On 1st April 2003 I started work at Accident Advice Helpline. When you start work on a day like that it’s inevitable that it will become the joke that just keeps on giving, over and over again! Fresh out of the world of private practice with its neat hierarchical structures and sense of ‘everyone knows what they’re here for’ that first day was a revelation (black power suit, 4 inch steel stilettos, very very red hair, for me not the new boss). “Where’s my office?” I asked looking around me for a space. It wasn’t the first time that I got the look that suggested that my planet was different from the others.
Those first weeks were overwhelming, drinking from the fire hose I forgot as much as I remembered. I got lost on the North Circular, I misinterpreted social signals (who knew that somebody threatening to throw you out of a window wasn’t actually aggressive), I doubted my life choices when I found that ‘being a lawyer wasn’t EVERYTHING’ but I stayed. And stayed. And stayed. 15 years is a long time to stay in one place but even if the employer stayed the same the place didn’t. It kept moving; evolving. And every day was a learning day. Yes we operated within the legal space but it’s where I learnt that the contribution each business area makes is what drives a business; that success in just one area in isolation is detrimental to the whole. My value, no longer measured in 6 minute units, was on a par with my peer group from marketing through to sales and finance. There was no ‘lawyer and non-lawyer’ boundaries.
And still I continued to learn. Sometimes just enough to be dangerous (HR was a wow, eye opening, intriguing, marketing has sometimes stretched my brain sideways) as I took on other areas of the business but the joy of the place, particularly in the earlier days, was employers who created space and allowed people to fill it; to step up into roles, to thrive and to widen opportunity. There have been times where I’ve been frustrated, mad as hell or ‘on the ledge’. But there was always something that brought me back off the ledge and it’s been enduring: the people.
Oh my gawd. The people. The funny, clever, talented, exasperating, thought-provoking, annoying, opinionated, intelligent and very special people I have met along the way. I could fill pages with personalities, stories and escapades. Being part of a business that was acquired and then acquired again just brought wider opportunities to work alongside a more diverse group of people. I’ve embraced the North-West and learnt, once again, to adjust to working in central London. I’ve done enough commuting over the last 15 years surely to justify my own personal helicopter/chauffeur in commuter miles. Who do I see about this?
I didn’t start out with the end in mind. Much of it has been serendipity, happenstance, a fair amount of effort and working at it every single day. Never the finished article there is always something to be learnt about a thing or from a person. At times it has been very tough with some dark days and difficult decisions but I’ve had A LOT of fun along the way. From end of year parties (nobody does it better than Watford) to ‘work’ weddings, ad hoc nights out breaking bread and sharing a drink with colleagues, my birthday parties (thank you), equality opportunity hen nights (my head hurts just thinking about that one), industry events and the almost predictable insane 3pm sugar overload in weekly project meetings: I’ve laughed and worked alongside the best of people. I’ve made incredible friends for life.
I’m so glad I made the jump and I’ve had the chance to experience so much over the last 15 years. Thank you for being part of my AAH/Quindell/Slater Gordon journey. It’s been epic. You’ve been great. I couldn’t have done it without you.