I am Wendyanne. I worked in one organisation for over 23 years, started at 17 and worked through a variety of roles and ranks. It provided me with skills, knowledge as well as direction and structure, enabling me to grow and develop as a ‘corporate professional’ as well as supporting me through some critical life stages. This included becoming a mother and a wife besides working full time as a manager, a supervisor and a leader. The choice to leave and start up on my own came somewhat by surprise, however, once the decision was reached I believed I was ready. After all I had already earned my stripes and proved myself so getting out into the world would be easy – wouldn’t it…
So, the plan was to take some time out, to watch the grass grow and to appreciate life. For 3 months, I balanced this along with a focus on building contacts (outside of my own industry), pulled together a portfolio of products and services and created a ‘new’ brand.
Fast forward a few months and the first networking event I attended. This was an opportunity to get out there, to meet and greet like-minded professionals, to showcase myself, my abilities and secure some business. My head was telling me “be different, make a statement” with this in mind I decided on my showcase attire. I went for bold and gold as this represented my corporate colour scheme. I chose a dress and heels to demonstrate girly yet ‘fierce’ independent woman and finally to complete the look (to this day I’m not sure where this idea came from) I booked into a beautician and got false eyelashes. Dressed and prepared with business cards in abundance I went into central Birmingham.
I arrived early evening to find that parking in the university campus was a good 5-10-minute walk away, I then strode with purpose (although awkwardly as wasn’t used to wearing heels) into a semi dark and very cold room where I found I was one of 15 participants. Now I’d ask you to picture this scene, I was the single female in a group of mature gentleman, I was wearing the brightest colour of all time and I was blinking very, very slowly due to the weight of my totally ridiculous eyelashes.
I worked out quite quickly that I was the only one looking at life through a rose-tinted lens, I had no ‘war’ stories to share, I was obviously an eternal optimist and hopeless romantic, I had no unrealistic expectations about travelling or working long hours/days. I heard a whole new corporate language around “getting skin in the game “and was then told in no uncertain terms that I’d be lucky to be accepted in any other industry other than the one I’d left. I left that 3-hour session after ensuring I’d dropped one of my gold leaf ‘touch feel’ business cards into a bowl along with 14 others.
I then proceeded to get completely disoriented on leaving the event which meant I headed to the wrong car park. This added another 10 minutes to get to my car and included a detour up a dual carriageway. I walked the route head held high, with my gold dress fully illuminated by streetlights and by this time my shoes firmly in hand. The finale of the evening took place approximately 5 minutes into my hike when a police officer (in his police car) pulled over to enquire who I was and where I was heading – my response to this was to promptly and professionally hand over my business card, I then proceeded to deliver my well-crafted elevator speech. After which I burst into tears – all of which he gracefully received.
On my journey home, I reflected on the overall experience. I couldn’t help wonder what on earth happened that left me so disappointed. I felt challenged by the usual barrage of thoughts and questions – Who am I? What do I represent? What do I have without the backing of a huge corporate organisation? What can I offer that no one else has? Why would anyone choose me? What if I don’t fit? All valid feelings that could easily overwhelm and prevent me from moving forward.
So, what did I do?
I reminded myself that I needed to remain positive and optimistic about the future. I used a practiced coping strategy that “when things feel tough – you dig deeper”. It didn’t take long to realise that I would need to learn a different type of currency to gain entry in this new world, so I set about learning. I continued to strive for the next opportunity, I continued to push boundaries, I viewed situations from a different vantage point and offered other perspectives.
All of which have allowed me to enjoy 4 years of managing a successful business, working in a variety of different industries across the UK, Europe and the US, Russia and Singapore. And to top it all this year has concluded by winning the 2016 UK Corporate Excellence Award for Best Management Consultancy – Boutique.
I continue to demonstrate this restless pursuit to make an impact and to add value.
This is my identity, my DNA, it’s what makes me authentic, keeps me real and gives me purpose.
Who am I? I’m Wendyanne and very proud to be, me!