I’d love it if more mothers felt confident and had the tools to embrace all the great aspects of being a Mum and use these to build a successful career too. One that works for them and their family – it is possible.

If you’d like a confidence boost, better sleep or to feel generally calmer, check out Clementine App.

Sam Duder

Stylist

I’m a big believer in jumping, saying yes to something exciting and seeing where it takes you. Saying yes is something that can bring its highs and lows but in my varied career it’s always paid off.
I started life working for the Priory hospital as therapist and then being a creative, one day decided to set up a pottery painting business. Nerves aside, I started this business on a shoestring and with perseverance and hard work 14 years later I successfully sold the business and moved onto my next venture.
@theturquoiseflamingo was set up last year initially as I LOVE clothes, I love everything about them, how they make you feel and just how liberating they can be. I started styling clients and set up my Instagram page @theturquoiseflamingo after a few nudges from friends telling me to go for it.
Hence the business was born and I haven’t looked back. I style clients and introduce them to new trends that they may not have had the confidence to try. It’s such a rewarding job scouring for new unique and affordable pieces.
My days are spent searching online, watching out for new trends and putting together outfits in different ways for clients and blogging my own finds too.
For me, fashion should be fun, not taken too seriously and when you develop your own style away you go. There are no boundaries and no rules.
There have been highs and lows, having 3 small kids means I have to be efficient with my time. As a working mum you juggle constantly to find that balance.
For me, changing career is a very exciting thing to do, when one avenue isn’t working for you anymore then only you can change it. Self belief goes a long way, as does integrity. Being a bit brave and having no fear of failure has always helped me along the way. Mistakes can always be learned from and can bring new ideas too. Exciting new ventures are happening with @theturquoiseflamingo which I’m thrilled about and who knows what the future holds? But for the time being, I jumped, I’m ready and I’m on the rollercoaster again. The thrill of setting up a new business is like nothing else. The fear is only excitement in reverse and means you’ll succeed, but saying “yes” is the key.

Candice Fragis

Buying and Merchandising Director, FARFETCH.com

One of the proudest moments of my career was sitting in the boardroom of Browns, as the Buying & Merchandising Director of FARFETCH, the company that had recently acquired the iconic boutique. I had an intense flashback to 10 years prior sitting in the very same room as a shop assistant, desperate to become a buyer, dreaming of the day I could be a buying director and being filled with anxiety and impatience about how that was ever going to happen.

It was one of the first moments in my career that I sat back and reflected about the determination of my dream and took a moment to feel proud that I had achieved my goal. Until that moment, I don’t think I let myself feel it and it’s been a lesson to remind myself of where I started and where I wanted to be.

Things certainly changed along the way and the journey has not been straight forward. But every step has led me to where I ultimately set out to be and some of the most sideway steps became my biggest leaps forward; most importantly joining the start-up team of 2, to launch THE OUTNET. The risk was that I would be pigeonholed in off price but the opportunity of being at the forefront of a new luxury fashion revolution was a huge turning point. Similarly joining a luxury market place – it was a risk but the timing was fortuitous and being part of those journeys have been the most impactful of my career

Success to me is no longer about being at the top of my game, it’s about genuinely enjoying the journey and feeling fulfilled. Its now about balance and making time for life outside of my career and better yet, combining both. Some wise old words which now resound in my head are ‘if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life’. If I try live by that, I endeavour to keep on turning and embrace the change rather than fear it. bring it on!

Holly Garber

Director, Golightly PR

I started my business in 2005 at the age of 24 and it has been a long and varied journey since that point to today. I knew so little at the start and there have been a lot of moments when it has been oh so hard and overwhelming. That said, my overall take away from this 13 year period is one of deep appreciation at how having my own business has enriched my life. My business has supported my development and remunerated me for my efforts financially over the social whirlwind of my late 20s through to having 2 children and getting married (in that order) in my mid 30s. There have been periods when I have worked 80 hour weeks and periods where I have worked 10 hour weeks. I’ve done the whole thing solo and had a team as big as twelve. In all those times, it has provided flexibility and autonomy for me to respond to who I am at that time and work accordingly. When I started Golightly I often wondered how long I would do this for, would I still want to do the same thing when I was 30? 35? 40? Thankfully, with the rapid pace of change in both the fashion and media industries what I do today is very different to what I was doing when I first started the business and that means that right now, I still happily come to work every day, deeply enjoy what I do and look forward to what will come with interest and excitement because it continues to be challenging and offer me the chance to evolve and learn new things.

Natasha Hughes

I have done the sensible thing my whole career and as a result never enjoyed my job and continue to feel totally at a loss as to what to do to finally allow myself to feel excited and passionate about my job.

I did an economics degree because I thought it would stand me in good stead; I worked in finance for large corporates because it would pay well and believed it would always enable me to have a “good” job. I eventually allowed myself to acknowledge my creative side and moved into marketing but still within financial services, so ultimately not a very creative role! And I continued to feel completely unfulfilled yet progressing, therefore making it even harder for me to walk away. I finally jumped the corporate ship and moved to a small startup, albeit still within the finance sector. Although this has been a good change it has confirmed that something bigger needs to change.

In my spare time I have dabbled with a couple of business ideas but always stopped myself progressing because my inner risk assessment berometer would take over!

