“How do you do it, Sherry? How do you keep going? How do you not get knocked down?”
Believe me, I’ve had more than my fair share of knockbacks and knockdowns (literally).
If you look at my career history, you might be wondering how an ambitious career girl who loved her law firm job in the City as Global Head of IT Customer Service ended up working with ambitious women who want to confidently balance work and life.
You’ve probably read stories before “I was successful, highly paid, regular promotions yet deep down I knew there was something missing“.
That’s not my story
That’s not the story I’m going to tell. For me, that would be a lie. I didn’t know that there was something missing.
I loved my work; I loved the people I worked with; I loved the glamour and sophistication of working in the City; I loved that I regularly commuted to and from Chicago; I loved that I kept getting promoted even when I was on maternity leave; I loved that I had successfully applied for flexible working and worked from home two days a week. And after two severe bouts of postnatal depression, I loved feeling ‘normal’ again.
The bubble burst
Then the bubble burst. On a bright sunny afternoon on 4 February 2009, I was called into a meeting with the Practice Director and the Head of HR. My office was next to HR. I’d seen a stream of people walk past my office. The day before (3 February), my firm had announced that they would be making 150 redundancies. By 9pm GMT (3pm Chicago time) four from IT had gone, including a very good friend.
12.40pm – 4 February – the London IT Manager – he’d taken over the role from me. Gone. Cut. Kicked out. Logically, I told myself, if I haven’t been called into the Room of Doom by 4pm, I’m safe. For now. Oh, the irony. The next day I was going to be leading a roundtable at a conference on “Motivation and Retention of IT Staff”.
3.46pm. The phone rings. The Practice Director. “Could you join us for a meeting, Sherry“. My heart sank. I knew straight away.
At first, I was angry. Really angry. I didn’t even want to stay in the same room. But then I started to realise … this could be an amazing opportunity. I knew that no matter how many times life knocked me down, my inner strength and resilience will always get me back up.
I knew that because I’d done it before.
Inner strength and resilience
On a bright sunny day in June 1994, I nearly killed myself on the race track. A touch of wheels on a slight uphill, and BANG. I was on the ground. Out for the count. Blood dripping from a huge wound on my head. I came to as I was being lifted into the ambulance and my first thought “Is my bike ok?” It was a new Italian frame with a flash paint job and I didn’t want it to be damaged.
Fortunately the bike was OK but I wasn’t. A&E x-rayed me for suspected fractures of the skull, jaw, hips and pelvis. Remarkably nothing was broken. But my face was badly swollen and bruised. Even the nurses were shocked to see the state of me. If you know anybody who’s suffered a head injury, you know it can take months to recover. But I did eventually. A few months later, I was back out on the same race circuit.
I knew I would recover
I knew I would recover because a few years earlier, I was involved in a nasty road traffic accident. I was on the back of my boyfriend’s scooter and a car pulled out of a driveway on a country lane without looking. My leg was crushed. Compound fracture of the tibia and fibula. The deepest cut on my leg was three inches wide and an inch deep – severing the muscle and the nerves. I was in plaster up to my hip for five months and on crutches for six.
I recovered. And a few months later I was back on the scooter – for a few years, I still got spooked when cars pulled up to the junction too fast but it didn’t stop me getting my own motorbike licence a few years later. (I also married the boyfriend).
Huge reserves of resilience
I have huge reserves of resilience and inner strength. I wasn’t going to let a redundancy get me down. I wanted to start my own business but at the time I didn’t have the confidence to ‘go for it’.
I stayed strong, worked my network, and soon I was invited to set up the UK offices of an outsourcing company. Three years later (in 2012), I finally had the courage and confidence to set up my own coaching business.
At first I specialised in business services managers in law firms (after all, that’s my background). However today I mostly work with ambitious women (or their employers) who want to confidently balance work and life. Typically they are at a crossroads. Maybe they want to go back to work after a career break (‘work’ being career or business) or they are in transition; they want to change career, change jobs, avoid burnout or maybe just need some help developing smart ways to cope with overwhelm.
So that’s how a career girl from the City ended up working with women who want to feel powerful; who want that feeling of confidence; who want to balance life and work.