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08 March 2019

International Women's Day 2019

To celebrate this year’s theme ‘balance’, we spoke to inspirational women from across our business to find out why balance is important to them, and how they achieve it in their lives.

#BalanceForBetter

Each year, on 8 March, International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world. It’s seen as a day to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.

This year, the theme’s #balanceforbetter and, to mark the occasion, we asked a selection of inspirational women from across our offices to share how they achieve balance in their busy lives. From meditation to triathlon training, family dinners to swimming with sharks, each reveal how they strive to find the right balance in both their personal lives and careers.

How important is balance to you, and how do you achieve it in your life and work?

Balance in life is really important. It helps to step back and assess how you are doing during the year. The most important thing is to recognise that balance looks different to everyone. There is no one ‘recipe’ for what balance and happiness look like, so you won’t find it by mirroring what others are doing. It’s about identifying the things that are most important to you and focusing on them, and for me that’s my family and my career. I genuinely love my work, I enjoy working with my colleagues and clients and building a successful business. I also love learning and continuously improving. Last year, I completed a degree in Psychology from the Open University. My family are my top priority. My children understand that I have a career and really support me. They understand my role and how important my job is, but they know that if they needed me, I will always put them first. Family time and holidays together are vital. My husband and I share all the family tasks, and without his amazing support balancing my life would be much trickier! After having our own children my husband and I became foster carers 18 years ago, so that we could help others and give back to the community. We have cared for over 15 children over the years, and it’s hugely rewarding. The highlight of my day is family dinner time together around the table discussing what each person has achieved.

What has been the best piece of career advice you’ve had, and what advice would you give to others?

I’ve had lots of great advice over the years. My dad advised me to train for a profession, which is what led me into accountancy. I was also advised to attend a presentation skills course, which really helped me as I have a naturally quiet and soft voice.

My advice to anyone would be to always work hard and believe in yourself. Don’t limit yourself. Work with people you respect and can learn from and, above all, always be yourself.

Tell us about a female role model or mentor who has inspired you?

I admire everyone who has fought for equality and fairness. I really couldn’t pick out a single person, as I’ve learned from so many great people. However, when my daughter was small and learning to talk, she taught me the power of the word ‘no’, which has been a valuable lesson!

Why do you believe diversity and balance is important in the workplace?

Diverse businesses are more successful because they reflect the world around us. It’s about far more than just gender; it encompasses all our varied differences and what it boils down to is diversity of thought. I like being surrounded by people with different backgrounds and different points of view, working together as a team because it helps us find better solutions and build a stronger business.

How important is balance to you and how do you achieve it in your life and work?

Achieving balance in my life and work is linked to travel. It started when I graduated from high school and moved from Eastern Europe to the Netherlands to pursue my higher education. Seven years and three degrees later, I now work in the Dutch office of the Aztec Group. Along the way I’ve made lifelong friendships, and the exposure I’ve had to people from different backgrounds has led to many interesting conversations that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Experiencing the richness of human diversity has taught me how little space I occupy in this world, and helped open my mind to newer perspectives, including in my working life. I‘ve been fortunate to visit some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, explore coral reefs, and swim with sharks. This year I will be even braver: I will climb the Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica, zipline in Monteverde, witness turtle nesting in Tortuguero in Costa Rica and bungee jump in the Panama Canal!

What has been the best piece of career advice you’ve had, and what advice would you give to others?

Without a doubt, that would be “own your own success.” Building your career is something you’ve got to do for yourself. It isn’t about anybody else. You must understand it’s going to take the support of a lot of people to get you where you want to eventually be. It takes rejection and redirection. It takes loss. It takes battles and resiliency. You don’t just show up at the top. You are the only one who’s able to make a difference for your own growth.

Tell us about a female role model or mentor who has inspired you?

My ultimate role model will always be my mother. Anyone who knows me will have heard me talk about her. This is because my mother is very sincere, trustworthy, friendly and welcoming, hardworking, slow to anger and very generous. She is the standard that I will forever strive to achieve.

Why do you believe diversity and balance are important in the workplace?

