Tag Archives: Confidence

Interview with PR expert Anji Hunter

Last week I recorded an interview with Anji Hunter, an expert in Public Relations both in politics and in business. Anji worked for Prime Minister Tony Blair MP from 1987 to 2002, in opposition and government, becoming Head of Government Relations in Downing Street (1997), where she was the key liaison with the Cabinet, Civil Service, the Labour Party, Opposition Leaders and other governments. Anji was once described as “the most influential non-elected person in Downing Street”.

Later she became Group Director of Communications at BP before moving on to join the world’s largest PR firm, Edelman. as a senior adviser.

We talked about her career, but also addressed some questions close to all of us: “Can women have it all?”, “Do women help each other enough?” and “How to ask for a pay rise?”…

Please leave a reply above or a comment via Facebook below – join the conversation!

Interview with Alex Depledge, co-founder of Hassle.com

Alex Depledge tells a candid story of how she became an entrepreneur and together with two friends launched Hassle, an online business helping consumers find, book and pay for local services, such as cleaners. Alex talks about leaving a comfortable job as a management consultant, feeling the fear, yet persevering to grow the business step-by-step. In an interview she reveals a pretty compelling confidence trick – you have to hear it, if you’ve missed the Ladies Who Impress event in April 2014.

My favourite quote: “I always had to work really, really hard. I don’t believe intelligence gets you all the way – a lot of it is grit and a lot of it is really hard work.”

Interview with travel writer Sophie Campbell

Summer… Holidays… Travels… Did you ever dream of being a travel writer? In a candid, honest and funny interview travel writer and Blue Badge London guide Sophie Campbell reveals what it is really like to be a freelance journalist. Sophie’s story is a tale of persistence, creation of your own luck and an example of a successful portfolio career.

My favourite quote? “Criticise yourself, but not to a point it is becoming destructive.”

I interviewed Sophie Campbell in April 2014 at the Ladies Who Impress celebration, Confidence.

If you’d like to enquire about Sophie’s legendary tours of London, have a look at Love-London.com.

Interview with Kimberley Wilson of Great British Bake Off

I interviewed Kimberley Wilson in April 2014 at the Ladies Who Impress celebration, Confidence. The podcast interview reveals how Kimberley fell in love with baking, what fuels her passion and  the importance of balance. Kimberley talks about her work as a council psychologist and plans for the future.

Finally, Kimberley shares her ideas on how to boost confidence. My favourite quote is towards the end – a brilliant piece of advice on how to keep things in perspective…

Ladies Who Impress in the House of Lords

Jana Bakunina at the House of LordsLast month Baroness Elizabeth Barker invited me for tea at the House of Lords(!), and we talked about life peers and an impostor syndrome.

Members of the House of Lords are not elected but appointed (by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister). Liberal Democrat Elizabeth Barker did not see it coming when she was asked to join the House of Lords in 1999.

“Life peers are extremely knowledgeable in their areas of their expertise, be it healthcare or law or education. In the House of Lords we get a chance to go through the proposed legislation in much greater detail and challenge it, if necessary.”

 “Yet, despite my experience in consulting, corporate social responsibility, change management and policy, it took me a while to recognise my own achievements and power as a life peer to make a difference.”

Why is it that self-doubt is common even among high-achieving women? Instead of making the most of the opportunities and marching forward, we question ourselves and feel out of depth. If this sounds familiar, you might like the Guardian article, suggesting that the best remedy against the impostor syndrome is to share our experiences and talk about our insecurities. In particular, it makes a difference when an inspiring role model admits to feeling vulnerable at times.

Baroness Barker is proud to be working on issues affecting underrepresented groups such as the LGBT community or mental health sufferers. As a lesbian, she was particularly interested in the success of the same sex marriage bill.

At the end of my visit I spent a few minutes in the debating chamber. I was pleased to see that one third of the members present were women.

Baroness BarkerBaroness Elizabeth Barker at the House of Lords

Confidence with Alex Depledge, Kimberley Wilson and Sophie Campbell

In April 2014 we gathered at the gorgeous Grace Belgravia to celebrate talents, achievements and ingenuity of Ladies Who Impress and to get inspired to be more confident.

Sophie Campbell, Kimberley Wilson and Alex DepledgeWhy does confidence matter?

Often success in any role or endeavour depends on how well we take advantage of opportunities that come our way. And for that we need to be confident in our own abilities, trust that our skills are good enough and believe that such qualities as courage, tenacity and perseverance are as important as experience.

And confidence is something we can cultivate and simply put on, like make-up…

Here are some of the highlights from the night!
Alex Depledge with Jana Bakunina

Alex Depledge, one of the founders of Hassle.com, a website, which helps consumers find vetted cleaners in their neighbourhood, talked about her journey from being a management consultant at Accenture to starting her own online business with two friends.

