Connecting and protecting
Communications Director, Switch Digital
- In 1997 you attended the University of Aberdeen and studied for an MA Hons in Politics and International Relations. Can you tell us about your journey here and your decision to study this subject?
I was fascinated by both subjects from an early age and really wanted to learn more. Aberdeen was my first choice university as it has a brilliant international relations unit. The course also involved post-soviet security studies, an area and region that really interested me. I absolutely loved my time at university and really feel that the skills I learnt on my course set me up with strong building blocks throughout my whole career.
- As a student, you worked in a number of seasonal roles during the summers in Jersey. What attracted you to these roles that ultimately led to you accepting the job of Events Manager at The Grand Jersey?
In my summer holidays, I came to Jersey and worked in a number of seasonal roles. When I graduated I came back for my “one last summer” and the Grand Hotel offered me an Events Manager position. At the time, I wanted to work for an international organisation that coordinated events or aid projects in areas of conflict. They had told me I needed to get more events experience, so when this role came up it seemed like a great opportunity. Very quickly I fell in love with The Grand and knew I wanted to live in Jersey.
- What led to your decision to move to a marketing role and RBS International 5 years later?
Whilst at The Grand, I worked for nine months on a project which culminated in us hosting a royal banquet for HRH Queen Elizabeth II. It was incredible to be part of something so momentous and work with so many different event partners - so I thought it was good to end on a high! Not long after, I was approached by RBS who told me they were recruiting in a number of areas. I went to meet them and recognised my skills were transferable, specifically in a marketing environment, so I made the leap.
- From banking back to hospitality and in May 2007 you took the role of Business Development Manager at The Grand Jersey. What gave you the momentum to move back to the Grand?
The Grand had just been bought by a venture capitalist company called Delancey, who had huge ambitions to restore the hotel to its former glory. Throughout my time at RBS I had developed my understanding of the finance industry and finance market and had continued to develop my network and relationships in the local community. As part of their investment and business strategy, the Grand were looking for someone to develop their corporate business, and that of the other hotels in their portfolio in Jersey, the UK and mainland Europe. When I met the Managing Director of the hotel group, I was massively inspired and knew I would learn a lot working with them.
Reputation and trust are everything. It can take years to build trust and a moment to break.
- You then moved back to the RBS Business as Global Head of Engagement, Corporate Operations, could you describe the role and what it meant to You.
I had left the bank on really good terms and knew there were a lot of brilliant people there so when I heard about this new role at RBS, which was focused on communications and engagement my interest was piqued. The role was to be achieved by developing an understanding of the diverse audiences across the bank and then developing a communications strategy for delivery in the macro climate of the 2008 global banking crisis - what a challenge! We also had to develop and execute a plan to engage a global workforce with different communications styles and preferences - so not an easy task! I became part of a senior leadership team which was incredibly high performing and supportive. I learnt so much about culture and leadership in this role and the impact this can have on a business from a group of women who I am now proud to call my friends today.
I then went on a two-year secondment to RBS in the UK and worked for the Director of Corporate Banking as Global Head of Engagement for a business division of over 3,000 people, stretching from India to Edinburgh. What an experience! Again, I was fortunate to work with this authentic leader; they were hugely generous with their time, insights and mentorship and I learnt a great deal from them.
My last role at RBS was as Head of Communications for their offshore bank. In this position, I was able to put the leadership skills I had honed into play. Working with a talented and creative team to drive considerable change in communications and public relations was an absolute privilege. The media management and PR element of the role meant that I was involved in a number of incidents and was responsible for developing plans relating to global economic events such as Brexit. I was also fortunate to work with the new CEO of the bank in developing their strategy for the offshore business. We also had a lot of fun along the way with the NatWest Island Games being a particular team highlight.
- In 2016 you took a job with Appleby as their Global Head of Business Development and Communications where you remained for 6 years later becoming their Head of Operations. How do you compare working in the hospitality, banking and legal sectors?
It was exciting to immerse myself in a new industry and operate within the world of an equity partnership. I like to understand how businesses work and again, I learnt a lot about limited partnerships and the different industries that the legal industry advises. The business development element of the role was fast-paced and dynamic. Managing a team across three time zones had its own challenges and benefits, but meant moving to virtual communications during the pandemic was relatively straightforward.
Throughout my career, I have been involved with issues in crisis management, mostly involving reputation and media management. I truly believe that the relationship management skills you need in business development and marketing and understanding the behaviours of others are critical if you are going to be involved in crisis and issues management. Reputation and trust are everything. It can take years to build trust and a moment to break.
I want to be able to prioritise the things that matter; spending more time with my husband, my family in Scotland and my godchildren around the world.
- You now have your own communications business focussed on crisis management with focus on cyber crises, tell us about your interest in this field?
I have managed numerous incidents on behalf of a global corporate bank and a global offshore law firm and have worked as part of an incident team dealing with a large-scale, natural disaster. I was part of the incident team who managed one of the most prominent cyber crises experienced by the offshore legal industry and now work with other businesses to prepare and protect them in relation to cyber crises.
Since then, I have worked with a number of clients to develop cybersecurity scenario plans and communications and have provided crisis media handling coaching to business leaders, government officials and elected representatives.
In October 2021, I was appointed to support CERT JE, the Cyber Emergency Response Team for Jersey. I have most recently worked with the Head of CERT JE to develop and test the island’s cyber security plan in the event of a cyber emergency impacting critical national infrastructure.
More recently, I have worked with a number of large global organisations, based in several time zones, who are experiencing cyber events - providing strategic communications advice in distressed situations. Obviously I can’t really say much more!
It is amazing to be part of this industry and to be operating a business in this field, specifically in the current climate where cyber events are increasingly prevalent and have the potential to destabilise global corporations. I am also passionate about supporting leaders in the management of these incidents.
- You are also now a Communications Director at Switch Digital. What does your role involve and how does it utilise your varied experiences?
I have worked with Switch on and off as a client for over 16 years. Long story short, I wanted to set up my own communications business and I felt my values completely aligned with those at Switch, so it was naturally a great fit. I think the Managing Director at Switch has developed an incredible business with a fantastic client base and team and I was over the moon to join the business as a co-owner. To be part of an immensely talented team, delivering market leading work for international clients is a dream. My margarita making skills have also been warmly welcomed by the team!
- What is one thing you wish you had been told before embarking on your chosen career?
Coffee is your friend. In all seriousness; you can do anything, just not everything.
- What is your biggest ambition?
I have wanted to have my own business since I was little. Now I want to be a great leader and for everyone at Soteria and Switch to feel able to be themselves at work, so they can use their unique talents and skills to fulfil their potential. I also want them to be able to prioritise the things that matter to them. For me, it’s about spending more time with my husband, my family in Scotland and my godchildren around the world. I have also always wanted to write a book too, I just need to find the time!