OUR LEAN IN STORIES
We continue collect stories of our members who inspire us each and every day. It seems that there is no lean in challenge that is beyond us, with good support from all of us. If you’d like to share your lean in story with us, please get in touch.
We’ll post stories regularly – Inspire us, #BeSeenBeHeard, send us yours!
Please feel free to send us your stories to help inspire others!
Lean In Stories
Leaning In With The Women Of Belfast
Joining a thriving global movement.
By Louise Brogan
I first heard of Lean In last autumn/fall when a co-working space I was based in, were hosting a networking morning for the ladies of Lean In Belfast. I was pretty intrigued to find out a bit more, as I have always championed women in business, and having a ready made network to join sounded ideal.
I joined a local Facebook group, not really knowing much about Lean In except that it was started by the COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg. As with all of these things, it’s only when you actually read the book yourself, you can make your own mind up. As I had some free time while we were visiting my in-laws in Australia over Christmas, I downloaded the book onto my kindle and started to read. I couldn’t put it down! It is written in a way that makes it really easy to read — lots of great real-life stories about women stepping up.
Everything in the book resonated with me. From my first job in Software Engineering back in 2000 when a senior (male) member of staff told one of my colleagues they had employed more women this year ‘to make the place look pretty’ to the frustration I had felt in my Project Management role where I wasn’t able to progress my career because I had chosen to work part time around my family.
When I got back from my trip, I was fully ready to really Lean In!! Brilliant timing as the Lean In Belfast circle was launched in collaboration with AllStateNI last week. There were women there from all different jobs and businesses, stay at home mums and even some men :). Lean in Belfast describe
GAYLE ALEXANDER LEAN IN STORY...so far
I joined Lean In at the end of October on the recommendation of my outplacement mentor, Glenda Nelson (thank you).
At the start of 2016 I was about to return to work from my second maternity and had a few weeks prior to this, broken my foot. Needless to say returning to work on a new fewer hours contract in this predicament was difficult, not helped by a reduction in responsibility and numerous changes in working practices to get up to speed on. Shortly after, the company I worked for, announced major restructuring and I found myself redundant by the end of the summer. By this point I found myself experiencing major up and downs, devoid of any confidence or self-esteem and lost as to what to do next, when it was suggested I could contact Nuala.
After just my first couple of meetings with Glenda and talking with Nuala, I felt like I had gone through therapy, with a small glimmer of hope and a shard of confidence edging their way back in. I signed up to the hub and introduced myself and also, I meet with a few other members to volunteer and help with the running of the group and at the same time up-skill to gain experience in marketing, a long held desire of mine.
With some trepidation I met these ladies and from there, the feeling of hope blossomed even more inside me The genuine welcome, offers of support, willingness to help me on my change of career path, was a revelation to me and I can truthfully say, I felt on top of the world for the first time in quite some time.
I now find myself working part time on a voluntary basis with a start up company I was introduced to by Nuala, to gain marketing experience, studying MOOC online courses to supplement this, as well as working on the Lean In Belfast newsletters and new website.
I am now on a new path with more confidence and hope and it is exciting, so for this I would like to say thank you to Glenda Nelson, Natasha Walsh, Fiona Quigley, Lisa Strutt, Nuala Murphy and my husband for supporting this crazy journey. Bring on 2017 and let's see what we can achieve together.
......to be continued.
SINEAD AND HER MENTOR LEAN IN TOGETHER
I joined Lean In because it was recommended to me by my mentor.
I had reached a transition point in my career…I was on maternity after my second baby, and knew I was ready to make a change and wanted to start a business. I was thinking about focusing on coaching and developing women, and knew if I was going to take that step out of the corporate world I would need people around me, as I’m used to working with lots of people and go slightly crazy alone! Lean In has really helped with my confidence to take the plunge. Ironically, at my first meeting I delivered a session on confidence.
Why lean in Belfast is different.
It’s different to other ‘networks’, it’s hard to describe, but it feels more sincere. In other networking groups, the focus seems to be more on what you can get from it, this group feels like it’s about what you can give, and I think that’s what makes it so great. When everyone is so keen to give, it feels safe and easy to open up, and the support you get in return is unbelievable. I’ve not just felt able to make that step, but know that I can reach out and ask for help and it will be there. This is a fabulous group of women, and has cemented for me that a business helping women is the right thing to do…so now I’m doing it with my business partner Fiona. I never thought I could have gotten this much from the experience, but I’m so grateful that Anne suggested it.
