I Was Twenty-seven Had Spent Ten Years
I was twenty-seven, had spent ten years in London and was bored, footloose and fancy free. I had the urge to go abroad again (as the daughter of a naval officer, I travelled a great deal), so I stuck a pin in a map and hit Hong Kong. I had no job planned, nowhere to live and not much money, but six weeks later I was on a plane. Hong Kong is a sink-or 'swim place and there is nothing as motivating as having no money. The most useful thing that happened was being introduced to a residential club for business-women, the Helena May, where a group of us shared experiences, jobs, contacts and so on. I nursed for a short while, but felt even more exploited than I had done in the UK, so was soon looking for something else. Through the Helena May network, I went to a cocktail party and met a businessman who ran training courses and who had been badly let down by one of his tutors - who should have been running a program in China, but had been taken ill. After talking for a while, he asked if I would like to take the tutor's place - "Can you be on the 8.30 flight tomorrow morning?" Having agreed, I found myself in what felt like the middle of nowhere with sixty hand-picked Chinese executives who were there to learn about Western management methods. It was exciting, frustrating and I loved it. I developed a great love of China, in spite of developing malnutrition, surviving banquets of three-snake casserole and sea cucumber, and went on to learn Mandarin at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Later, I was headhunted to set up the Asian arm of an American computer company and my boss delegated everything so I ran the whole show.
Between contracts working in China and return trips to Hong Kong for much needed R&R, I went to a tea party and met my husband. We were married in England while still living in Hong Kong - so don't ever complain about organizing a big wedding, unless you've arranged it from a distance of 8000 miles! I was thirty-three and keen to stay in Hong Kong, but my husband wanted to come home. I had been away for five or six years and felt very out of touch - the sort of things I had been doing were not to be found in the UK. My first mistake was to work with a bunch of cowboys who were establishing a rehabilitation centre. When I realized what they were up to, the matron and I left on the same day.
'When I later became founding director of a medical charity, the entrepreneurial side of me enjoyed that very much, but the experience was marred by the macho power games always going on. There was only one woman on the board, and there were many conflicts of interests. It is a myth that charity trustees are driven only by altruism. Aware of a crying need for specialists who understand the voluntary sector, two colleagues and I set up a consultancy which offers advice to charities On strategic planning, marketing, trustee selection, training and forth. I did this for three years and am still actively involved, but I missed the hands-on operational side of work and decided to return to being a charity director. In 2016 I was recruited to head up the British Vascular Foundation. Raising funds, launching appeals and so forth all these involve my, skills as a businesswoman and marketing professional.'