#First50

#First50 is a group of inspirational women who have had a real impact on their organisations and the industry as a whole.
Chosen because they’ve inspired us personally or they were suggested by colleagues and peers because of their positive impact on them personally or professionally.

Cristina Figueiro - ExchangeMate USA

I’m originally from Brazil and I was an exchange student in the USA during my senior year of High School. I had one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I loved every minute of my exchange program. As I was on my last year of High School I was in the process of deciding what career I wanted to pursue as I was going to start college when I returned to Brazil. That’s when I decided that I wanted to work with international students and help other kids have the opportunity to experience life abroad. I can definitely say that my career in the International Education Industry started during my High School program in the USA.

Reading time: 12 mins

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Joelle Coade - Active Centre of English Training (ACET)

Being in a family run business, I have been in ACET all my life! I started working full-time after graduating in Marketing. I now supervise the overall management at ACET and have two main priorities; exceeding clients' expectations and keeping up the friendly family atmosphere that characterises our school and team. I have worked at increasing the profile and market base for ACET. The market has changed in many ways and it has been important to move with the times, to be open to new ideas, to embrace the challenges and keep the business running throughout both hard and good times. Outside work, I have two young sons and I enjoy travelling, swimming, reading and keeping fit.

Reading time: mins

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Lesinda du Toit - IELS Malta

Growing up in a small town in South Africa, speaking only Afrikaans until I was 13, made travelling abroad a distant dream. I dreamt hard enough for it to come true. I started out as a document processor when I moved to the UK, no degree and broken English. I was fortunate enough to meet some pretty amazing people, men and women, who opened doors and presented opportunities for me to grow. The lessons I have learned along the way will last me a lifetime; but the most important one is: an opportunity is only an opportunity if you recognize it and grab it with both hands.

Reading time: 10 mins

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Lisa Besso - UTP High Schools

Lisa Besso is the Director of University Relations for UTP High Schools, a leading pathway provider for secondary students. In this position, Lisa grows avenues to universities for UTP high school graduates, works with UTP partner high school guidance teams to expand professional knowledge bases and expands access to special programming and scholarships for UTP students through partnerships with select American universities. Lisa brings years of executive level experience to the UTP team, including having served as Vice President of Academics and Operations for Study Group’s Higher Education Division and Director of Embassy English’s Australia/New Zealand division. Lisa has extensive experience with UTP High Schools, from curriculum development to accreditation and expanding product offerings on a project basis. Lisa also sits on the Executive Board of EnglishUSA.

Reading time: 4 mins

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Clare Gossage - The PIE News

Clare has worked in international education since 2000 and held marketing roles at private and public sector institutions prior to The PIE. Her positions included Head of International Marketing at University of the Arts London and Group Marketing Manager at St Giles International. She was also a member of the English UK Enterprises Board for 6 years. Having studied languages at University of Nottingham, taught English in Austria, worked in Paris and travelled extensively, she is passionate about the opportunities that spending time abroad can create. When she’s not working or looking after her two children, she enjoys pilates, yoga, running, and summer camping trips in her family’s VW campervan.

Reading time: 8 mins

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Amy Baker - The PIE News

Amy worked for a trade title from 1997 to 2011, for the majority of the time as editor of a magazine for education agencies, editing and refining her news-hunting skills in hotel bars around the world. She dreamed of a job with international dimensions after living in France for a year during her BA in Journalism at City University and loves to practise her rusty French if you’d like to engage her in a discussion! She works in leafy southeast London and is not very good at hoovering.

Reading time: 4 mins

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Sasha Zilovic - ELS Education Services Inc.

Working in this field is all about people and about relationships. You need to genuinely enjoy communicating with people and have an innate concern about their well-being- from your students, your colleagues, your employees, to your peers in the industry.

Reading time: 4 mins

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Harsha Shivdasani - Hosts International

I really started out with a quest to come to the United Kingdom and really start my life when I was 16. I had a long association in mind and spirit with all things English from an early age having been educated at a convent school in Sri Lanka where I was Head Girl for many years.

