Hands up. I know it’s late to be filing my views on my first Women Work conference last month, but I was lucky enough to have a period of leave booked just afterwards for the duration of which I was encouraged to switch off from work. The habit of reading news stories and emails last thing before going to bed and first thing in the morning is a tough one to break – albeit most relaxing – but having returned from holiday I feel most recharged.
Having arrived in London in 2002, I was fortunate to get a job and associated accommodation in the leafy area of Barnes, South West London. During the seven years I spent there, the annual University Boat Race became an unmissable fixture on my calendar, especially as I lived a stone’s throw from Hammersmith Bridge. Nowadays, having slowly migrated even further South West of London, the trip in to enjoy the race has become bit more difficult but this year (in fact, this Saturday) I’ll definitely be making the effort to head to the river to watch.
When I was first given the opportunity to contribute to this blog, I jumped at the chance. Women Work is a fantastic network and I was excited at the prospect being involved with it. But, in spite of the aim of Women Work, I certainly didn’t consider myself a feminist (this of course says more about my understanding of feminism than it does about the objectives of the network).
Just as the old adage about waiting ages for a bus only to have three turn up at once goes, I found myself in a similar situation this week with a number of interesting events taking place on the same day – all of which I would have loved to attend but found myself having to choose… Women 1st hosted one of their networking events at Fable Bar (a venue I’ve been dying to try out), Women Work ran a PIE workshop, Red Magazine ran a digital masterclass at the British Library Conference Centre, and we (the Sodexo team at UCL) hosted one in a series of cookery classes at UCL for the Vegetarian Society, a group I have been working with for the last few months.
Amidst all the Christmas carolling and last-minute present shopping, it’s EPA season in Sodexo, and in our office that’s been cause for some serious debate. As my Sodexo colleagues will know, the Employee Performance Appraisal (EPA) focuses on a quality conversation with our managers around personal contribution, development and career aspirations. Various EPA deadlines have recently passed (with yesterday being deadline day for individual sign-off) and since EPA has been the number one searched-for item on Sodexonet for the last few weeks, I’m guessing there’s been a scramble akin to Oxford Street on Christmas Eve to get all the one-to-ones completed and submitted on time.
I’m not sure where the year has gone (don’t we say that every year?) but, having just returned from a once-in-a-lifetime trip to South America, the explosion of Christmas and winter is more palpable than any I can remember. I set off on holiday in mid-October – still enjoying the mild London autumn and not totally having accepted that summer was well and truly over – and spent three amazing weeks in various Latin American hotspots from the Andes to the Amazon. It’s always difficult coming back to reality after visiting far-flung places, but landing at Heathrow on that dull afternoon, those three weeks away suddenly felt like they had been three months. It was colder and darker, the clocks had turned back and the newest celeb on the block was Monty the penguin.
I was quite excited when I got home this evening and my husband told me I’d received a postcard in today’s mail. How exciting…Who could it be from? Which one of my friends or family is in an exotic location having a fabulous time? And who took the effort to send an actual postcard rather than simply Instagramming it?
Today saw hundreds of women (and a few brave men) converge on the Marriott Hotel in London’s Grosvenor Square for the third annual Women 1st conference. The theme of the conference was ‘Unlock Your Potential’ and the itinerary included a mix of Q&A sessions, panel discussions, interactive workshops, networking opportunities and fabulous food (nourishing the body is just as important as nourishing the mind, of course).
As you might have gathered by now, I am something of serial attendee of networking events. I am inspired by the opportunity to meet other like-minded individuals, to engage with those within or outside of my industry, and to take away at least one idea to try and use towards improving myself and to continue learning. So when the opportunity to attend a Q&A session with Arianna Huffington arose, I was quick off the mark to book my place.