“She believed she could, so she did” – Emily Handstock

In this blog, #YesSheCan talk to Emily Handstock, a Sales Manager at Mekatek Ltd. Emily shares her career journey and overcoming barriers which led her to become the confident and passionate person she is today.
I am a 25-year-old from Wales who is currently working for a waste management company! I started working when I was about 13/14 doing odd jobs but got my first big break when I started working part-time at Lush Cosmetics.
The whole management team was female and it was very empowering to be around so many women Gemma the store manager really helped shape me and gave me the confidence that I carry with me to his day. I then went to university and had graduate jobs but now I am building my life and my career in the waste industry.
 
I love my job because although there are similar themes no two days are ever the same. As the sales manager, it is my job to liaise with current clients, find and bring new ones to the business and develop my sales team. It’s a very fast-paced industry with lots of opportunities to expand.
 
I did Geology at A level which ties in well with the waste industry and have a genuine interest in how I can help recycle items and reduce the amount of waste that we produce as a country. Finding innovative new ways to handle waste and reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill.
In terms of facing challenges to get to where I am now – absolutely, it was a lot of hard work on my part. I had been working in jobs that weren’t very fulfilling and didn’t give me the support that my current management team gives me today. I just had to keep going and remind myself that I was working towards a bigger goal and that these roles were just stepping stones to my career.
I also had a lot of self-doubt when I was applying to roles, I would look at jobs on Indeed and think I didn’t have all of the qualities that they are listing on the advert so I wouldn’t be the right fit, but then I remembered seeing an article that said women are less likely to apply for jobs because they don’t tick 100% of the boxes then their male counterparts, even if they have the same skills.
At that point, I started applying for roles that could tick 75% of the boxes with the confidence that what I was missing I could learn or train myself on.
 
I have always been a very motivated individual and have been determined to succeed,I want to make a name for myself within the industry. I like the idea of being one of the people who are driving change within the industry, making amendments to the way we handle our waste to ensure we are recycling and reusing as much as possible to protect our planet.
 
I really enjoy bringing a different perspective to the role and showing that women are just as competent in this role as men. I also want to encourage women into this industry too. It sounds dirty and smelly when you say ