Women in Business: Q&A with Victoria Deane

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Women in Business - Victoria Deane

To kick off our Women in Business blog series, meet Victoria Deane, Director of Support Services and member of the Group Senior Leadership Team (GSLT), who has worked at New Directions for nearly 11 years.

What does a typical day in your role look like?

It is usually very well planned initially. I regularly attend meetings, but I have quite a few informal catchups with colleagues which I really value, as this helps to pre-empt concerns or issues and get feedback on the Support Services that I’m responsible for. 

I lead on the development and delivery of activities and operations of various support departments – IT, Operations, Marketing, and Quality and Compliance. My priority is always my Support Service teams and GSLT colleagues and I’m happy to support them in any way. My teams know that my success is solely down to their performance, so it makes sense that I’m on hand.

My teams are technical specialists, so I’m not heavy-handed in my approach. I trust their ability, management and decision making. They always keep me updated so I can ensure my senior colleagues are kept abreast of any pertinent information. This is also two way and I find a lot of my time is spent ensuring I keep my teams updated on everything too. In fact, I’m told by my peers that I’m too transparent! I’d rather this than the opposite.

In summary, I don’t have a typical day. Every day is different and this works for me – I relish it. I’d go so far as to say I feel challenged, stimulated and enthused by my role every day.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

There are many things I enjoy about my role, including:

  • Getting good feedback
  • Delivering excellent results
  • Seeing my team win awards
  • Spending time with and helping people
  • Co-hosting the annual Celebrating Success event.

I love the fact that every day in my role brings new challenges and opportunities. I feel incredibly lucky to work for a company that allows me to express myself and be me; personality matters!

What has been your biggest challenge?

Well, working with our Chairman is a challenge, but not the biggest… haha!

On a serious note, I’ve struggled with not being a specialist in my current role. Having previously been a Learning and Development specialist and HR professional, I’ve found that managing a team and not be able to do their jobs has been a real challenge. However, my teams have helped me realise this isn’t required. They’ve trained for years to be competent in their roles, and my job is to support them to ensure their efforts and deliverables align with the company’s strategic objectives and our Chairman’s vision.

Have there been any defining moments in your career that have contributed to your success?

In 2000, I went to the USA on a ‘Train the Trainer’ programme for three weeks. I’d finally found my vocation and have never looked back. I left Dallas as a different person to the one that arrived there; it was the maddest experience. I met incredible people; delivered a training session to a classroom full of people at 3 am (sleep-deprived); had to be videoed and assessed constantly; and couldn’t phone home (I think it was a boot camp!). The 3 weeks ended with a placement in Philadelphia, where I demonstrated all that I’d learnt. I passed with flying colours and returned home to then train people all over the UK and Europe in the 8 years that followed, and I loved every minute of it.

I still miss Learning and Development as I do HR, but I don’t have any regrets moving my career forward and learning new skills. I’ve learnt so much about myself in my current role. It’s been refreshing to be in an operational capacity and I now understand the different pressures compared to that of my time in Learning and Development and HR Manager roles. I am a more rounded individual for it.

What were your career aspirations when you started your working life?

I remember doing two work experience placements in school; one to be a Physiotherapist, the other a Police Officer. Honestly, I didn’t have a plan and still don’t – this is me to a tee. I love being in the moment and not planning too far ahead. 

I’m proud to say I’ve always worked since the age of 13 (after school and at weekends) and have loved it. Some of my friends and family joke that ‘I live to work’ and not the other way around! This isn’t true, but I’ve always been happy at work and have always made the best of it. Through University, I worked in the summer holidays in a post room licking envelopes (and cutting my lips and tongue – until they told me there was a sponge thingy that I should have been using instead!), I’ve filed by number and did everything possible to stay awake. I got my first job after University having given great service in an American Diner (working evenings and weekends as a student) to the Marketing Director of a 5-star hotel, who offered me a job on the spot. But as you now know, I found my home in Learning and Development, HR and Support Services – interestingly with a common theme; all working with people and providing a service.