Because we are all storytellers. Every one of us has a unique story to tell, thanks to the unique experiences that define us. When you travel often (like me) or pursue another hobby which makes you truly happy, your life gets enriched with all the different experiences and memories. Businesses need an effective story to compel their customers to believe in their long-term goals and missions. Storytelling, either personally or professionally, establishes a connection with the person at the other end, and helps you in developing your authentic personal brand.

How important is balance to you, and how do you achieve it in your life and work? 

Work-life balance is extremely important to me, as it impacts my ability to be a good mum, wife, daughter, friend and employee. There was a time in my career where I worked crazy hours for months on end and it started to seriously impact my health and family. Ever since, I have made a proactive choice to ensure there is a good balance in my life. I do this by scheduling my gym training sessions in my work diary, and making sure I am home every evening in time to help with homework and dinner.

 

What has been the best piece of career advice you’ve had, and what advice would you give to others?

When I was at a crossroads in my career the best advice I got was to write down a list of all the jobs and roles I didn’t want to do – it really helped me understand the type of job I did want to do and what type of company I wanted to work for.

My advice is know your value and back yourself. Also, grow your professional network and find a great mentor.

Tell us about a female role model or mentor who has inspired you?

I’ve been lucky to have been surrounded by amazing females who have both inspired and supported my career. These women have achieved fulfilling careers, all while managing a family and a social life. One of my mentors was an absolute legend; before she hit 40 she co-founded a highly successful consulting firm in Sydney, got married and had three kids. She always had a smile on her face and went home for dinner with her family. I have no idea where she got the energy from, but she was a true inspiration to all who met her.

Why do you believe diversity and balance are important in the workplace?

Without diversity you are stuck with a group of people all thinking the same and problem solving in circles. Diversity breeds innovative thinking and new ideas, which everyone benefits from.

Everyone will eventually burn out, or worse, forget why they come to work, if they fail to prioritise balance. Balance is important for both personal health and relationships, and ensures staff are happy at work, which, in turn, increases their engagement and productivity.

How important is balance to you, and how do you achieve it in your life and work? 

Maintaining the balance in my life helps keep me grounded, and makes me happier. One of the most important ways I do this is through meditation. I often feel as though when I leave work, I am constantly thinking about all the things I need to get done, both at work and in my personal life. To rebalance myself, when I get home I lie on the floor, turn off my phone and the TV, and focus on clearing my mind to think about nothing. Meditation has significantly improved my ability to manage stress and feel less overwhelmed, and is something that I prioritise, regardless of what else needs to be done. However you achieve balance, the key thing is that you make time for it.

What has been the best piece of career advice you’ve had, and what advice would you give to others?

My father taught me to never lose my integrity or empathy through my ambition. I think it can be very easy to get lost in your own ambition at the expense of others. I try to embrace his advice by taking a step back before I make decisions to consider how my actions will affect others, while also reflecting on whether that decision might damage my personal integrity.

Tell us about a female role model or mentor who has inspired you?

Geraldine O’Rourke is an incredible role model for me because she is an amazing leader who truly embraces being a woman in a traditionally male dominated position. She naturally exudes confidence, and her success challenges the norm that traditional female qualities are to be suppressed in the workplace. She leads by maintaining a successful balance between kindness, warmth, assertiveness, and ambition, which is the type of leader I strive to be.

Why do you believe diversity and balance are important in the workplace?

The power of diversity can have an incredible impact when embraced in the workplace. Diverse teams benefit from increased creativity, empathy and understanding, and provide a superior work product compared to non-diverse groups. Similarly, if each individual has a healthy balance between their work and personal life it results in happier, less stressed people, who feel more motivated and can perform at their best. The combination of the two maximises the output of the team and the company as a whole.

How important is balance to you, and how do you achieve it in your life and work?

As a working mum with two children it’s important for me to be there for them during those special moments, whether it is sports day, the swimarathon or nativity plays. To help me keep track and ensure I don’t miss anything important, I like to get a plan of the week ahead written out to manage “all things children” at home on a Sunday, and on Monday I am in the office before 8am which is a nice quiet time to think about what needs prioritising that week.

