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A woman at Aspire

What’s it like to be a woman at Aspire?

Great!  Firstly I feel regardless of being a woman or if I was a man then I’d be treated with respect and compassion at Aspire.  The company works hard to make sure all colleagues regardless of their sex are cared for, stretched, challenged, respected, trusted and it’s a great place to work. 

Getting back to being a ‘woman’.  It sounds such a grown up term and at 45 I must be classed as grown up, especially because I’m a wife to Damian and a mam to Madison but it sounds very responsible.  I feel I’m very young at heart, I’m still 18 inside! However what’s changed is work and life experiences over the last 28 years of my working life.

I started my first full time job as a 16 year old school leaver in the Head Office of a bank.  A child in a grown up’s world.  Working environments were very different then.  The people were still reeling over not being allowed to smoke in the office and females weren’t allowed to wear trousers as part of the dress code.   I’ve observed the ‘boys’ club’ where being female meant that you weren’t considered for promotion.  Seems a ludicrous thought in this day and age – so 1990’s!

I studied qualifications for 11 years alongside my full time work and gained a wide range of qualifications in learning and development, financial services management, mortgage advice, coaching etc which have given me a platform to progress in my career.  I’ve worked in a variety of different environments from sales, operations, learning and development which has been great to see how strategies and cultures change.  I’ve worked in big companies and small.  I’ve worked for leaders that who were motivating, inspiring and also some who were rude and unfair.  Whilst never pleasant at the time to work within such negativity, it’s was a great learning experience and I’ve always sought to look for the positives.  I’ve worked across the UK from Newcastle, London and now Yorkshire.  What’s been most special and significant is that I’ve made some life long friends throughout my career.  I’m still in touch with work friends who I’ve known for almost 30 years ago.  We’ve had much laughter, tears, fun and lots of great stories in abundance along the way – both inside and out of work!

The biggest turning point for me in my career came when I became a mam at the age of 38.  I didn’t appreciate how much my priorities would change.   Living in the South East at the time, every penny of income counted so I knew that I’d need to return to work as soon as I could on a full time basis.  My lovely daughter Madison, joined a great farm nursery at 10 months old.  She’s had to get used to being up and out very early in the morning which she’s adapted to very well.  I have spent hours dashing to and from nurseries, many times physically running for trains so I could pick her up on time.  One time I fell over while running for my train and I looked horrendous with holes in my tights, bleeding knees and burning palms but I made the train so I could get to my daughter!  Another time I lost a high heel while jumping on a train so I could get through the tunnels to join an 8am conference call.   You can understand why I drive these days! Of course have felt the ‘mother’s guilt’ of leaving my child with someone else but again, she has thrived and built up a friendship group and confidence of her own.  She knows that her mam and dad work hard so she can benefit.  Showing her the outcomes of working hard and having a good work ethic is important for her future.

Also, its important that I’m not just Madison’s mam or Damian’s wife, I’m Liz O’Connell the Leadership and Management Development Consultant.  I’ve worked hard over the last 28 years and love my job and I love doing it well.  I’m passionate about what I can bring to Aspire, my learners, my colleagues while building up my ongoing learning.  My job is varied from working on internal projects, joining the management meetings to creating and delivering learning for new leaders.  I work among a great team of men and women of all different age groups and I feel really supported.  The beauty of my job is that I can work flexibly which is invaluable to me as a busy mam.   I can be down in Chelmsford one day and then at home the next.  I can start work early and finish later so I can fit the job around my home life.  This recently allowed me to see Madison narrate the school nativity at Christmas.  I’m also making time to complete an Assessors qualification this year.   I’m looking forward to seeing the remainder of my career at Aspire as I’m sure there’ll be changes, growth and development in abundance and I wouldn’t miss it.

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