I was a Grammar school product. It was a girls only school, where it seemed that the sole objective was to get top A level grades and get into a good university studying a clear mainstream specialism. They didn't cater particularly well for all-rounders like me. Yet with my mix of French, Maths and Economics A levels I found a course that suited me, where I studied for a mixed honours course in Maths, French and Education. All of these have stood me in good stead in my career.
I topped this with a PGCE teaching certificate in French and PE but went on to find a job in a super TEFL school in Oxford after completing the then famous ‘IH’ course (4 weeks), as it was then known. That was the place to do it. Nowadays it is the CELTA.
The Eckersley School of English, founded and run by John and Angela Eckersley, was a comfortable place to work and although it was probably pipped at the post by the Swan School (owned and run by H A Swan) in term of cutting edge TEFL, we weren’t far behind and considered ourselves to be far better than any other school – especially the ‘chains’ as when the Regent and OISE started expanding in the city.
So I developed as a teacher and much enjoyed it. I took the DELTA (it wasn’t called that then) with colleagues from the Eckersley and the Swan, tutored by Pam Murphy (wife of the very successful Ray Murphy, Swan School).
Time off having three children and living overseas in France mainly, meant a break. When I came back, the Eckersley needed a marketing ‘boost’ and that was when I stepped into that role (as well as remaining a teacher). I learned marketing on the job. I do recall going on a course in London run by Alison McGowan (how to write a marketing plan), then an agent in S America and now of Hidden Pousadas fame. I also went on a course run by Jan Capper (designing brochures).
That particular role helped me because I got to know the markets and the main agents, honing my agent workshop skills in Brighton and Berlin. Then the big break came when Quality English was founded in early 2003, our school joined, and then later in the year I took on the role of Chief Executive and began building the new brand through the schools that we chose and the agents who worked with those schools. It was this opportunity that meant I was able to reach a level, in a professional sense, way beyond anything I had ever imagined.
I think I would say that everything you learn will almost certainly be useful at some point in the future. No new piece of knowledge or experience or contact, is ever wasted. So get out there and follow your instincts, and to an extent, your dreams.
I don’t really remember any low point in particular. However the very nature of starting something new as well as working on your own to build a business does inevitably mean that a lot of the time you are, in a sense, struggling; struggling to fit everything in and to achieve the immediate goals you have set yourself.
You mustn’t be put off by setbacks. Pick yourself up and carry on. That’s what I did. Good time management is vital as well as accepting the ‘good enough’ principle or there’d be burn-out. Does the decision meet all the criteria you have set? Have you spent more than enough time on it? Then go for it, send it, do it, sign it. That was my safety valve.
Apart from a Saturday job tidying shelves in the local library, I worked in a paint factory in the university holidays (paint for schools). I was either operating a very dangerous machine filling tubs for hours on end, or, rather better, working in the dispatch department. That meant going round the warehouse collecting items (paint, brushes) and packaging up. I was a life-long excellent packer-up of brochures and publicity materials after that. We were paid less than the men.
I have always been a very active person and during the time I ran Quality English with all that travelling and long hours, I made a point of making time for sport. Tennis and long-distance walking are my main sports and I am very active in both. I also enjoy sailing, running, cycling and skiing. It seemed to me that unless I was on top form I would be under-performing at work. Sport is a great motivator too.
I also have a fantastic family and spending time with them is just the best way to keep grounded.
I’ve got a great ambition to die of exhaustion rather than boredom – Thomas Carlyle
Overnight I’d like to become a brilliant mathematician and so have mental arithmetic super powers.