The Journey From Corporate Lawyer To Charity Founder
I started life as a corporate lawyer but quickly realised it wasn’t the profession for me – not enough human interaction, so after a couple of years teaching English in Japan I returned to the City and joined a recruitment company – 100% human interaction! 12 years later I had a place on the Board, but by then was bored with my life and decided the best way to shake it up was to leave the thing that was my greatest security; my job. I had no idea what was next and for a while, I floated – could I be a yoga teacher, set up my own staffing consultancy, work for a charity? None of them felt quite right. At the same time, an acquaintance was diagnosed with cancer. I made the bizarre offer to write letters to cheer him up during his treatment. I don’t know what possessed me; I was no writer. But I discovered I loved the letter writing, in fact, I loved it so much I embarked on a creative writing MA and set up the charity, From Me to You, encouraging other people to write letters to friends, family and strangers suffering from cancer; keeping them connected at a time they can feel most disconnected. Running the charity is now a full-time project and I love it.
The only constant in my role is that I am always out of my comfort zone; both exhausting and exhilarating. At From Me to You we run workshops, speak at events, and administer the distribution of over 400 letters a month to cancer patients in hospitals across the UK as well as fundraising, running our social media platforms, and handling PR. Three years ago I had none of these skills, and I’m not sure I do now, but I enjoy the learning.
I am very passionate about our Donate A Letter initiative as it grew organically through people attending workshops and wanting to write letters but not knowing anyone with cancer. I read every letter sent, and the kindness of people giving their time to write a letter to someone they’ll never meet nor even receive a reply from is overwhelming. The scheme has a dual role – helps tackle the isolation of those going through cancer receiving the letter, but also allowing the writer to feel they’re doing something good for someone else, which ultimately makes us feel better about ourselves.
Drive and Determination
I think a certain amount of determination is in-built. The rest you have to work on, but not to the detriment of your mental and physical health – sometimes doing a ‘good enough’ job is good enough. Early in my career, a fear of failure was my driver but more recently, by accepting failure happens and that it’s actually OK to fail, I think any recent success has come from being more daring and less afraid to fail.
‘I think any recent success has come from being more daring and less afraid to fail.’
Since I left the security of a City career I’ve felt nervous about every decision, but I’ve discovered that if it’s meant to be then it works out. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to work hard, but daring to be bold always leads to good things. But with all that said, the biggest achievement of my life is the relationships I have with friends and family, especially my niece and nephew. They delight and surprise in equal measure, and there’s nothing better when it’s me they come to share a secret!
If I have learnt anything, it's to say yes to every opportunity (handed down to me from my godmother). However, it can get you into trouble! It’s OK to fail and it’s the best way to learn (difficult to believe when you’ve just had a fail, but helpful when the time comes to pick yourself up and start again).
Tips For Young Females Starting Their Careers
- Don’t think about the differences between the men and women you’re working with – think of them all as individual people.
- Be bold and daring.
- Know that you’re as good as anyone else.
There’s a lot of talk of businesses addressing gender imbalance, but I still hear stories of clumsy and unhelpful things being done and said which lets me know there’s some way to go. The more confident women become, the more equal the scales will balance. It takes years to change cultures and only happens when leaders show the way – any chinks at the top and the change will be slow coming.
‘I think that the more confident women become, the more equal the scales will balance.’
Be vocal but choose your battles wisely, hold everyone accountable for their actions and support fellow colleagues, regardless of gender. Be bold, be daring but above all be kind.