CEO of Virgin Money: Here’s the advice I would give my younger self

23 April 2018

This article is a part of our Skills Young People Need for Work in 2030 campaign, with the i newspaper, helping share what skills leaders of today think are going to be the top ways young people can prepare for the careers of tomorrow. Be sure to follow #Skills2030 to see their top advice over March.

Jayne-Anne giving her Skills 2030 campaign talk at Chryston High School

 

Jayne-Anne Gadhia, Advice I’d give to my younger self 

As an only child of a working-class family, I did well at the academic side of school but was dreadful at games, singing and drama.

I was over six foot tall by the time I was fourteen and felt awkward and self-conscious. I was the butt of many jokes from teenage boys who used to hide round corners and then scream in horror when I appeared. Because my parents had struggled to get me into a good school, I couldn’t really complain to them about being bullied.

So I just sort of dug in, kept my head down and fought back when the need arose. I ended up loving school and learning a lot. But probably the best lesson of all was never to give up and never let the bullies win. Forty years later, I still apply that lesson in my business life. Work experience was a really important part of my younger life.

I took a year off before university and worked in the Unemployment Benefit Office in Diss, Norfolk. It wasn’t at all glamorous. My job was dealing with benefit claimants from all sorts of backgrounds. Many of them had just lost their jobs and so were claiming benefits for the first time. But I learned a lot – and perhaps it was a better education for me than university.

Looking back on those times with the benefit of what I know now, what advice would I give the young Jayne-Anne?

 

Be confident – even if you are not feeling it. Often the people who appear full of confidence are just bluffing.

Don’t be afraid to ask ‘stupid questions’. I’ve constantly been surprised in business how often asking the stupid question has been really important – and not at all stupid.

It can often flush out all sorts of assumptions made by other people that aren’t necessarily right. If more people had asked questions about the risky trading that banks were doing before the crash of 2008, some of the massive losses might well have been avoided.

Remember – you can do it! There have been many times in my business life when I’ve started to doubt my abilities. Perhaps a nagging doubt in the back of my mind. At times like that I always try to remind myself how I’ve often managed to overcome difficulties and achieved seeming impossible results. So don’t listen to the doubters.

Exercise every day. I’ve had many dark times when I haven’t felt good about myself. I’ve often resorted to comfort eating and, unsurprisingly my weight has then increased, making me feel even worse. Even though I wasn’t sporty at school, I’ve learned that I am good at doing exercise and being fit. There is no question that running or going to the gym regularly makes me feel better in myself and more confident.

Have more children. My daughter Amy was born when I was forty, after six attempts at IVF. I was hit by a tsunami of love for this precious new life. And sixteen years on, that love has only grown deeper. If I have one regret, it is that I have not been able to have more children. Thanks to the support of my husband, Ashok, I absolutely believe that I could have combined having more children with a successful business career – but sadly that was not to be.

And finally…never let the bullies win. I still come across bullies from time to time. When I speak out on issues that are important to me, I know that some people will mutter “Oh here she goes again…” Sometimes that’s hurtful. But it makes me even more determined not to give in to them.

 

Jayne-Anne Gadhia is CEO of Virgin Money. You can read the original article in the i newspaper.

Our Skills 2030 campaign will continue with more speakers across the UK. Keep up with the coverage of this talk series here.