I bet those words have sat on your mind all too often. You may have even caught them bouncing out of your mouth in the form of advice.
A couple of weeks ago, I put an idea out there inviting businesswomen to share their stories with me. I’m especially interested in women working in non-traditional roles running their own business but of course, this series is for anyone who can relate to its themes.
The response has been phenomenal and I’ve struggled to keep up with all of the emails. My first post, Loneliness and businesswomen, sparked quite the conversation telling me I’ve hit a real nerve here.
One of the first responses that bounced into my inbox was from Fiona Bateman, Director at Dolman Bateman. Fiona was one of, if not the first, female forensic accountants and boasts a string of credentials. A Fellow Chartered Accountant, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), a Financial Planner, a Business Valuation Specialist, a tax agent… spanning 58 years so far, it’s safe to say Fiona has had her fair share of ups and downs over the years.
And there I sat, mulling over her answers to my questions and out of everything, one sentence hit me like no other. A sentence that stopped my eyes dead in their tracks and hit a sore point because it’s something I’ve concluded in a space of 6 years (I know, it’s such a paltry number compared to Fiona’s experience) working in the Communications/PR/Marketing space.
Fiona’s story is a tale that forces you to take a step back and realise the power of commitment. At 17, she went to uni and was forced to deal with feeling dumped by her family who chose to move to the country.
“I did a lot of crying at that time. With no money and no family, I had to study part-time and support myself…” says Fiona.
Fiona met the love of her life at 15 and by 20, was married with her first child on the way at 24 as she continued completing her final exams. While her son was destined to arrive 6 weeks early, Fiona juggled her pregnancy with both study and work. She was even forced to leave her son at the hospital on exam day.
“I felt guilty about leaving him… I failed the last semester and in those days, there was no option to re-sit exams so I had to complete the whole final semester again.”
It turns out the university made headlines with its decision to open up a day care centre for Fiona and one other mother.
Fast-forward 9 years (she had a few breaks from studying) and there she was, graduating with a major alongside just 5 other women out of 200 students.
After graduating, Fiona spent 4 years at home taking care of her son but she was itching to get back to work for her “own self.” Initially, she found herself working 20 hours per week and at the time, Fiona had no idea her boss would eventually ask her to become his business partner.
“I made my job what I wanted it to be and didn’t look to someone else to give me the job I thought I might want because no one else knew what that could be,” says Fiona.
So, in just one word, how would Fiona describe her journey that spans almost six decades?
“Wonderful! I just love what I do… it hasn’t been an easy road but it has certainly been an enjoyable trip… I always knew I had to be better at what I did than the men because 40 years ago, it was a boys’ club.”
And what’s Fiona’s message to other ambitious women out there?
“Work hard because you do need to prove you know your stuff. Don’t think you’re going to be an expert until you are. Education, qualifications and experience are what it’s all about. Get as much of each as you can – each are equally important.”
What I find truly inspiring about Fiona’s story is how she’s had her fair share of setbacks but has just picked herself up and continued. She may not have achieved things easily or quickly, but she’s done everything she ever set out to.
As a member of Gen Y, I can happily admit that sometimes, I expect things to happen overnight. I know I’m guilty of being incredibly impatient – women like Fiona remind me that there’s a lot of hard work ahead of what I consider real success.
Over to you: feel free to share your own setbacks and thoughts.