My daughters and I are all equestrians at heart, and we spend a lot of time together on our shared passion, that requires considerable planning too as they are always doing events and competitions! This summer when I’m on my sabbatical, I’m taking them away to the U.K. with their ponies on an amazing adventure!

What has been the best piece of career advice you’ve had, and what advice would you give to others?

Having recently embarked on a leadership development program with Aztec, one of the things that has resonated with me is understanding what you can and cannot control. If you cannot control it then just accept it and move onto something you can control or influence, and put your energy into that. Equally if something is really bugging you that much, speak to the person who can control it, and trust them to consider your views.

It is a very simple question to ask yourself if something is troubling you, as it’s often the things we can’t control that we get so frustrated about.

Tell us about a female role model or mentor who has inspired you?

I read Lean In by Sheryl Sandburg some time ago. She is one of those people you cannot help but admire. As COO of Facebook, she writes candidly about her feelings as a working mother, and I would recommend it to any mum who is finding it a challenge balancing work with raising a family. There are days when it’s really tough managing both, but I feel very lucky to do what I do and I don’t think I would have the same mindset if I had not read that book.

Why do you believe diversity and balance are important in the workplace?

On an individual level, if people are feeling balanced they will be more focused on what they need to do, when they need to do it. Balance creates clearer thinking, which is so important in today’s fast paced world and for getting the best results in business. Diversity is also incredibly important in achieving the best results, and as head of a team, I am very privileged to work with an amazing bunch of talented individuals who all have different competencies and personalities. Ask them to discuss a challenge together, and a stronger end result is reached each and every time.

How important is balance to you, and how do you achieve it in your life and work? 

Balance to me is being able to succeed and achieve at work, spend time with my family and go on holiday for time-out. My ideal balance has changed over time. In my twenties, I was happy to work long hours and weekends in pursuit of my goals, whilst spending evenings in the bars and clubs of Manchester! However, now working for an organisation that encourages balance, my work load is more manageable and family time, exercise and spending time doing things I enjoy with people I love is much more important than ever before. Whether that be park run on Saturday, a spa day with my sister or planning my next holiday, having open, honest conversations at work and at home makes achieving balance much easier.

What has been the best piece of career advice you’ve had, and what advice would you give to others?

My mum always told me that if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got. And it’s so true! You’re more likely to regret not doing something than if you jump right in and go for it. I think you have to make opportunities for yourself and try not to be afraid of change, so this would be my advice to others. I moved to Jersey for my job at Aztec without knowing anyone on the island, and I’m so glad I did!

Tell us about a female role model or mentor who has inspired you?

I consider myself very lucky to be from a family of strong women! As one of four sisters, each of us are very similar in some ways and different in others. My sister Katy inspires me a great deal as she is determined but always kind and always sees the positive in every situation. If she’s having the worst day at work, she gets the job done whilst looking ahead to her dinner of sausage and mash!

I think it’s very valuable for young women working in a male dominated industry to have female role models who they can look up to and be inspired by. I have the pleasure of working with Geraldine who has an amazing career, always wants to learn and develop and is also so family-focused.

Why do you believe diversity and balance are important in the workplace?

Diversity is so important to achieve innovation, effective problem solving and a bright working environment. In a diverse workplace you can learn from your colleagues, approach challenges from different angles and have fun in doing so. On an individual level, finding a balance that suits you results in better health and wellbeing, and allows you to focus on what is important at work and at home.

How important is balance to you, and how do you achieve it in your life and work?

When I’m balanced, I’m happier and also more positive, effective and productive. For me, balance starts with knowing what you like and what’s important to you, and following your inner compass. It also means knowing your limits. With all the options and opportunities around us, it is tempting to want to do and have it all, but this simply isn’t possible.

My favourite way to stay balanced is doing sports and in particular triathlon. Training always clears my mind, makes me happy and gives me additional energy. This is my meditation and my time to recharge myself. Other things which vitalise me are walking in nature, reading a book or having a relaxing bath while listening to music, spending quality time with my family and friends, and exploring other countries and cultures.

What has been the best piece of career advice you’ve had, and what advice would you give to others?

