International Women’s Day: Q&A with Joan McGarian

March 23, 2019

Frazer Jones is proud to be supporting International Women’s Day 2019. International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Whilst we all know that gender parity within the workplace has improved over the past decades, we all also know that there is still a long way to go.

We would like to join the discussion and be part of International Women’s Day 2019 #BalanceforBetter campaign on the 8th March by interviewing inspiring women we work with and, in particular, understanding the role confidence has played in their career.

Frazer Jones interviewed Joan McCarian, Head of People Operations, Future PLC

How do you define confidence, particularly in the workplace?

For me, confidence in the workplace is what we all strive to demonstrate, it conjures up the imagine of success, clear direction and inspiration. As an employee, the confidence of leaders above me can really make the difference in terms if gaining buy in and encouraging you to go the extra mile, confident leaders encourage an engaged team.

As an individual employee and a business representative, it’s important to demonstrate a level of confidence to ensure your team and the business feel adequately supported, confidence shouldn’t be confused with arrogance, confidence should allow you to manage expectations and find time to build your understanding or knowledge of a particular subject which should ultimately build trust.  

As a Manager, witnessing the confidence in your teams members grow is a great feeling. This may be a simple as a new starter finding the stride or the investment of your time and expertise in an employee’s development, to see them stepping up and progressing their own careers is something I will always value.

How much risk-taking contributed to your career development?

Personally, I believe my career to date has been the result of hard work, some good luck and a touch of risk taking, or more specifically holding my nerve!

I don’t remember when I made the decision to pursue a career in HR, but during secondary school I realised I wanted to work in a business type role and that eventually drilled down into being HR specifically focused. I studied management with HRM at Heriot Watt University before commencing a generalist HR career in the Oil and Gas, based in Aberdeen. During my 5 year career in Aberdeen, I completed my PGDip at Robert Gordon University, studying during evenings, I then gained my CIPD Chartered status. While in Aberdeen I built my foundation HR knowledge at Sparrows Group and Chevron Upstream Europe.

In 2014 I relocated to Bath, joining Future Publishing Ltd as a reasonably green HRBP, I hadn’t worked in Media before but I quickly realised HR issues are very similar regardless of industry – At the time, this felt like a huge risk for me as I had no real HR or Media network in the South West!

I joined Future at a reasonably turbulent time, we were working hard to transform the business into the growing success it is today. This meant that I was regularly exposed to pieces of work or challenges that I hadn’t dealt with previously. I was lucky enough to work with some great leaders who helped me grow my confidence and encouraged me to view the challenges as opportunities to grow my expertise. It’s been an incredible 4+ years at Future, my commercial knowledge and HR skill set has grown exponentially. On probably one hundred or more occasions, I’ve thought, this is too hard, it’s too busy, I can’t keep pace, I don’t know what I’m doing, people will see through me but probably the same number of times, I’ve been faced with tough situations and thought, I know how to deal with this, I know what the resolution is, these are the moments that make it worthwhile.

My advice to others would be to hold your nerve and work hard, learn all you can from your network and the people you admire. Don’t be afraid of the occasional wobble, it happens to us all.

Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome. If so, how do you overcome this?

My relationship with imposter syndrome is alive and kicking!  Probably once a fortnight, I think to myself, how did I get here, I’m not cut out to be responsible for these decisions, someone is going to figure me out really soon!  

Until recently, I thought I was the only person who felt like this, but during a recent conversation, several female colleagues confessed to feeling the same way, interestingly, the men involved in that discussion did not admit to have experienced imposter syndrome. Balancing imposter syndrome with confidence is tough, it is an internal battle that I always hope confidence will win. When I doubt myself, it’s a case of focusing on what I do know, what’s gone well and how far I’ve come. As I strive to progress my career, I’m in little doubt that imposter syndrome will never fully leave, but my recommendation is to focus on your strengths rather than your weaknesses, mistakes and failures will happen and that’s ok, learn from these, don’t let them define you.