Having had a baby and been on maternity leave for 11 months I am now faced with the prospect of returning to work. The thought of leaving my baby for a job that doesn’t excite me feels crazy and motherhood has bought me a new found courage to finally sort out my career headache. But where do I start when I just don’t know what I really want to do?

I am hoping that the new Step Up School e-course might be just what I need.

Polly Neary

Brand Consultant

This is me and my career, in a tiny nutshell, and what drove me to make the biggest but best change in my work life to date.

Having started out in PR I accidentally ended up in celebrity and talent management. I worked with supermodels, Spice Girls and with the most well known couple in the universe. As Head of Brand Development and then Head of Creative I was lucky enough to experience some incredible moments in my career. I was super busy, I flew around the world, I had interesting things to talk about and I felt challenged on a daily basis. Everything was fine and dandy until…I started my family.

Now, this shouldn’t sound like a bad thing! It is without a doubt the single best thing (after marrying my husband) that I have ever experienced but it brought about a big shift in my priorities – as I think it does for most people. However, when the time came to return to work I think I thought like most of us do, well, how hard can this be? I’ll just juggle both. Financially I had responsibilities and I was going back to the role I (thought) always wanted with a salary to match, along with a 4 day week and the hours I wanted. Well done me I thought. And so the juggle began, for nearly 2 years. But I was by no means happy - I was pretty miserable and permanently stressed. By the time our second daughter arrived the priority shift was seismic and I just knew I needed to make a change. I felt sick at the thought of jumping back on the crazy spinning wheel.

I wanted to feel more fulfilled, empowered, and balanced in life and in work. I wanted ownership of my down time and to be working on projects that I really cared about. If I was going to be away from my girls it had to be for a very good reason – and the world’s most famous footballer and his pants just wasn’t reason enough (shocker I know).

I knew that to achieve this balance I was going to have to step away from the things that had previously defined my career and ultimately, me. I worried that I wouldn’t be interesting to work with without the big names behind me, or even as interesting to people in general! Would I find clients? Would I keep them? I’d changed so much in the last few years that I didn’t really know my work self anymore and I was massively outside my comfort zone. However, I set up my Brand Consultancy and before I knew it I had collected a few interesting projects and clients that I felt really passionate about. I used my network of contacts to my advantage and I put myself out there – and it before I knew it I had enough work to keep me busy and most importantly, balanced.
The Step Up School wasn’t born when I was making these decisions but boy do I wish it had been. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last few years its that you can’t beat the power of a strong, supportive female network – confidence boosting, empowering and positively life affirming. Networking has been the best tool I’ve ever used in my career and I love how just connecting with people in some way or another often leads to the most exciting things.

Alison de Zoete

Executive Producer, Music

It is no big surprise that making a career out of the thing that you love is the key to job satisfaction. I am lucky enough to work in music, where my passion lies, but the elements of it that I find most fulfilling are not the ones that I would have expected.
My career path has not been linear. I spent the first decade of my working life bouncing from one career to another (I worked for Formula 1 racing, set up a property search company, moved to New York where I spent a joyous three years working in interior design, cooking, and learning how to code and design websites). Coming back to London I re-found my love of music and was accepted onto a year-long professional singing course. Despite adoring the course I realised that making a career of singing wasn’t really viable – I basically wasn’t good enough, any success would have been at the expense of pretty much everything else in my life, a sacrifice I wasn’t willing to make – but it led me to finding work in arts administration, first in a major opera company and then in a multi-arts organisation, where I’ve been for the last 12 years. I produce and facilitate music events and I’m good at it; partly because I understand musicians, I know how to create the best environment and provide what they need to be able to perform to their optimum, but to my surprise where I have found my strength really lies, and where I derive most satisfaction, is in supporting and developing teams and individuals.
This only became apparent when I took my first steps into management. The team I took charge of was demoralised and some members were under-performing. It wasn’t the easiest of situations, but I played a long game encouraging individuals to see their strengths and to work on their weaknesses; the team became more and more competent and individual members have since flourished, with some rising up the organisation.
It is this nurturing of others that I have found to be the most rewarding part of my working life and I now realise is an integral part of any job I do in the future.

Amy Khan

Head of Digital Communications, Ministry of Justice

Change has pretty much defined my career so far. I’ve mixed up my roles a lot, working variously as an actor, entertainment journalist and civil servant, and I’ve hopped between sectors too, working everywhere from record labels to NGOs to Downing Street. When I was starting out, my moves were a bit random and fuelled by the sheer joy of trying new things, but inevitably they’ve become more calculated. For example, when I worked in the music industry, I knew I wanted to get into government, but failed to get interviews because the leap was too great. So I took on a short-term opportunity at an amazing NGO to build my skills in a sector that would be more appealing to government recruiters (it worked).

When you’re attempting to make a big change, inevitably you’ll fail a lot – it’s part of the process. I’ve failed to get loads of jobs when I’ve been trying to make a leap – obviously it doesn’t feel great at the time, but at least I know I’m pushing myself to get somewhere I really want to be. Careers are long and our interests and passions change over time, and for me, passion overrides financial considerations beyond keeping my family fed and cared for. I’m now trying to forge a new career in screenwriting, which isn’t easy with family and work commitments, but it’s something I’m deeply committed to and a change I’m prepared to work hard to make happen.

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