The Long and Winding Road

If I’d written this blog ahead of the WDF meeting – Pathways to the Top – I am sure it would have been full of helpful advice on what courses to take at what stages in your careers, which of course would be helpful to know but I don’t think as powerful as what actually happened.

Our first speaker – Wendy Martin, Partner at sponsor EY, told us about her making Partner some 10+ years later than the average.

She needed to go through a lost job, relocation, change of direction and ultimately an audacious phone call to the Managing Partner to get her back on track to the top.

Wendy also spoke of the coaching programme provided by EY which really helped her see what she needed to do to take charge of her destiny.

From watching Wendy speak it was clear that her less than straight forward climb up the career ladder had added immensely to her experience, breadth of knowledge and most of all to a sense of a solid grounded confidence in her own abilities.

Our next speaker Paula Williams from the GTA, threw away her notes after hearing Wendy speak to tell us about how she got to be Programmes Manager at the GTA.

Again another long and winding road via earthquake and emotional upheaval, with the job eventually being landed by a “nothing ventured, nothing gained” phone call.

A pattern of Carpe Diem was emerging …. which reminded me of a similar WDF event some years ago where one by one the panel of highly successful female leaders told stories of the career changing moment where an unexpected career opportunity came along and they said – yes!

Then there was 10 minutes left for me to talk about the next instalment of the Women’s Leadership Forum, the form and content of which is inspired by a ground breaking course I attended a few year back.

I had already decided to tell the story of my kamikaze departure from my executive director role

Which I wrote about last year in my blog – Jumping Off the Totem Pole, but in the planning, I hadn’t realised this would be the third personal story with a career trajectory a long way from a straight, upwards-pointing arrow.

From the buzz at the end of the meeting it seemed that our collective tales of circuitous careers had inspired the women in the room, although few had raised their hands when asked if they aspire to the boardroom.

But maybe that’s it!

Maybe it is in the overcoming of unexpected obstacles – redundancy, divorce, disappointment, disillusionment – that women forge the confidence to give it a go.

Maybe for some of us the Carpe Diem spirit can only really come into play after we’ve already lost something precious.