“I don’t think of myself as an entrepreneur – it sounds too fancy. I am more of a grafter than an intellectual and believe in hard work.”

Before a meeting with intimidating investors, Alex gives herself a prep talk in front of the mirror to boost confidence. You may wish to follow Alex on Twitter.

Kimberley Wilson with a trademark smileKimberley Wilson is a counselling psychologist who loves a challenge, which is why she applied for the Great British Bake-Off series last year. She reached the final and now hopes to apply her creativity and tenacity to bake her own social enterprise. Stay tuned…

When asked what helps her feel more confident when she needs to, Kimberley said:

“It’s about keeping things in perspective. Yes, baking on a popular, competitive TV show may seem like the most important thing in the world, but at the end of the day, it’s just … a piece of cake.”

Sophie Campbell with Jana BakuninaSophie Campbell gave a candid account of what it’s really like to make a living from travel writing. Her story was also a masterclass in perseverance:

“Set yourself a deadline and keep going. A couple of months before I was ready to give up, my article was published and other broadsheets were soon after my work.”

Sophie built herself a well-balanced portfolio career, combining writing and guiding in London.

Her book, The Season, is now out in paperback.

A massive Thank You to Clare Stuart-Adams for taking wonderful photos in a semi-dark room, Anna Palinkas for recording a radio podcast and Grace Belgravia for accommodating us on the night!

Sophie Campbell, Kimberley Wilson, Alex Depledge and Jana BakuninaFor more photos from the night, please visit Ladies Who Impress page on Facebook.


Meet Edie Lush, journalist and communications coach

Edie LushI recently had a coffee with a communications coach and journalist Edie Lush.

Edie studied Political Science at UCLA and International Relations at Yale. She moved to London to work for the UBS investment bank as a political analyst before taking on a role in front of the camera with Bloomberg TV. She covered international political and economic events, thriving in a fast-paced environment. Starting a family made it difficult to maintain a career, which required a commitment to be up and running at dawn, so Edie (now mother of three) turned to writing for The Week and The Spectator, organising knowledge festivals and coaching public speaking and communications, which leaves her time to pick up her kids from school, run marathons and play the piano… A Lady Who Impresses, isn’t she?

Edie really is an expert in public speaking and is a talented coach. She just came back from California, where she worked with a team at Visa. And so I asked Edie for her professional tips on the subject of confidence and communications. Her advice:

“Confidence is just like a cloak you put on ahead of an important meeting, an interview or a speaking engagement.

Approximately 90% of our impact is from how the audience (be it a group of two or two hundred) perceives us, rather than the content of what we say. This 90% dictates how we feel about someone. Do we trust them? Do we have confidence in them? Can we connect with them?”

Edie explains that body language is very important indeed. She recommends watching Amy Cuddy’s Ted talk on “power posing” – adopting a posture of confidence, even when you don’t feel confident. Your posture can apparently affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain. When your brain sends less cortisol (stress hormone) and more testosterone through your body, you look and sound more confident, authentic, passionate and captivating. And then you start feeling that way too.


Professor Sophie Scott on neuroscience and stand-up comedy

I met with Professor Sophie Scott, Deputy Director of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience of the University College London to talk to her about her career in science and ask for her thoughts on the subject of confidence.

She told me about research of her colleague, professor of psychology Adrian Furhnam, which revealed that whilst on average men and women are fairly equal in terms their IQ, women tend to underestimate their scores and men perceive their IQ to be higher than what it really is.

It’s remarkable, but not surprising. Sophie herself never thought of a career in academia, until her tutor suggested she considers doing a PhD. She found that research really suited her. Her work has been focussing on the neurobiology of speech perception and evolution of speech. She is also interested in laughter and its many social functions.

“I absolutely love what I do: it never ceases to fascinate me how our behaviour can be explained in a consistent, scientific way.”

Sophie concedes that in research, as in corporate institutions, women don’t put themselves forward but things are changing. The Royal Holloway College of the University of London has now established a rule among its academics who have to nominate themselves for promotion every year. Other Colleges have career surgeries, opening up opportunities within research.

Since I met Sophie at a public speaking event, I had to asked her whether she was naturally confident to go on stage or whether it was an acquired skill.

“I used to be terrified of public speaking even when I enjoyed it. I then came across the UCL’s Bright Club, where UCL researchers become stand-up comedians for the night.”

The club offers performance skills training for the unlikely comics, but confidence is something you just have to wear on the night.

“Sometimes you have to make yourself do things you’re uncomfortable with and then it gets natural and easy.”

I fear Sophie got hooked on stand-up comedy. She now regularly appears on science comedy panels, participates in comedy festivals such as Festival of the Spoken Nerd and Sceptics in the Pub.

What can you do with Ladies Who Impress? They may underestimate themselves but they deliver and then some.