In this blog, we speak to Maria Marlow, who has a successful career in HR for SMP Europe. She talks us through her career, her inspiration and how she overcame the challenges she faced.
Can you tell us a bit about you and your career?
I started training as a hairdresser when I left school and hated it, it just wasn’t the career for me. I then trained in Administration and went on to progress through the ranks until I achieved Office Manager. HR was something that fell into my lap.
A typical day in your career:
No day is the same, it is so varied that I can be dealing with recruitment, personal issues, disciplinary, training. I am lucky in the way that I can have such variety in my day to day work, this certainly alleviates any chance of boredom.
What made you choose this career/industry?
I fell into HR; it was something that didn’t happen while I was working in a small family run business and I decided that I was going to ensure that this was covered off.
How did you get to where you are now, and did you face any challenges along the way?
I had my Daughter at 19 and went on to marry my childhood sweetheart, who sadly turned into a bit of a rogue… It is at this time I loaded myself and my daughter up in the car, with what possessions I could get together and we left. I turned up on the door of a friend in Nottingham, having left him in Manchester.
It is at this time I loaded myself and my daughter up in the car, with what possessions I could get together and we left.
This is where my HR career took off, I found a job as an Office Manager and found my calling in HR.
During this time, I was studying on an evening to gain my qualifications, while looking after my daughter, working full time and, going through a very nasty divorce.
Can you tell us more about how you overcame those setbacks?
I pushed through my setbacks/challenges by staying focused and determined.
What is an important initiative that you feel passionate about in your role?
Communication, communication and more communication!
What do you think gave you the drive and determination to succeed?
Me, my daughter and the fact that I wanted to be something more than a ‘young divorced female who is a static’ and I didn’t want to be a victim of him.
What’s great about being a female in your role?
Manufacturing / Engineering is a very male-dominated environment and I think being a female (now a mature female) gives you the advantage of being someone that people can turn to and trust that you will help them – people are less likely to turn to a man for a ‘shoulder to cry on’ -in my experience.
What is your biggest achievement in life?
As above, working full time, raising my daughter and studying for my CIPD Level 5 plus various other qualifications.
What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt along the way?
Don’t give up, trust yourself and push through the bad patches.
Have you ever felt that your gender has brought unnecessary challenges to your career?
Yes, being in HR I have been witness to various sexist and derogatory comments about females.
Outside your work, what are your favourite hobbies and pastimes?
Walking, cooking and travelling!
Do you have a mantra you live your life by?
What three tips would you give to young females starting their careers?
Don’t give up. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t and remove any negativity – people, jobs EVERYTHING.
What is the best bit of advice that you have ever been given?
Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?
My Granny, she was a Magistrate, a farmer and was very independent – she was a fantastic lady.
What are your key motivators?
I want to be happy and be able to do the things in life that I have been looking forward to. I am not the kind of person to sit around and do nothing, so I am constantly setting myself new targets.
Do you think enough is being done by businesses to address gender imbalance?
Honestly, no. I think most of it is lip service by senior management on the hope that the issue will be swept under the carpet.
What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?
Being allowed to show that they are as equal to men, it is purely down to the ‘stigma’ of being a woman that stops this and once this stigma is gone there is no issue. It is getting rid of this that is the problem, the image of ‘little lady at home’ needs to be made extinct.
What advice do you have for women aiming for leadership positions?
Be strong, believe in yourself. There is a role out there for you and you will find it.
What’s one key leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?
Be honest, open and approachable and don’t be tempted to ‘gossip’.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
What would you say to your 16-year-old self?
Leave him earlier, don’t marry him and start working in HR earlier. Enjoy my life and don’t spend time worrying about the inevitable.