A personal tragedy as a teenager gave me the strength and will to succeed

November 12, 2015 by in category I'm Not John with 0 and 0
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Mum of three daughters, Claire Handby, has been a senior manager in EY, a business consultancy, for eight years and is a specialist in programme and project management.

Before her time at EY, she spent 10 years in the construction industry, raising to the level of senior project manager on multi-million pound projects.

Claire is the oldest of three siblings and says a personal tragedy growing up spurred her on to success giving her determination and will to get ahead.

Read more on Claire here and why she is supporting the #imnotjohn campaign

When I think about me and my achievements to date these statements resonate; if you believe you can, you will, have an abundance of determination and a will to succeed, and if you start with the elephant’s foot, you will eat the whole of it eventually!

When I started out through to present day, my attitude towards my career was ‘get a job, get a good job, get a career!’ From Saturday girl to where I am now.

I started working as a teenager, earning my own money, learning to drive, securing my own independence with nurture and support from family and friends, who inspired me to say ‘I can and I will!’

My school work experience was with a scaffolding company working in their estimating department, visiting building sites, talking about finances and also climbing scaffolding to have a look at construction progress first hand, at height – I loved it!

I decided that I didn’t want a 9-5 office job, I loved being regarded as a bit unique as probably the only female on the building site, I enjoyed driving to different places, and the thought of contributing towards something which was physical in my day to day work life, instead of moving paper really inspired me too.

Building things such as hospitals, airports, transport systems or amazing one off mega projects such as celebrating the turn of the Millennium or the Olympics 2012 was just up my street.

So with some careful planning and good directional thinking on what the future could look like with my biggest mentor, my dad, I set about understanding how to realise a rewarding career in the construction industry, drawing up my first 10 year plan at about 15 years old.

Nothing has ever come to me on a plate, by this I mean first and foremost I am a hard worker, it has been through having this attitude I have got to where I am today.

I also have determination, I am not a quitter and if I really want to achieve something, I will put the effort in and I will do.

I have principles and am clear on my core values, trust, honesty, integrity, I take responsibility, am a team player and have surrounded myself with people who love me very much and I love them.  So that when life has dealt me a rough hand at times I have been able to reach out, share where I am at and receive the support I have needed at that time from a core, trusted network of very close people.

In my teenage years I had a personal tragedy that has very much informed the way I am today, as it centred me around ‘knowing who I am,’ where rather than crush me as a person it has given me strength when times have proved sometimes difficult to keep going.

At 15, I lost my four year old sister to meningitis, I saw her go from happy go lucky to gravely ill within 12 hours.  It was very hard and upsetting, but also very inspiring to say ‘be the best you can be for Rachel as well as you now.’

This gave me a very clear perspective on my life.  I decided there and then I needed to accept I never really knew what was round the corner for me but that I would still have a plan, with clear goals, looking for my windows of opportunity, embracing every one, doing my due diligence and making decisions which would always keep me firmly at the centre of my world and wherever possible in control of my own destiny.

Both personally and EY believe in a bigger diversity and inclusiveness agenda, which is that we talk about all difference not just gender, we believe that change will come through creating inclusive cultures and leaders, not through ‘fixing’ women and we are members of a number of forums and organisations in the UK that have a presence in the North West, such as An Inspirational journey, Stonewall, Creating Inclusive Cultures.

I am very open to continue engaging with the diversity and inclusiveness journey we are all on, to support the achievement of gender parity quicker. Campaigns like #imnotjohn are important for this.

Read more on the #imnotjohn campaign here.

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