We are thrilled to present to you our very first Wonderful Woman of Inspiration – Heather Melville. Heather was recently awarded The 2010 WIBF Champion for Women Award by the Women in Banking and Finance (WIBF) network. Needless to say, Heather had not written an acceptance speech as it hadn’t occurred to her that she might win! Anyone who knew her would have thought differently. From what I hear, her off-the-cuff acceptance speech was, like Heather, inspirational and from the heart. Heather is Regional Director, SME London, Cash and International Trade at RBS. She has an outstanding record of excelling in her career of over 30 years, having started out as a general banking clerk and FX & Sterling cashier at Midland Bank. Five years ago she founded and continues to chair the RBS Focused Women’s Network (FWN). It has grown from zero to 1800 members and is actively supported by the bank’s chair and group chief executive. It forms a clear and critical aspect of the RBS Diversity and Inclusion Strategy. As part of her mentoring initiatives, Heather created “The Little Book of Inspiration” a collection of stories from RBS employees who have made a difference to their customers, colleagues and the organisation. One of the wonderful things about Heather is that in pursuit of her ideals for the Women’s Focussed Network she is fazed by nothing. When it occurred to her that it would be good for her women to hear Sir Philip Hampton, the Chairman of RBS, address them on the topic of the business reasons for more women in senior leadership, she didn’t hold back. She just asked him. When Heather asks you to do something, somehow you are just likely to agree! Heather’s energy is infectious and she is always caught up in the next big idea for women. Now she is making her plans global – the world may not know what has hit it as Heather opens new networks in India, Singapore and everywhere else that RBS has a presence. Heather is also an active supporter of several charities including the Breast Cancer Campaign, World Vision and Everyman and in the last 2 years has raised over £80,000. Her success over the years has been acknowledged by receiving several awards including the IBM National Excellence Award and the European Federation of Women Business Owners and Professionals, External International Professional Award. She is a Justice of the Peace in the Youth Court and is working on the Board of Working Families, a forum set up by Ernst & Young. She has two grown up sons of whom she is very proud and, unbelievably, two grandchildren. Here are some of the questions we asked Heather. Enjoy her replies:
1) What advice would you give to young women, starting out in their careers?
Have a plan. Know what you like doing and realise how you can make those things that you enjoy shape your career. Be sure to have strong mentors and two sponsors to offer help, guidance and advice.
2) What would you say your overall mission in life is?
To retire young, have fun and write a book about my experiences.
3) Are there any books you would advise women to read?
Louise L. Hay – You Can Heal Your Life Jack Welch – Winning
4) Using your background in sales, how should women get their talents across in quite traditionally male work environments?
I would say that being authentic and confident are two important factors. Make sure that you focus on the things that you do well so that others take notice and focus on your best attributes. I would like to stress that it is important that women don’t draw attention to the things that they are not as good at – people generally don’t notice these things.
5) How have you managed to juggle your career and personal life?
It has been difficult but I always focus on my objectives. I want to make sure that my children have the best possible opportunities and be a role model to them and others. It is possible to do it, but you have to be prepared to put the hard work in.
6) How do you find the energy?
The most important thing is knowing when to stop and refuel. I make sure that once a year I take a holiday by myself to completely relax, I also spend time meditating. Laughter and spending time in the company of those who make me laugh is also very important to me.
7) What do you do to look after yourself?
I find spas a wonderful way to relax and rejuvenate. Reading books and magazines that inspire me and spending time in the presence of positive people all contribute to my wellbeing. I would also say that taking care of myself physically and eating a healthy diet are important factors that allow me to say focused.