Kat Bell – A Career without Boundaries

Back in June 2000 3 days after my GCSE exams finished I started in British Gypsum’s Customer Service Team as an admin assistant where I quickly progressed and I became a supervisor by the age of 20. I was fortunate enough to be selected to work on a multi-million-pound Business project which gave me vast exposure to all areas of the business. Following a successful time on the project I was approached by central supply chain to take on a 12-month secondment. I succeeded in this role and quickly progressed my Supply Chain Career where I picked up transferrable skills which I could transfer into my Sales Roles at Artex where I have spent the last 7 years.

Some of my family members worked at British Gypsum which is one of the main reasons I chose to work there.

I always operated over and above what was expected of me and always had my eye on the next opportunity. One challenge I did have in the early days (I was 19) was when I wanted to explore a career in sales, at this time I was almost told it wasn’t a role for a woman, this did set me back at the time so I took a slightly different route but I’m exactly where I want to be now. It did take some time so persistence was key.

A typical day in my career usually consists of networking with both customers and colleagues, reviewing commercial opportunities and supporting the team.

Important initiatives I feel passionate about in my role is putting the customer first, striving to get the best result for the business, and always looking at new opportunities to progress my sales channels.

My drive and determination is a result from being told I couldn’t do something; from a very young age I’ve always liked to prove people wrong.

The great thing about being a female in this role is that in this industry people will often initially underestimate you, however once they get to know you, know your knowledge, your expertise, this changes.

In regard to gender imbalance in business I personally think that Saint Gobain are doing a lot to address this, in my business we are around 50/50 at senior management level.

My biggest achievement in life is that at 23 I relocated 180 miles on my own to progress my career, it was very daunting moving to an area where I didn’t have friends or immediate family around me but it was absolutely the best decision I could have ever made for my career.

The most important lesson I have learnt along that was is ‘Don’t expect anyone to progress your career for you, if you want it, go out and get it’. Ask yourself where you want to be in 5 years, 10 years etc. Always put yourself first and look after yourself physically and mentally, I wasn’t very good at this for the first 18/19 years of my career, and that’s probably why it has taken me a little longer to get to where I am now.

The mantra I would say I live by is ‘Work hard, so that you can play harder’.

The best bits of advice I have ever been given are ‘Focus on you and not everyone else, and take time to reflect, success doesn’t look like a straight line, you will hit hurdles along the way, and with this you will grow more relient, slow down and take your time and don’t take everything on yourself’.

My three tips for young females starting their careers would be:

  • Don’t doubt yourself
  • Reach out to those that have been on a similar career route
  • Remember – Women are better at multitasking 😉

A strategy that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations would be: ‘Don’t be afraid to speak up and don’t be afraid to make mistakes’.

My advice for women who are aiming for leadership positions would be to not doubt yourself, if you are good at your job, gender should not even come into it.

A key leadership lesson I have learnt in my journey is to try and get out of the detail and spend time developing your team, you can’t do everything and nor should you be expected to, again give yourself plenty of time to reflect.

A woman who has impacted my life is Linda Parsons, she encouraged me at a very early age, relocating to the midlands enabled me to progress my career across the Saint Gobain network. Where I live now is a completely different pace of life to where I was brought up.

Outside of work I’m a very sociable person, so anything with family and friends is a must for me. I’m pretty active, I’ve done a lot of walking in the peaks and lake district, in my younger days I played Gaelic Football & hockey in Nottingham.

To my 16 year old self I would say ‘You made the right decision and you should be extremely proud of everything you have achieved’.

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