In aid of International Women’s Day 2019, we sat down with NCG’s first Chief Operating Officer, Karen Heaney, to get her thoughts on what the day means to her and the valuable lessons she has learned throughout her career.
Why is International Women’s Day Important to you?
I think it’s great to have a day of reflection where we can all appreciate how far we have come in terms of equality in the workplace and to champion those pioneers who made it possible – from the suffrage movement through to recent examples of trailblazing women.
It is so important to celebrate strong, positive females as role models for young women looking to develop as professionals and as people. “If she can do it then so can I” can be such a powerful motivation.
Who and what has inspired you as a professional?
To be honest, you normally expect to hear about those successful public figures but for me it was a leader early in my career who challenged me, helped me push for more and showed me how to be fearless.
My experiences with her encouraged me to make some career-defining decisions that have shaped my professional life. Above all, she taught me that it is acceptable to challenge. Challenge people’s ideas, challenge boundaries and challenge myself to go beyond where I thought I could be. To this day I think of her advice, “Think about what is going to happen if you don’t, but what could happen if you do”.
What pieces of advice would you give to your younger self?
The absolute worst thing you can do is to not have an opinion. If you truly believe in something then let it be known, it’s so much better to express your opinion than to feel like you can’t.
Be uncomfortable. It is good to be stretched and feel like you are out of your comfort zone. Do things outside of your remit if you know you can add value.
Grab opportunities and learn to realise what an opportunity looks like. It may appear small or out of the ordinary at first but taking opportunities can often have amazing outcomes.
Above all else, know your value and believe in yourself. I think women are their own worst critics and we give ourselves reasons not to do something. It’s all about confidence and self-belief. Take that leap of faith.
What motivates you to achieve more?
I’m a perfectionist who always thinks that we can improve the way we do things. Put simply, to have fun, work hard, play hard and enjoy everything we do with passion.