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Workstyle Stories 012 - 'Fiona'

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Welcome to Workstyle Stories because life changes and every life is different. And work just needs to respect that. This week, we're going to be talking about all things retaliation against the system, about self-awareness and about being an awesome parent. And who better to talk about that than the wonderful Fiona? Fiona, welcome to Workstyle Stories. Hello, thanks for having me. Thank you for coming on. So Fiona, before we get into all that, can you tell us just a little bit about where you are in the world and what you do? Yeah, currently sat in my kitchen in a pretty gloomy Manchester the day before we go into our second national lockdown. I am a freelance communications consultant and I've been doing that for the last six years since my son was born. Amazing. So was your son being born the catalyst for going freelance? How did that come about? Yeah, unintentionally. I was actually made redundant for my very high-flying job with a big multinational company while I was on maternity leave. Is that allowed? That doesn't sound like it should be allowed. Well, that's a whole other Workstyle Story that's probably going to be about three hours long so we'll just focus on the kind of aftermath. So I returned to the workplace freelancing part-time for the PR wing of an ad agency, which is, you know, a good, sort of, first step back into the working world. But I very quickly realised that the agency world is fantastic when you're in your early 20s and you're propping up the bars in Soho until the early hours. But when you're ready to get the six o'clock train back home to meet nursery, it's not really as compatible with the kind of work-life balance or blend that I was trying to achieve. So life changes, your priorities change, and you want to do things differently, so you change the way you work in order to meet those shifting priorities? And so was that then the decision, was that a conscious decision then to go self-employed or? No, again, I was freelancing while I was looking for this unicorn of a perfect permanent role. But I really struggled to find either something that was suitably senior at the level I was before, which would have involved a pretty huge workload, probably a lot of international travel, which is slightly incompatible with having a small baby that was still being fed by me. Or to go for something that was more flexible, potentially more junior and not being able to utilise all the skills that I'd spent a good 15 years building up. And in terms of shifting priorities, I don't think it's so much shifting - it's a new priority. It was my first time as a Mum, and it was then bringing that into the mix of what was already a fairly cemented character and identity. So while I was freelancing, at the same time, I had loads of old friends, old colleagues, old clients coming to me and saying, I heard you might be looking for something, could you help with this project or this project? And so the sensible thing, the practical thing was to umbrella all of that under a limited company for the time being while I searched for this unicorn of a job. And six years on, I still run that company, I still work with old clients and colleagues. And I'm still shifting all these projects under that one banner. Can I just go back to you being made redundant while on mat leave? That doesn't sound right. Can you just tell me a little bit more about what happened? No, it's a horrible time and unfortunately, something that's not uncommon amongst many women, as I've discovered. And I think going through that process until you've been through it, it's such a kind of wild territory. You're up against this huge company, and you're dealing with all these plates you're spinning, probably for the first time ever. And I think I look back now at some of the decisions I made, especially around settling, rather than going for a tribunal, I don't really recognise those as decisions that I would make. You know me. I'm a kind of battle-axe. I go slugging for my clients and my friends and my family. And I look back and I'm like, I sometimes kick myself that I didn't take the process the whole way. But less than 1% of women do take it to tribunal so the statistic in itself is not unusual. But I don't really like to look back unless there is something useful from that. So I took that as the kind of impetus to try and help other women that were in the same situation. So getting involved with for example, Pregnant Then Screwed, but then also looking at it as a kind of jumping-off point for my business. So year one, I made pretty much what I did as an employee. I doubled the turnover in the second year and doubled it again in the third. And I've kept - from my time at that unnamed corporation - one of the pens ready for when I eventually sell my business for an obscene amount of money, and I will use that pen to sign the contract paperwork. And that will be the closing of that chapter. Brilliant. Your own retaliation, Fiona. That sounds like a great way to channel your energies in light of what sounds like a really difficult situation and something that you've really opened my eyes to with this conversation, so thank you for that. And in terms of the value you add, as a freelancer, how do you feel you've evolved over six years of doing it? And do you feel like you could ever imagine yourself being a traditional employee again? I think it would have to be a very particular company for me to go and be an employee again. And that's not to say that I don't work with great companies. But I think the beauty for me of being a consultant versus an employee is the kind of freedom to be myself. And for those bits of myself, which might be quite annoying as an employee, to be the very thing that they're paying me for as a consultant. So all through my life, as a junior PR I was told you can't tell the client everything that you're thinking, gotta hold some stuff back, pipe down. Whereas now, in my 40s, I am constantly telling clients what to do, or telling them off. And that is what they respect me for and they want, that's what they're paying for. That's amazing. So actually, you have a self-awareness of what were perhaps some shortcomings or development areas as an employee, but that are now strengths for you in what you do as a consultant and working for yourself. There's room for annoying ticks. So as I said, I'm probably the most annoying person to sit next to in an office because I can't sit still. I'm quite shouty when I get passionate. I pace a lot. I swear like a paratrooper, I've got a real potty mouth. So to sit next to that nine to five, five days a week, is probably quite wearing. It's quite wearing sitting there listening to myself so I can't imagine what my poor colleagues thought. Presumably your workstyle now then, having such an acute self-awareness and having done it for such a while, talk to me about your workstyle. How do you like to work? And how do you make work integrate into life? Yeah, I think my comfort zone is really just on the edge of panic, in a good way. I'm happiest when I'm busy. I'm happiest when I've got lots of things to do. Prior to lockdown, I was traveling a lot for clients and doing investment roadshows in Southeast Asia that would take me away for three weeks at a time. But always, I wouldn't say a work-life balance but blended with the home life. So I think it's really important as an example to set to my son, for him to see his mother working and thriving and operating in quite male-dominated environments as well. And being able to do that and also be fully present, committed at home as well, which isn't always the easiest balance, but it's the Zen that we're all striving for. Yeah, absolutely. And I think for any of us who are working in this atypical way, I think we're always very aware of the example we're setting to the next generation and hoping that actually, we can change attitudes within our lifetime as a result. So I definitely feel that and share that belief with you, Fiona. We've actually run out of time for our conversation for today. I feel like I could have asked you loads more questions about how it's all going. But I really appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us. It's one that I know a lot of people will be able to resonate with. So thank you very much. Thank you. And we've been Workstyle Stories. We'll see you next time. Bye for now.

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Duration: 9 minutes and 16 seconds
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Language: English
License: Dotsub - Standard License
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Views: 2
Posted by: _kim_nguyen on Nov 7, 2020

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