Baroness Karren Brady speaks at Sevenoaks School
Sevenoaks School welcomed Baroness Karren Brady to the school on the evening of Monday 24 April to talk about her career, being a woman in business and advice for young people starting out in the workplace.
Karren spoke about the importance of knowing your core values, having integrity and striving to be the best person you can be. She also talked about the importance of equality in the workplace, and how passionate she is about having women in senior positions in all companies.
Karren talked about her experience, starting out as a female director at Birmingham City F.C., at the age of 23, she said she faced challenges and prejudices in the very male-orientated world of football. Karren commented on how these equality barriers have been broken down over the last 20 years, with women under 40 now earning more than men under 40, and a female board director on all of the FTSE Top 100 companies.
As part of her mentoring business, Karren advises women on how to reach the top and when speaking at Sevenoaks School, she encouraged all the students to believe in their abilities and to not reduce their standards or principles to get to where they want to be. She also commented that equality is no longer about women in the workplace – it’s about all sectors of society, with a recent report citing that young white men under the age of 25 are actually the most vulnerable now. Karren is also an ambassador for apprenticeships, and is a passionate believer in getting work experience at a young age. During her talk she said that the employer’s job description should be the “absolute minimum you should do, not the maximum”, and that young enthusiastic, hungry and able young people are what every employer is looking for.
Failure was something that Karren also spoke about – “having the ability and confidence to get back up, and try again instead of crawling under a rock!” will determine one’s success, and parents should let their children fail to help them ultimately learn from their mistakes.
Karren spoke about the decisions she makes and has made in her career, telling students to always “go with your gut instinct”. She talked about events and opportunities that she has encountered in her career, and how her instinct has nearly always been right.
Karren was an inspiration for the students who attended the talk, and expressed her opinion that being successful in business is not about brains – it’s about personality, principles and the fact that “people do business with people”.
On a final note, Karren reminded the audience that her motto (and from her experience with Alan Sugar) is to try and be better than the day before. She said that both her and Alan are extremely passionate about what they do and they love their jobs, so every day it is a pleasure to come to work. Her advice is that if you find something you love doing, and you can make a career out of it, that’s a very valuable thing. She finished the talk by advising the audience that “what’s important about life is not where you start but where you finish!”.
Sevenoaks School and Entrepreneurship
Karren’s talk is part of a more extensive entrepreneurship programme that Sevenoaks School runs. The school has recently launched a new Institute of Service and Entrepreneurship, and has appointed Julie Redding (a former entrepreneur from South America) as the Head of Entrepreneurship.
Julie Redding commented that “Sevenoaks School has a strong focus on the Volunteering Services Unit (VSU) and charity fundraising, as well as allowing students to run student led initiatives which gives them the opportunity to develop many of the skills related to entrepreneurship and business. My role is to provide students with opportunities and learning experiences to enhance their entrepreneurial skills and business mindset”.
The majority of the subject, Design and Technology, is focused around this area – students work through product development, prototyping, design cycle model, product cycle model, lifecycle analysis and commercial viability.
The school now runs The Sevenoaks Student Consultancy VSU programme, where students work on real life business problems for local organisations, and make a proposition in response to their client’s brief. Their response is then presented to the management team in a professional presentation giving students experience and exposure to what it is like to work as a consultant.
The school is also raising awareness of entrepreneurship through contact with guest speakers, taking students to learn about jobs and industries on a series of ‘insight days’, and conducting workshops on subjects such as ideation and product development. The school also recently launched and ran its first ever Business Plan Competition, where students produced business plans and pitched to an esteemed panel of high profile entrepreneurs including Dhiraj Mukherjee, the founder of Shazam, and the finalists spent the day at the Microsoft Business Accelerator offices in London.