How would you define a great leader?

A great leader is authentic, passionate, motivated, kind, honest and someone with professional integrity. They lead by example and are respected, likeable, self-aware, knowledgeable, and can influence and communicate well.

Who is your inspiration?

I am inspired by several people… I have a replica of Cinderella’s glass slipper in my office, reminding me of one of Cinderella’s life lessons:

To always have courage and be kind.

I also joke with a colleague and we say:

What would Michelle do?

That is Michelle Obama – I read her book recently and was inspired by it.

Audrey Hepburn has also always been my idol. As an actress and humanitarian, she was an inspiration – I love her style. She also had lots of famous quotes such as:

Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!

This typifies my glass half full mentality.

How do you achieve a healthy work-life balance?

Work hard, play hard! I’m as passionate about home as I am work, and I really feel I have a good balance of both. I have amazing family and friends and love talking, reading, sleeping, shopping, movies and holidays. I think these activities keep me well balanced. I could do with being a little more active, so I’ve enrolled in an evening yoga class in September!

I love to recharge my batteries annually and I think holidays give you the space to think and reflect. I am lucky to spend time away regularly with a group of 30 or more friends. We ski, camp and go on holiday overseas every year. 

I’m naturally a happy person, which comes from being content and living in the moment – I think this is a good starting point!   

What drives and motivates you?

I’m really motivated by:

  • Teamwork and delivering results and excellent service through and with my team
  • Being recognised for doing a good job
  • Being valued and respected
  • Making a difference
  • Being happy
  • And having good, healthy, honest, relationships.

I’m also driven by developing myself and being the best I can be. I’ve wanted to be liked my whole working career and I am a ‘people pleaser’, but most recently, I have learnt that you can’t please everyone, so to be respected is now my driver.

What advice would you give to women who aspire to be in leadership/management roles?

Be yourself and don’t hold back. Go for it – ‘have courage and be kind!’

To lead, you’ve got to like people, be interested and passionate, enjoy what you do, study, work hard and be tenacious. Always be honest, choose your battles wisely and don’t reply to an email that’s upset you until the next day, then sense check your response with a trusted colleague first. Even better, talk about it or telephone the person instead. Invest in relationships and never take advantage of anyone. Always be able to ask for a favour and always return one.

Have fun. Don’t take work too seriously and never be afraid to make mistakes – just learn from them. I feel very fortunate to be one of the four women in the Senior Leadership Team here at New Directions since April 2019. The previous Senior Management Team was male-dominated and I want everyone to know that gender isn’t relevant in a leadership and management role. In fact, personality, talent, and the leadership traits I’ve mentioned, blended with your accomplishments, accountabilities and deliverables, are far more important and will determine your success.

What is the most important thing you’ve learnt in your career journey so far?

To have integrity – ‘doing the right thing even when no one is watching’. C. S Lewis. 

Integrity has always been my favourite value. I also believe that passion, professionalism and the way I conduct myself daily have been the catalyst and foundation for all my promotions, especially here at New Directions.

What achievements are you most proud of?

I’m proud of gaining a 2:1 at University; winning Colleague of the Year Awards at Rocco Forte Hotels (UK and Europe); being chosen as one of the Welsh trainers for the Ambassadors to host London 2012 Olympics; earning the Manager of the Year title twice at New Directions (2015 and 2017); and achieving Investors in People Gold and ‘Best Recruitment Company to Work for’ in 2016 whilst HR Manager.

I also have to say that being promoted to a Directorship, albeit leaving a profession I loved, I now realise was worth it, as that role has led me to the GSLT (which was not planned or expected and is still over-whelming) but goodness me, what an opportunity. Watch this space – I have so much more to give!

We hope Vicky’s story inspires you as much as us. Tune in soon to read our next Women in Business blog…