Reading time: mins

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Lisa James - Embassy English

In 1994 I was a recent graduate with a degree in Linguistics and a TEFL certificate - working in a bank with a second job selling fruit and veg in the local open air market. A friend rang and told me about a job she had signed up for in the summer and they were looking for more people - it was teaching English and leading activities for Embassy in one of their junior summer schools - I never looked back!

Reading time: 5 mins

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Dr Emily Williams Knight - Study Group International

Dr. Emily Williams Knight has spent more than twenty years in higher education. She joined Study Group as Managing Director of Higher Education North America in 2016. She is responsible for the strategic and operational leadership of the US and Canadian higher education markets and has a long and distinguished career within the Education industry. Passionate about education, Dr. Williams Knight is a member of several boards, including the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF), the Newbury College’s Saunders School of Hotel and Restaurant Management and the Illinois Restaurant Association. She also writes for the Chicago Sun Times and various trade publications. She is fully committed to women’s leadership development. To support this cause, she has served as a panelist at international conferences, including the first Women in Hospitality and Tourism in Asia Conference held in Singapore, and the round table about Women as CEOs at the Direct Selling Association. Despite her busy schedule, Ms. Williams Knights also makes time to volunteer and to support city programs designed to improving access to higher education. She lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband, their 11 year old twin girls, and rescue pup, Murphy.

Reading time: 5 mins

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Tamsin Plaxton - Tamwood International College

I started out in this industry while at university when I worked as a camp counsellor at an international summer camp in Switzerland. That experience inspired me to work with kids and in something international and led me to quit my career as a lawyer a few years later to open and run, with my partner Matt Collingwood, an international summer camp and language school business in Canada.

Reading time: 3 mins

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Aoife Laban - Apollo Language Centre

What is your favourite quote? ‘What’s for you won’t pass you by.’

Reading time: 2 mins

Read Her #First50 Story

Carolyn Blackmore - Quality English

You mustn’t be put off by setbacks. Pick yourself up and carry on... 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.

Reading time: mins

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Nadine Baladi - ILSC

Set your goals high and figure out what it takes to get there. Don’t be afraid to set them truly very very high!

Reading time: 3 mins

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Ida Willadsen - Malaca Institute

There was an opportunity and we took it – and once started, we just had to carry on.

Reading time: 3 mins

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Giorgia Biccelli - Linguaviva Milan

Always look ahead, if you happen to look back it is only to find ideas or indications which will help you to move forward. Identify what is important to you and for your life... do things as well as possible and remember that mistakes are great for learning.

Reading time: 3 mins

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Jan Capper - IALC International Association of Language Centres

After graduating, I got a job in a large tour operator in London. I had planned an academic career, but then I decided the commercial world needed feminists!

Reading time: 2 mins

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Santuza Bicalho - CVC Brazil

I had a super career as a lawyer, but deep inside I knew international educational was where I belonged. After taking this leap of faith, my career took off.

Reading time: 3 mins

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Michelle Westfort - Navitas

A turning point in my career was when I recognized that not everyone in the workplace wants you to succeed. While it was personally deflating for the moment and a sense of being out of control, what I realized is that my success and future is entirely within my own control.

Reading time: 4 mins

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Jenny Nieveen - Open Hearts Language Academy

Don’t settle for what seems to be the normal thing to do, think outside the box. Be cautious but do not limit yourself, think but don’t over think, believe in yourself but don’t be arrogant, follow your instinct it never betrays you. Have faith that though the road ahead is uncertain, there is one thing certain in life, if one door closes another will open.

Reading time: 4 mins

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Elena Solomonova - Insight Lingua

There will be many times in life when the opportunity to leave your comfort zone presents itself to you – do not be scared. You need to be brave. My whole life, when faced with these situations, I have always needed an extra push – but it has always been the times in my life when I look back and see that those were my greatest achievements.

Reading time: 5 mins

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