CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER, TALKTALK PLC
(Kate Ferry, MGC, 1991 leavers)
I credit MGC for much of my career success. Dr Valerie Payne was a real inspiration to me and to this day I often quote her as constantly reminding the MGC girls that we were capable of doing anything we wanted and that any job was open to us.
I always advise young people to study what they really enjoy. With good academic results under your belt you can go on to a career in any field. My passion was playing the clarinet, my favourite subjects were languages (I studied French and Spanish at Durham after leaving MGC) yet my first job was with the accountancy firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers where I qualified as a Chartered Accountant, quite different from my degree.
I left the audit practice of PWC almost immediately after qualifying, and my path to CFO was not the most traditional. I spent 12 years working in the City within Equity Research, ten of those as a Director of Merrill Lynch. Prior to joining TalkTalk I was Corporate Affairs Director of DixonsCarphone, part of the Executive team that oversaw the merger of the UK’s largest electricals retailer and the UKs largest mobile phone retailer.
I am now Group CFO of TalkTalk plc, without doubt the most rewarding (and challenging) job I have done to date. TalkTalk is the UK’s leading value for money connectivity provider – ‘broadband for everyone’ as we say in our advertising campaigns – with around 4m customers accessing the internet through us.
As a Board member of a listed company I have a responsibility to help more women reach senior roles, particularly in Finance (only 6% of FTSE 250 CFOs are women). I am not a fan of some of the recent public initiatives, for example quota, which if we are not careful will make women feel that they only got to the top because they had an unfair advantage. The way to encourage more women to fulfil their potential is to give them the support network they need, particularly once they have a family. To me this means giving both men and women flexibility so that modern working couples can both work full-time and raise a family – not always easy but very possible if both share the responsibility equally with full support from the company they work for.
Corporate responsibility is also critical in my role and, alongside the executive team, I spend a lot of time thinking about such issues as making the internet safer for our children.
When not at TalkTalk I spend time with my three young children. I also love to travel so I still use my languages (and continue to play the clarinet when I have time). I also sit on the Board of Heads Together, the mental health charity supported by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.
What is success?
Feeling extremely proud of what you do and - even more important - enjoying what you do!
It may sound like a cliché but be true to yourself and be authentic. You will always be more successful ‘being you’ rather than trying to be something you are not.