Sinead is a Leadership Career coach and trainer. You can learn more about Sinead in our team bios.
I also have two children, 16 and 7, and like most working mums (and some dads!) spend most of the time walking the tightrope of balancing work and family life. I’m very fortunate now to work with great people who understand that challenge and have moved with the times to support and encourage a more flexible work environment, to include working from home. My clients expect me to be available outside of normal office hours, so this flexibility is massively important.
A couple of years ago I had gone through a difficult time in my professional career and my confidence had been significantly knocked. That’s what prompted me to read Lean In and one of the pieces that stuck with me and still does, is the concept of bringing your whole self to work. We don’t live in a vacuum and any employer who expects a member of staff, male or female, to simply leave that massive part of themselves at the door of the office potentially misses out on that person utilising valuable transferable skills that come from being a parent, such as compassion, patience, and sensitivity – all vital components in my job.
After reading the book (and making my husband read it too!) I was intrigued by the concept of the Lean In circles and have been a member from the early days. Nuala was doing a terrific job of managing everything on her own, but after a while, I suggested that a leadership team might be able to provide assistance and support in key areas, and offered my help on the legal and governance side. Nuala was able to put a super team of volunteers together to assist with marketing, PR, social media, event management etc, which is a great example of what Lean In is all about – supporting each other to make our lives easier and more productive.
From a less altruistic standpoint, Lean In for me is also about the networking opportunities it provides and the contacts I can make with entrepreneurs and decision makers. In my profession, networking is still largely based around male dominated sporting events so our Lean In events are a refreshing change!
My name is Clare Templeton and I am a lawyer, specialising in Commercial Dispute Resolution. My workload is varied – no two days are the same – and involves dealing with contractual disputes, landlord and tenant issues, insolvency matters and shareholder disputes, to name but a few. I do love my job, I pride myself on the level of service I give my clients, and very little beats the high of a good win!
When I graduated I felt like I was on top of the world. I had given myself the best the start in life with my career; at university I had thrown myself into clubs and societies, joining every committee. I even successfully ran my own election campaign to become a full time sabbatical officer for our student’s union. I truly felt the world was my oyster. What I didn’t account for was that my graduating year was heading into the job market during the worst global recession since the Second World War.
My now husband and I moved to London. Him, to complete a master’s degree and I, to give myself the best chance of gainful employment in an area of interest. I learnt quickly that I was a small fish in a big pond, and jobs were not only scarce but hard to land. My time there wasn’t entirely wasted; temping agencies provided me with some amazing experiences. But application after application and knock back after knock back made me feel thoroughly rejected. My morale was at an all-time low and any confidence I once had completely diminished. No matter how many friends and family tried to drill into me that it was the job market, I couldn’t help but take it personally. When we moved to Belfast a year later I landed my job immediately and started to build my career but my confidence never fully regained.
My manager introduced me to the Sheryl Sandberg book, Lean In, but I didn’t learn about the circles until much later. When I did, I wondered if it was for me, whether I could I fit it into a group of self-assured and successful women. I’m so glad that both my partner and manager encouraged me to go along and see what it was all about. My first meet-up was actually the first of year and the group of 30 or so women explained why they were there, we discussed what we wanted to get out of the group. As we went around the table I soon realised that I wasn’t along in my fears, that we were all looking to build confidence and to meet people. This is a group of like-minded people who want to build their network, learn their potential, gain confidence, and help others along the way. Afterwards I was approached by one of the members who discussed mentoring with me and I’m pleased to say we’ve kept in close contact and she has helped to guide me and support me ever since. I came away from there feeling excited and inspired but also proud of myself for putting myself out there and trying to get out of my rut.
Since then, I got involved! I joined the committee as social events organiser and attended a number workshops, talks, and meet ups. I’ve met some amazing people and some people who are just like me. This group of people have given me my confidence back, I’m re-energised and ready to take on the world again. I would like to think I’ve paid it forward, but I will certainly continue to do so where I can. The ethos behind Lean In is supporting one another to achieve their dreams and I this is something I’m massively on board with. I hope I can give back as much as I’ve received.