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Workstyle Stories 014 - 'Leanne'

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Welcome to Workstyle Stories because life changes and every life is different. This week, we're talking about fulfilment at work, how to get there, and having a portfolio career and all that that entails. And I'm joined by the wonderful Leanne, welcome to Workstyle Stories. For our generous, burgeoning audience, would you mind just telling us who you are, where you come from and what you do? Sure, yes, I'm Leanne Dowsett-Smith and I'm a multi-disciplined graphic designer. I live here in East Grinstead, West Sussex with my other half, Andy, my daughter, Amelie, who is nearly four, and George, who's now nine months old. Amazing, quite a set-up! A multi-disciplinary graphic designer - so just tell me, what does that mean? Well, it's almost a bit of a jack of all trades. So I can turn my hand to digital design, coding, web design, and then print as well. And also motion graphics, so quite a variety of things. And social media - so I dip my toes into quite a few things. Brilliant, that sounds great. So have you always been able to dip your toe into all of those different things? How did you come to be that or have you always done that in the design world? I think most of it happened organically. I've been one of those people that's very lucky to know what they want to do from quite early on. And then as I went through my career, I've been so lucky where I've worked and I picked up a lot of skills along the way. I just absorbed a lot. Someone once called me a sponge. I feel like we've probably all been called a sponge at some stage - particularly in our childhood. I know that my daughter gets called a sponge on a regular basis. But in terms of the work you've done then, you've been a designer for a long time. Yeah Let's talk about that in the traditional work context. So how did you find that? Did you find it was okay? Was there anything particularly difficult about doing what you do in a traditional work setup? Well, first of all, as I said, I've been very lucky where I've worked and I've worked with some brilliant people. But it is a male-dominant industry. So that was always quite tricky. So, you know, things like opportunities passing by, and also the sort of roles you get can be quite specific. I always felt a little bit restricted. So I used to sort of find ways to weave in these extra skill sets. Even so, I'd do that but I still didn't feel fulfilled enough. I wasn't really fulfilling all the skill sets I wanted to. It made me feel a bit empty sometimes. Sorry to hear that. So there's lots of different aspects of what you just talked about that we could talk about, but let's talk about that feeling of fulfilment and how you get there. So what have you done differently or over time to change that feeling? Or was there anything that happened whereby you just thought: "you know what, I'm gonna change the way I do this, the way I do what I do to make myself more fulfilled, happier or better?" Well, everything came to a head when I fell pregnant. I unfortunately suffered birth trauma, and subsequently, PTSD. It was completely unexpected and quite sad. I really lost myself. I had to rebuild everything again, from the ground up. There was a complete character change on my part, personality wise as well. And my focus completely shifted. But I did end up throwing myself back into work four full days a week, into a new job. Which now looking back, it was bit of a form of escapism. Interesting. Yeah, I was getting on fine, but the reality was that other people were having really quality time with my daughter. And I hadn't really had that quality time with her myself. So I was increasingly getting quite miserable at work. I'm really sorry to hear that. Yeah, it was hard, it was very hard. Thank you for talking to us about it. Yeah, sure. It's quite a difficult thing to talk about, I think people often avoid these things. But it was a defining moment, it actually was a positive in the end because I was able to ask for reduced days, which happened. But it was very clear from the get-go that it was not going to have any longevity. So, it then changed again when I fell pregnant with my second. OK, so what happened then? So it was at that point that I thought I need to take control of my life. I need to take control of my career and make a bit of a brave leap, and have my baby but also have my own company. And be the present mum that I wanted to be, and also have some time to heal, because I really haven't healed myself from the experience. So that's what happened. I mean, that's incredibly brave in the face of what you've been through to take what is quite a brave leap at that point. To start up on your own. You must have felt very strongly about the potential upside to have taken on that risk I suppose - at that time as well. I think it's always inspiring to hear about when people make big decisions like that, overcoming big fears, and sometimes it's in the most adverse of circumstances. That you're able to have the courage in your own convictions to do something like that. And so it's good to hear you talk about your experience as a catalyst for positive change in that way. So how does that feel now then? Amelie is nearly four, yes? And George is nine months so you've been doing it for a little while. So how's it going? And what's your workstyle like now? Well, it's brilliant actually. It means I can utilise all of my skills in terms of a portfolio career. I can really dive into a variety of things now. And I'm working on quite a few projects now. I work in the evenings, most evenings, 7 until 11. You know, I just feel like I've got more control of my life now. And I'm happier, I'm so much happier. And my relationship with my daughter is fantastic, as it is with George. And it's just so good. Then in terms of Hoxby, somebody introduced me to Hoxby, and it was a community that I really felt like I belonged in and I felt accepted. Yeah, so... Sorry, go on. Sorry. No, that's alright! I've also got time now on the side of this to help other women in the same position as me. So I'm going through the NHS to be an Expert by Experience to help other mothers. And then the other thing I'm doing is I'm setting up some Q&A workshops for start-up businesses as well. So there's a lot going on for me now. And I feel like I'm discovering more skills as well on top of the ones I already had. I think that's amazing. And it sounds like what you're doing, being able to unlock all of the multi-disciplinarian nature of your design work, all aspects of your capability, but also you as a person and your experiences, and turning those to your work as well. What you're doing for the NHS, that's absolutely brilliant, and something that Workstyle can enable and a portfolio career can enable as well in terms of achieving a greater sense of fulfilment. Doing things with purpose and applying more of your whole self to your work. I think that's inspirational stuff, Leanne, thank you very much for sharing your story. I'm sure there's a lot of people who would be able to relate to that. I feel like I could talk to you for ages, but we must wrap up because we are out of time, I'm afraid. We've been Workstyle Stories. Thank you. You are quite welcome. Thank you, Leanne. We'll see you next time. Bye for now.

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Duration: 9 minutes and 53 seconds
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Language: English
License: Dotsub - Standard License
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Posted by: _kim_nguyen on Nov 22, 2020

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