Advice to graduates: talking to Fiona Harvey
Updated: Apr 20, 2019
Good morning! As I write this I'm sat in a Clapham cafe, the sound of coffee makers whirring and the hum of early morning business chatter. The waft of homemade twists on the traditional brunch favourites. The red buses rolling by outside. And I am thinking to myself. This is it! I am so happy with where I am! However none of this would have started, if I hadn't been inspired by others. My journey would not have begun, without the example of other awe-inspiring leaders.
This series is a collection of questions I asked of leaders who work a different path in life. It comes at a time when an entrepreneurial mindset is becoming the way forward, and out of the box living is becoming the norm. In reading what they have to say, I hope they in turn will inspire you as they have inspired me! Creativity comes in all varieties and it is these kinds of leaders that I believe we should be watching.
So without further ado, I hope you enjoy the Inspirational Leaders series, beginning with Fiona Harvey!
I met this lovely lady a couple of years ago when I was about to start my final year of university, and it is from her that I developed my Digital Nomad mindset.
What is the most important thing to you in a job? And your own job? I think that the most important thing in a job for me is that I have enough freedom to be independent and make decisions that support the overall objectives that I have been set. Also it's really important that I am supported to be creative and innovative in my work, too much control and micromanagement becomes stifling and counterproductive.
What do you look for in an employee? What I look for are not necessary technical competence (although someone who is on the same wavelength is obviously a plus) but more about enthusiasm, willingness to learn, creative, agility and someone willing to try things that they have never tried before. Having an open mind is a huge asset. Skills in using technology can be taught, attitudes can be much harder to change.
What qualities stand out to you in a young leader? Being a young leader can be hard in the wider world because being taken seriously by middle class, white males may not be top of their agendas (unless of course you are a middle class, white male!). But there are plenty of inspirational young people and that is important, being an inspiration means that people will follow you. Add to the mix a touch of confident, peppered with humility and your have a winning combination.
Did you ever intend on becoming a leader? Never! I see myself as more an enabler (in a good way) I see things that are interesting and give me ideas which I try out. I think it's really important to distinguish between manager and leader. Managing people is a skill and some people really enjoy having that level of authority, being able to direct people to complete tasks. I see leadership as much more about example. If you can’t inspire and enthuse then you're not really going to be able to lead anyone or anything. If I see something that I think will be useful then I’ll just gush with enthusiasm, find ways of it solving whatever need I have and then once people see the relevance, they then tend to follow.
Do you consider yourself entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial, and why? Not really. But having said that I have a lot of energy and I am determined, so if I think something will work I tend to follow that through to the end to see if it does. My natural curiosity works to its advantage on that score. I always thought that being an entrepreneur meant that you needed to have some business idea that needed funding so you have to be able to go through the Dragons Den approach of pitching ideas and then getting backing. I would get bored by the end of all that and I’m much happier exploring and identifying trends and putting them into practice. My business inclination is to give it all away for free so everyone has the opportunity to try it out. I’ll never be a millionaire.
If you could give your 21 year old self one piece of advice, what would it be? When I was 21 the world was a very different place. By the time I was 21 I had a bought a house, was married and was working full time as a recruitment consultant. This was not that unusual and getting a mortgage was very easy and university education was free. That much responsibility was a huge burden when you are so young (but of course I thought I was old!). I have found this the hardest question to answer because things are so completely different but ultimately my advice would be take the opportunities. I did take some of my opportunities but I because I didn’t do my degree when I was younger, I completed my degrees whilst having a young family and it was very very hard. I also then had to get funding for it and that was frustrating because of course, it was free when I was 18.
Other snippets of advice would be:
Speak up - although you think it at the time, not everyone knows what they are talking about. It is OK to have an opinion.Don’t be afraid to fail. It makes you stronger and you learn by your mistakesYou can’t please everyone all of the time. Learning how to deal with that is a life skill.Keep your sense of humour (and if you don’t have one, get one. Life is much easier if you can laugh at yourself) Work hard and be useful.