We chat with Vicki Wentworth, Chief Customer Officer at Wesleyan Assurance. She talks about all things career, children and resilience-from 10 years in the military to being a female role model in the Financial Services industry.
Can you tell us a bit about you and your career?
I started in the military and had a great first career spanning 10 years and encompassing 5 operational tours in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Northern Ireland and Afghanistan. I left the military after squadron command in 2005 and joined financial services where I have worked ever since.
My day starts at 6 am with the family at home, I do the nursery drop off and catch the train at 8 am. I work on the train doing emails and reading and I am in the office just before 9 am. I am then mostly in back to back meetings all day, including over lunch, to allow me to leave the office at 5 pm to pick up my little boy from nursery. I spend 6-7 pm with him before putting him to bed. If I need to, I will work again in the evening after dinner.
What made you choose this career/industry?
It chose me. I was lucky enough to be headhunted into Aviva from the Army.
How did you get to where you are now and did you face any challenges along the way? With a lot of very hard graft! The main challenge was the difference in terminology between industries and the regulated environment that surrounds FS.
If any, can you tell us more about how you overcame those setbacks?
Resilience, hard work, sheer grit. All learnt in the Army I expect but, success rarely comes purely with luck in my experience. My parents used to say ‘the more you put in, the more you get out’.
What is an important initiative that you feel passionate about in your role?
People. Your people are everything. It is your people who deliver for you as a leader and you are only ever as good as your teams.
What do you think gave you the drive and determination to succeed?
I am a motivated person and have high energy levels but the Army definitely honed those skills further and trained me to keep calm under pressure and to problem solve with great effect.
What’s great about being a female in your role?
The industry does not have many female role models so it is important to remember that people look up to you and the impact you have (or the shadow you cast) should not be underestimated or forgotten.
What is your biggest achievement in life?
Having my son.
What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt along the way?
No one has all the answers. Your superiors are probably cuffing it, just like you do sometimes!
Have you ever felt that your gender has brought unnecessary challenges to your career? Yes. Without a doubt but in industry more than the military.
Outside your work, what are your favourite hobbies and pastimes?
I ride horses, I like keeping fit, skiing and holidays in the sun.
Do you have a mantra you live your life by?
I work to live, not the other way round and of all the things you can be in the world, be nice to people and treat them with respect - no matter who they are or what they do.
What three tips would you give to young females starting their careers?
You will never have all the answers so learning to live with ambiguity is important; don’t give too much of yourself to work, it is never repaid and you need somewhere to recharge; be passionate and love what you do and the people you spend time with otherwise change what you do - and quickly!
What is the best bit of advice that you have ever been given?
Take roles that you think will be hard and will be outside your comfort zone because you will learn more and be a better and more rounded employee and leader as a result.
What are your key motivators?
Raising the bar, getting things done, motivating and inspiring people.
What advice do you have for women aiming for leadership positions?
Be yourself, you don’t need to be hard or pushy to be a leader. You need to be authentic, fair and consistent.
What’s one key leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?
Being a leader is not about being popular. It’s about doing the right thing by the business and your people.
What would you say to your 16-year-old self?
Be kinder to yourself, don’t be such a harsh critic of your results, and don’t give so much of yourself in the name of proving you can do it and are worth it - you’re going to do alright!