Just over 19 years ago, I was a woman on the edge.
Today I am a successful career and confidence coach, finalist in the Life Coach of the Year Awards 2017, and frequently invited to comment on Sky and BBC. I work with ambitious women who are feeling stuck in their career or after a career break, inspiring them to confidence, action and clear thinking. But it’s taken a lot to get here.
Back in 1998, I was hardworking and ambitious at one of the UK’s top professional services firms … but on the edge of burnout, working long hours and not taking proper care of myself. Even when I nearly killed myself on the race track at Eastway.
On the outside, I was extremely successful – promoted rapidly, well respected, a reputation for getting the job done. Inside I was struggling: constantly overwhelmed, stressed and suffering with IBS. I wanted to be successful. To be successful, I thought I needed to work hard.
Intellectually I knew that I couldn’t continue the way I was. If I didn’t take action, something major was going to happen. When I wanted to self-harm, that’s when I realised I had to stop.
I quit my job. I realised enough’s enough. I cried when I handed in my notice because I loved my job. But I knew I needed to take radical action. I knew I wanted more from life.
That was the start of the rest of my story …
After quitting Arthur Andersen to avoid complete burnout, I job hunted like crazy, ignored my intuition and joined an investment bank as project manager. I hated the job. After a year, I moved to international law firm McDermott Will & Emery as Head of IT where I stayed for 10 years until redundancy in 2009.
When I was promoted (twice) while on maternity leave, I used to think that it was just being ‘in the right place at the right time‘. Until somebody tried to ‘steal’ one of my promotions. What a cheek! No way I was going to let that happen. My sense of justice kicked in BIG time. Despite severe postnatal depression, I went back to work full-time after my children, and in my ‘spare’ time I trained as an NCT practitioner.
That was when our Head of HR started sending women to see me. “Talk to Sherry. She knows about being a working mum. She’ll help you out.” That’s how I discovered I had a talent for helping women to get clarity, build confidence, find their sense of identity and take action so that they get the success and promotions they deserved. I was doing pretty well in my own career too – from Head of IT London to Head of IT Europe to Global Head of IT Service (technically that last role was based in Chicago but that was too much for a daily commute).
I can’t tell you how angry I felt when I was redundant in 2009. Despair too! I was out of work for 8 months and as the main income earner in my family, it was a huge knock to my confidence and self-esteem. But the networking I had done throughout my career paid off when I was invited to open the European office for a specialist IT outsourcing company. After 3 years launching then growing the business, and with my daughters growing up fast, I realised that I wanted a different work-life balance.
When I took the plunge to start my own business in 2012, I wasn’t really sure at first what the business would be and who I would help. I’ve always had an inner strength and confidence. It helped me pick myself up after that near fatal head injury on the race track. It helped me when I was made redundant. It helped me to get started in my business.
Now I use that inner strength and confidence to help other ambitious women get the balance they want; take charge of their life and their career; to know what it is to feel powerful; so that they get the success they truly deserve. I absolutely love the work that I do: the life-changing transformations that I see in the women fills me with such joy.
When I first launched my business, I was mostly offering performance consultancy to law firms. Since 2014, I have focused exclusively on working with women who are either feeling fed up or stuck in their career or who are going back to work after a career break.
And it seems I have a talent for coaching women!
Since changing focus, I have been runner-up in the 2014 UK Expert Authority Challenge, nominated as Bromley Entrepreneurial Mum of the Year, regular appearances on Sky News, popular panellist for BBC Radio, quoted in national publications including The Mirror, The HR Director, The Evening Standard and City AM, published my first book, regular contributor to Birds on the Blog, four successful online conferences, two popular podcasts, nominated for NCT President in 2015, and in 2017 I was a Finalist in The Coaching Academy Life Coach of the Year Award (shortlisted in the Executive Coach Award too).
Like many ambitious women, I love my career and want to balance work and family life. The women I work with are smart, hard-working women who are action-takers. Just that they’re feeling stuck and not sure what to focus on first. It could be a lack of confidence or clarity is getting in the way. Or fear of failure is holding them back. Or they’re waiting for the perfect thing. They want that next career opportunity or promotion. But they don’t know how to make it happen. Maybe they feel like they’re going round in circles or wondering “Am I really good enough?” Or they realise that the career they are in is not the career they want. But they don’t know what else to do, and don’t want to waste the investment they’ve made.