This is Lesley Jay and she is the new Finance Director at Here. In this video, Lesley talks about how her early years influences her working career, from corporate to social enterprise advocate.

Empowering Influences

The first really significant experience I had that shaped who I am today was one that happens almost unconsciously. I went to an all girls school and my head teacher was Dr Jeanette Figures, who was a real feminist, really strongly a feminist and really wanted to empower all the girls in her school. And she used to do this assembly every day where it would be about how powerful women were and nothing should get in their way from achieving their goals. And tell us about other empowering women who had reached that peaks of their careers.

And, you know, when you’re 13 to 16, you kind of get fed up with it, there’s a lot of eye rolling and it drifts over your head.

But a lot of it actually sunk in. And I didn’t realize how much until I found myself in environments later on in my career, typically in banking, working in London, where I was the only girl or I was a girl in a very male dominated environment. And I felt that she had given me the steel within me to think, OK, I have a right to be here, I have a right to be heard, and almost make a double effort to make sure that I was visible and not just the girl in the room. So she really empowered me in a way that I didn’t even realize at the time.

Mentoring and being mentored

When I worked for one of the major investment banks, one of my tasks was to attend a meeting on some possible outsourcing that they were going to do, and that quickly led to me going out to India for pretty much a year to set up an office over there. And I’d never been to India before. What I really didn’t expect to happen to me was the impact of seeing how you could affect people’s lives when you hired them and how that you weren’t just impacting that one person’s life, you’re also impacting their direct family and their broader family, because that was the culture.

And just to see those people blossom was one of the most rewarding experiences I had as a mentor, particularly when you recognise in someone the qualities which you had when you started. And you realise actually I’ve had a lot of really good mentors in my career and I want to give that back. It feels like a continuous cycle – you need to do that because you’ve been so lucky. And if you can offer that to someone, it’s really, really important.

I didn’t realize when I offered to do it, but when I had three months off last year, the thing that I was naturally drawn to was following my children to school and offering my services at the school to see if I could help. And one of the biggest ways that I felt I could help was not necessarily directly helping my my own children, but helping the classes they were within. Because if you could raise the reading level of the whole class, then the whole class would progress much more quickly.

But it was about engaging them with the right books, so they went from learning the phonics of how to pronounce words to then moving on to choosing books that they really enjoyed themselves. And it was just lovely to see that transition and really rewarding to see the progress was so quick with children. They’re like sponges.



I’d been working up in London for years, having a great time with my friends, dependent free, and I’d been to India, which is a great experience. I remember, I was flying back from Mumbai when my sister went into labor with her twins, Alex and Imogene. And, you know, I went to see them and were amazing. And I remember thinking, this is what I want. I’ve had a fantastic life up to now. I’ve really pushed my limits on everything that I wanted to do. And now I want to actually put my time into a family.

I met my husband about two years later and we got married and I moved down to Cornwall, which felt like I was going on holiday for the rest of my life and had my first experience of working for a social enterprise which was so different from the corporate world I’d experienced before.

What was important wasn’t the money. Which is weird when you’re an accountant. The stewardship of the money is very important, but making money isn’t, and what’s really important is the purpose of the company and how we achieve that. I loved my years there and I gave it up when I became pregnant with my first daughter and then pregnant with my son. And then we moved back to West Sussex to be closer to family. So again, family was the key driver in my decision making.

And then I started to think about, OK, what kind of organization do I want to work for? And I realized it wasn’t financial services anymore. I wanted it to be real, something that mattered to me, something that I could relate to. This job popped up, which was the first social enterprise job that I’d seen advertised. And it was very strange walking into a world that wasn’t corporate. But the more I find out about Here, it’s like unravelling an onion. It’s a delight every day that I find something else new about how the company works and operates. Some of it blows my mind. The fact that we everyone brings their whole self to work, I absolutely love that and I think that’s so important.

Future hopes

My hopes for Here. Obviously, it’s an amazing time to join. It’s quite a scary time to join. We’re just coming through a pandemic which directly affects our services. I see it is a fantastic opportunity for change, which here is really good at. And I think we have a lot to offer the healthcare system. And what I hope I can bring to it is my experience of commercialism and make sure we don’t go down that route too far. But also have that knowledge in the background of how we might operate things even more efficiently than we’re doing already.

I hope I can continue this work life balance. So I feel like I’ve found my home really here.

tagged in Enabling Team

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