Seven years ago, I was recommended by the Supreme Court to represent Estonian law at the Research and Documentation department of the Court of Justice of the EU in Luxembourg. That was a big honour to me and I was and am very thankful for this opportunity and experience in my life. It taught me to not let others tell me what I can or can´t do. I believe that almost anything is possible if you put your heart and mind to it, but you have to have courage, work hard and ultimately believe in yourself.

Tell us about a female role model or mentor who has inspired you?

My mom has always inspired me with her inner strength and independent nature. She raised three children whilst working and studying for a degree, and always supported and encouraged us to follow our own dreams.

Another role model is my friend, who is one of the strongest women I have ever known. Life has not been easy on her and she has overcome many challenges, including beating cancer. She taught me to never put your life on hold because you’re waiting for something to happen – life is a gift and you should enjoy every moment to the fullest!

Why do you believe diversity and balance are important in the workplace?

In a balanced, open working environment, different mind-sets and skills working together will challenge each other to be and do better, to achieve more, evolve and grow, create new ideas and fresh solutions. Clients will receive better quality service from happy, supported, motivated and balanced employees.

How important is balance to you, and how do you achieve it in your life and work?

I believe balance is very important in life, and I love to travel in order to experience different cultures and push myself outside my comfort zone. I aim to experience something new and adventurous every year, and as a result have done many exciting activities including skydiving, bungee jumping, canyoning and caving to name a few. I’m also passionate about training, and outside of work I’m Vice Chair of the GIFA Education Sub Committee, which plans training events for the Guernsey funds industry and also works with schools to educate students about the excellent career opportunities available to them on the Island.

What has been the best piece of career advice you’ve had, and what advice would you give to others?

To have confidence in your own ability and work hard to achieve your goals. This is great advice for anyone, and on top of that I’d also encourage others to regularly push themselves outside of their comfort zones, because I think this is really important for growth.

Tell us about a female role model or mentor who has inspired you?

I’m always very inspired by strong women in the business world, and we have some fantastic role models right here at Aztec who have definitely inspired me.

Why do you believe diversity and balance are important in the workplace?

Diversity in the workplace gives us a wider range of views and ideas in order to facilitate innovative solutions and help ensure we are at the top of our game. Balance is also key as it leads to well-rounded individuals who enjoy work, are motivated to work efficiently, and are therefore more productive. It’s a win-win all round!

How important is balance to you, and how do you achieve it in your life and work?

I am passionate about my work and love what I do at Aztec, but I believe that a healthy work life balance is essential to having a fulfilling career. Self-care is very important and whether it is going for a lunchtime walk, spending time with friends and family or treating myself to a spa day, taking time out and practicing mindfulness is really important to me. My career with Aztec actually helps me stay balanced too, thanks to the travelling I do as part of my job. From taking a boat ride in Guernsey, watching the sun set on the beach in Jersey or visiting the Christmas Market in Luxembourg, I have been able to use my free time to experience some great things.

What has been the best piece of career advice you’ve had, and what advice would you give to others?

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve had is to do with problem solving. If you have a problem, sit back, take a breath and break it down. Things are always more achievable when you break them down into steps.

I would always advise anyone to work hard for what you want to achieve, believe in yourself, and try to work with people who inspire you to be better.

Tell us about a female role model or mentor who has inspired you?

I have been very lucky to have a great mentor at Aztec in Michelina Moss. Michelina has taught me so much and helped me grow professionally and personally. Michelina has always made time for me and together we’ve established a great working relationship. I feel a responsibility to pass this way of working on to others, and as a result I will always ensure I make time for others and pass on my knowledge.

Why do you believe diversity and balance are important in the workplace?

Diversity is important to the success of a business. We can learn a lot from each other including different ways of working, thinking and creating a positive impact on each other and the workplace as a whole. Working in corporate services my role is so diverse, I really enjoy working with a wide range of clients, promoters and teams across the business. I travel to different offices, meet a diverse range of people and experience new cultures.

Find out more about International Women’s Day on their official website.

If the Aztec Group sounds like somewhere you would enjoy working, we would love to hear from you! Explore our current vacancies here.​


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