Katie's journey with GEL Studios.

26 August 2022
Read time: 5 mins

Written by:
Katie Read.

Let's rewind to May 2001, I remember laying on my bed looking at the four walls covered in A4 paper, highlighted, bold text & bubble diagrams - this was it I was taking my GCSEs.

Those who know me, and every personality test I have taken throughout my career show me as a 'worrier'. Worrying I won't pass the test, worrying I have said the wrong thing, worrying about things that haven't even happened. So GCSEs for me were a hard time, I wasn't sleeping, I felt physically sick every day & I couldn't wait for them to be over.

What did I want to do when leaving school?

For as long as I remember I wanted to be a PE teacher. I was predicted top grades across all of my subjects and this was within my reach, I was 'expected' to go to college and university. In reality, I had no idea what I wanted to do - I couldn't face going through more exams when I hadn't even recovered from these and the thought of moving away from my family home gave me knots in my stomach! I had expectations I needed to live up to - I was at a crossroads.

I am an only child, and I am so fortunate to have the most amazing supportive parents. Their expectations were for me to be happy, this was the start of my adult life and no matter where you go in life you need to be happy. So, after many discussions I thought a break would be good to understand what I wanted to do so I applied for a call centre role at Nationwide Building Society. I had no expectations to receive a response as I hadn't even received my GCSE results at this point - but I had the call and they wanted to interview me.

I remember going in, a 16-year-old with bushy hair (pre-straightener days) & sweaty palms. I discovered during the interview this wasn't for a call centre but for an admin team for a product and it sounded really exciting. Fast forward a week and I got the call to say I got the job and I remember my starting salary like it was yesterday - £10,200! That was it, I had a full-time job, money to myself and independence - this was what was meant for me.

Fast forward and I spent 11 years of my life at Nationwide and loved every minute of it. I made amazing friends, lots of memories and worked my way up through so many exciting jobs. These included starting a team from scratch to launch a new product and my first experience of setting up and managing a team. Then onto a role that was made for me 'Occupational Health Advisor' talking to those on long-term sick, being there for them and supporting them in any way I could. Then being Kirsty Allsop as 'Relocation Adviser' nosing around all the properties on our books, helping them through their house move and organising everything for them. Then I moved to HR, where I progressed to a PA to the Director. This was it, all the hard work had paid off - I won't list everything I learned in this role as it was a massive learning experience which I will be forever grateful for.

But then in 2011, I fell pregnant and for anyone that knows me this was all I ever wanted. I felt everything so far was leading me to this moment. I went on to have three amazing children and after some much-needed time with them, I needed to get back into the wide world of working.

I started at GEL Studios in March 2017.

Having known Graeme since Infant School I knew this was going to be a job and team I would enjoy. I was more nervous about this interview than anything I had applied for previously. It was a small team, where I wasn't a number but a person and this was apparent from the minute I walked through the door. It was perfect, a part-time admin job where I could finish and leave everything at the door to go home and be Mummy.

Time evolved, the children started school, the team changed and I gradually transitioned from the part-time admin, through to Account Manager to full-time Client Director (with lots of different working patterns along the way). The team changed and our processes evolved but the support was always there. I was always a person and having that work-life balance was just as important to Graeme as it was to me.

Client Director though? How could someone with only GCSEs, baby brain (which never goes) and busy home life be a director of a successful company? I still have to pinch myself now, I have moments of doubt and moments where there are a million balls in the air and all I can think about is those balls dropping. But I am here because of me, because of my experiences and because of the three little people that look up to me. The management team have recently started a development programme and this has been a turning point for me. It has highlighted so many strengths we have across the team, and times when we should use those strengths from someone else to balance our own weaknesses. Reflect on how we deal with certain situations and always see the positive in every outcome. As a growing company, we as a management team are supporting each other, identifying each other's weaknesses and helping each other to achieve success.

I fell into a space where I didn't see the value I brought to the company - sometimes you just can't measure success in an admin role. I didn't feel I had the authority to make certain decisions, going outside of the process is always difficult. But I have learnt that in everything I do my 'gut feeling' is something I should always listen to. I am in a client-facing role and going with that gut feeling can sometimes make the difference. Going through my journey, I am more confident and I do have the power to believe in myself and the decisions I make.

I needed to be more business aware - financials and forecasting were something that always scared me - after all I didn't have a degree in this (or in anything :)) But I am getting there - and it is not as scary as I thought it would be. Over my five years with GEL, I have learned so much from project management and people management to understanding the importance of building something sustainable for the future.

Never stop learning, because life never stops teaching.

Anyone can achieve anything and this is something I always tell my children. Don't get me wrong trying hard at school and doing well in your exams is great - but it is not everything.

Experiences are invaluable whether that be experiences like my own, travelling experiences or personal experiences - they all make you who you are and add towards making a difference, which in turn makes for an awesome team and a successful company.

Written by:
Katie Read.

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