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Sue Anderson, MGC, 1978 Leaver

Malvern Alumnae 100 Sue Garrard

School taught me resilience. I joined MGC when I was fourteen and everyone had got all their friendships sorted, and that was very difficult. But the choices we had here were massive - clubs of every kind, which helped me find the things that I was good at. If these opportunities weren’t presented, I’d never have known what I loved, like music and drama.

Plans are difficult because they have a habit of going awry. I had planned to go to university, but at the last minute all of that changed. Instead, I ended up packing my trunk, checking in to a hostel in London and getting my first job at the Department of Energy.

I’ve never encountered a glass ceiling; I think that mentality leads you down a route that’s about being recruited because of your gender not because of your capability and experience. I think women can do whatever they want. I think we are limitless in our abilities and we are naturally much better collaborators. A woman has to choose what her priorities are, but that’s the challenge of life all the way through.

I’ve done various Communications roles, working in the Civil Service, in agency and most recently for Unilever plc. When I was working in the Department for Work and Pensions, there was a change in government. They wanted to cut the size of the civil service by half a million jobs; I had only been in post for five years and it’s cheaper to cut those who haven’t been there very long. I started to think of other options, where I could have some kind of positive impact. And then Unilever just landed in my lap: a company trying to be a responsible face of capitalism.

As Nelson Mandela said, ‘Everything seems impossible until it’s done’. If you really want to make a difference, it’s hard; and the easiest thing to do is to allow the barriers in your own mind to get in the way. But when you are absolutely determined that you are going to make a change, it is truly remarkable what you can achieve. What you can do on your own is tiny, but what you can achieve when you get everybody wanting the same thing is amazing.

What does success look like?

Success is proving both to yourself and to others who care about you that you are capable of so much more than you might have imagined. This is what inspires you, rather than money, job title or status. ‘Things’ ultimately bring only limited satisfaction.

What is your best piece of advice?

Work out what you are really good at, and what you love. And then align that with what you can get paid for, and what the world needs. These four things combined are the Japanese philiosophy called Ikigai and it is a simple, brilliant way of ensuring you live a life of meaning.