Jade Woodward – women in a man’s world.

In this blog, #YesSheCan got the chance to have a chat with Jade Woodward, Contracts Director at Grafton Group PLC. Discussing her career, her inspiration and breaking into a male-dominated work environment.

Tell us a bit about your current role

My current role as Contracts Director is to take overall responsibility for the Partnering function within Buildbase, alongside our Sales Director.

Our main function as ‘Partnering’, as we are known internally within the business, is to create supply chain partnerships with public sector clients, enabling them to procure construction materials via our merchant brands.

I am ultimately responsible for the central team/back-office functions (bidding, reporting, estimating etc), and for ensuring our current customer base are happy with us, via our team of account managers.

Give us an idea of how your normal day pans out (day in the life of …..)

My day starts with a 6.30 am alarm, and then a struggle to wake up (I am the worst morning person!). Wake my son at 7, followed by the daily exhaustive fight of trying to get him to do the mornings basic routine tasks that he seemingly forgets about EVERY MORNING!

Once the 7.45 am breakfast club drop off is done, I’m usually in the car for a couple of hours, catching up on calls and making sure I’m mentally prepared for the day’s known activities.

I may try listening to an audiobook on my journey about ‘why mummy swears’ or ‘the chimp paradox’ (I recommend both for differing reasons). From that point, there is no ‘normal’ day – anything can happen!

Brainstorming new business proposals, reviewing current customer solutions, building relationships with key stakeholders, planning for contract implementations, problem-solving, and just generally being on hand to support anyone in the team.

How did you get to the position you are now?

Initially, by gaining a whole load of knowledge in the business. Our department isn’t a very straight forward one – we need to cater to various customer requirements, and manage multiple supply chain options, including transport, properties, and IT solutions. Once I’d gained the knowledge, I then needed to prove myself as a manager and a leader. I put myself forward as ‘interested in progression’ with my line manager and am very lucky that the business recognised something in me, and thereafter put me through a whole host of training and development courses.

Why did you choose the industry that you are in?

I didn’t really…I had 3 job offers on the same day, after a couple of weeks back to back interviews…One was for a retail merchandiser, one was to work for Sega, and then one in Buildbase Marketing. At the time I didn’t drive, and Buildbase was within cycling distance for me. I’d worked in retail before (never again), and I knew nothing about Sonic the Hedgehog…so Marketing it was! And I’m so glad it was – I loved it!! The team were great fun and my manager was so supportive.

What qualifications (if any) helped you to get where you are?

I do not have any qualifications, apart from my GCSEs…I got to where I am through hard work, determination and just generally gaining life and work experience.

What would you say to your 16-year-old self now?

Probably a few things…

  • ”Life is full of ups and downs, but everything will work out ok in the end.”
  • “Spend more time with your family – one day you’ll miss it more than you know”
  • “Your parents are the most important people in your life. Listen to them, learn from them, and love them always”
  • “Sambuca is soon going to pretend to be your friend – don’t trust it!”

What do you think we need to do to break down barriers in the workplace?

We need to be open and honest with our managers, and as leaders, we need to give our team the platform to feel they can be. Give people the platform to express their barriers, and only then can we collectively break them down.

Why is “yes she can” important to you?

It’s great to see posts on the YesSheCan social media pages, about so many other successful females – having a platform to showcase the talent out there is amazing.

Do you think government quotas are a good thing around diversity?

I’m in two minds – I think it is great that there is finally a focus around equality and the improvements that diversity can have to businesses. On the other hand, it is a shame that diversity has to be ‘forced’. In some cases it can make people feel like they’re in their roles, just to bring up numbers – when imposter syndrome kicks in, I do occasionally feel like this. Deep down, I know I’m where I am because of the commitment and experience I have, but as a successful female, you can’t help but feel this way sometimes.

What do you say to your male colleagues about equality?

Equality is super important in all aspects of life. I believe that no one should be held back from opportunities, regardless of race, gender, sexuality or any other area of diversity. I do however also believe that those who show dedication and commitment will shine through.

I don’t really need to say anything to colleagues about equality – We don’t tend to talk about it, as it’s not having a negative impact on what we do as a team. Our team is 90% male, and all of them are great…as are the females.

Who are your inspirations?

I would have to say, my nan. When I was young, me, my younger brother, and my mum, lived with her and my Gramps. She looked after us while mum was working at the local pub, so involved most weekends and evenings/nights. I never remember her getting angry or appearing stressed out, and she never stopped to sit down. She did this whilst holding down a full-time job, and looking after the family home. They were a typical couple for the times – Gramps would be out at his local bowls club every day, while nan was at home cleaning and cooking, walking the dog, and looking after us, etc. I, however, am knackered every day, with just the 1 child to look after, and a partner who is an amazing house-husband (plus I am 30 years younger now than my nan was back then) – I have NO IDEA how she did it all. She is the real-life Wonderwoman!

What three tips would you give to young females starting their careers?

1 – Never expect things to be handed to you on a plate – learn, be committed, and always get stuck in.

2 – If you want something bad enough, speak louder – don’t let yourself be ignored

3 – Do not get dragged into the negative thoughts of those around you, as it will only bring you down and stop you being your best

What are your proudest achievements?

Watching my son grow up into a kind, caring, and all-round beautiful little boy. Setting up the perfect home for me and my little family. Achieving my black belt in kickboxing when I was a teen. Being promoted into a Directors role (particularly as a female, in a hugely male-dominated sector) at the age of 31. Seeing our department go from strength to strength, throughout the last 14 years.

What has been your biggest knockback?

My biggest knockback has probably been when I put my name forward previously, for what is now my current job, but didn’t get it. At the time, I’m not going to lie, I was a little hurt – after all the years of dedication I’d put in, and the knowledge I had, it wasn’t a nice feeling…Looking back on that now however, it was absolutely the right choice. Those extra couple of years, working alongside my then line manager, I learnt a lot, particularly on a leadership front, which I believe is what I personally needed to get me to where I am now.

How do you maintain a work-life balance?

This is an emotional one for me to answer and is something I’m working on. I am not someone who can ignore an email in an evening, or just ‘leave work at work’. I am that person who thinks about work, while sat eating dinner with my family. This is my own personal battle, which I am still working on improving. Saying this, however, weekends are family time and given a lesser number of emails come through then, I’m not as distracted from the game that my son is so desperately wanting to play.

What are your key motivators?

My son. That’s a cliché, but he is the main reason I want to succeed – to show him how hard work pays off, and that you will only get something if you try your best.

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