Posted by: seehowfarwevecome | July 29, 2016

Bold. Inspirational. Liberating.

It’s Friday afternoon and I am making my way back to London from Poole, having spent the last couple of days on the beautiful Sandbanks shores for a wedding. The bride, my friend Sally, whom I have known now for eight years, and Dan, her childhood friend from the age of five, finally got married yesterday and the sun came out to greet them for the occasion.

The wedding was a reunion of sorts, with several colleagues, past and present, amongst the guestlist. For Sally and I met in the Summer of 2008. I had resigned from my role at EMI Music, where I’d been an HR Business Partner for the prior four years and where I’d just completed the most horrendous restructuring programme of my career, following a private equity acquisition of EMI that took out 2,000 jobs in six months. Despite several carrots being dangled to keep me – including the chance to work in New York on a permanent basis – I’d made the decision to quit and travel the world instead.



Except I didn’t just quit to travel. I was fortunate enough to be offered a consulting job with Ignite, a small consultancy firm based near Shad Thames, and somehow, and I’ll never quite know how it happened, they agreed to give me a permanent job and a sabbatical – all within the first three months of me joining them.

So as I began to work my three-month notice period and prepared for my new job at Ignite and round the world trip, little was done to find my replacement at EMI. Then, in my final week, just as I was wrapping up and embarking upon leaving party after leaving party, Sally arrived as a consultant, for a two-day handover of my job that she would pick up on an interim basis. Somehow, in the midst of my epic series of leaving dos and consequent hangovers, in what was my final two days at EMI, Sally and I became very firm friends and well, we haven’t looked back since.

As I made plans to venture around Asia and the Pacific with Cha in early 2009, Sally was tempted to join us in Thailand for a few weeks, but life got in her way somewhat, and a few months (and a divorce) later and Sal and I just didn’t quite manage to connect in Asia. But as Sal was going through her own personal transition, so was I. Our friendship strengthened. She was finding her way on her own again, and I was simply, finding me.

With each year that has passed since, our paths have further crossed. Sally covered my old role at EMI for a while, then as I got knee deep into a client at Ignite, I brought Sal in alongside me and we got to work side by side together, for some 18 months or so. Ironically, I left Sal in that client – as I quit (again) to travel across the US and Canada in 2011. Somehow, and again, how I ever managed to wangle this I will never know, my bosses at Ignite gave me a second sabbatical, so I once again waved goodbye to Sal to travel again.


Team Macmillan

Then fast forward a couple of years and this time, I really did leave Ignite to set up consulting on an independent basis, returning to EMI for what would be its final innings, before it was broken up and sold on. As my independent contracting kicked off, so did the demand from my network for help, including an old colleague now in a leadership role at Macmillan Publishing, who asked me to work with him on a transformation programme. Unable to commit more than a day a month, I quickly called Sally, and brought her in to work full-time at Macmillan so I could carry on at EMI and provide a day a month of consultancy to help shape the programme.

Then when that wrapped up, I introduced Sal to Ignite, my ever patient past employer who put up with my regular whimsical ways and need to travel the world, and she is now working with them as an associate. So last night, I was lucky enough to see colleagues from Ignite, MacMillan and EMI, all there to celebrate Sal’s wedding.

At dinner, I sat next to Mark, my old boss. “You’re remarkable Nicola” Mark said to me. “I’ve never met someone with so much energy. It’s amazing what you’ve achieved.” I smiled. I have always been so fond of Mark, one of the best bosses I could have ever worked for. “Do you remember Mark” I ventured on “when I broke my arm, and you came round my flat and drew me a wheel of life?” Mark nodded. “It was such a turning point for me.” I told him.


Ignite reunite

That wheel of life, Mark carved up into chunks. Everything from friendships to family to relationships to wellbeing to money to work and creative outlets. He’d sat with me, as I was drugged up to high heaven with painkillers, mapping out where I sat on the wheel. Unsurprisingly, some segments were being neglected. “The thing is Nicola, you need to keep every segment balanced” he had told me. “If one part of your life goes astray, goes off kilter, the rest will keep you in balance, the rest will keep you level and able to cope with the curveballs. You have to work to keep the wheel of life in balance.”

His inference, at that time, was that my work segment was off the chart and much of my other segments were severely neglected. The only reason I could sit and actually have this conversation with him, was because I’d slipped and broken my elbow just after New Year and consequently, for the first time in a year, I’d had to stop work – I’d had to stop working 8am until midnight.

So Mark was not just a boss. He was most definitely my life coach for a while. “Are you still working too hard Nicola?” Mark asked me yesterday. “I’m much better these days” I told him, then he asked Toby the same question, as a check and balance as if he didn’t believe my answer. Toby smiled, “Nicola always works too hard Mark, but she’s better than she used to be.” I laughed, and tried to explain that I’ve got my weekends back, and most evenings too.


Overlooking Old Harry’s Rocks

“Are you keeping in balance Nicola?” Mark asked me. I smiled. I admitted that last year I wasn’t balanced, but that had been a choice. That my work and travel segments last year had managed to balance out the curveballs of other segments – that those opportunities had kept me level. “Just remember to focus on all segments” Mark mused, smiling ruefully at me.

We reminisced a lot last night. I mused about how I used to get this very same train down to Bournemouth, Weymouth, Brockenhurst and Poole when I was working with Further Education institutions on behalf of Ignite back in 2011 and 2012. We talked about that project and those clients.

I recalled the last time I was in Dorset, a little under two years ago. I’d walked to Old Harry’s Rocks and ventured around Swanage, remembering childhood memories of crazy golf, fish and chips and building sandcastles in Studland Bay. Just this morning, I walked along the beach of Sandbanks, and the sun was shining bright – for England, it was really quite warm. From the edge of the shoreline I could see Old Harry’s Rocks and I smiled, remembering how far I’ve come.


Nicola and Sal

So these past two days have been perfect days. My Macmillan, Ignite and EMI family together. I realised, that I have been fortunate in my work life, to have friendships and families from colleagues. I have fond memories of all my past employers. I have strong networks and friendships I still rely upon today. I have learnt lessons from each and every role, more so about life and how to live it, than perhaps the work itself.

Ignite’s values were always to be bold, inspiring and liberating. When I signed up to work for them, they weren’t just work values, but values for me personally. Values I think I still hold with me today. Values and ways of living that seem to really resonate. That I believe in still.

So my lovely friend Sally is wed now. Her dance with her now husband wasn’t always straightforward, but it was always bold. Her actions, her risk taking, her approach, it inspired. And then of course, they got engaged. And now, with their wedding, they are liberated.

And me. I guess I am inspired. Remarkably so.


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