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20 August 2015

back2businessship 2015 by Jennie Walmsley

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My background is in broadcast journalism – I started out as a graduate trainee at the BBC and stayed for over 15 years, producing and directing in TV and radio, and specialising in current affairs. It was very exciting, very enjoyable. But, three kids was the tipping point. It’s never only about the kids, of course. But you say to yourself at that point: am I going to stay and climb the management structure or not? In my case it coincided with big changes at the BBC and I decided to take redundancy and leave. That was seven years ago.

Since then I’ve moved out of London and forged a portfolio career, maintaining production and journalism projects and taking on individual and corporate clients for media and presentation training. This evolved to include executive coaching and I qualified as a coach from the Henley Business School. I’ve become especially keen to encourage more women into the public sphere, as industry spokespeople, experts and on boards. There’s not enough of this. But that’s another story. I widened my skill set – becoming a magistrate and the Chair of a local arts charity, as well as a taxi driver for three kids. In seven years I’ve gained what you might call a broad smorgasbord of experience.

The point is that however good your portfolio career is, working outside an organisation can be isolating. It’s enriching and interesting but the opportunities for development and networking are not obvious. The world of communications is changing radically, and it’s hard to keep up, even if you have good skills and experience to offer. Aware of this, I had been trying to develop my connections, when I came across the back2businessship programme and applied. What I like so far about f1 is that it doesn’t sound like it just wants to get you into any old job, but instead it recognises you are a fully rounded person, with a fully rounded life.

After 15 years at the BBC and seven years freelancing, I’m ready for the next chapter in my career, and it may involve getting a job, rather than working for myself. I don’t believe women like me, with so much experience to offer, should have to start again. But we do need a way back in – it’s very hard to get traction from the outside, which is why programmes like back2businessship are important. I hope the programme will help me network, sharpen my skills and introduce me to new dimensions and opportunities in comms. I’m looking forward to meeting people from different backgrounds and at different stages too.

I believe everyone has to think flexibly about the world of work now. In the past “work” meant nine-to-five, five days a week, but that’s changing: with the commitment of major organisations, that means we can find new work patterns, enabling everyone to contribute. Ultimately, I hope I can evolve my own skills, and make myself more marketable, so I can help more women participate more fully in business.

Follow @b2businessship on twitter

Read more from last year’s back2businessship delegates: Sara Stockdale and Melissa Franklin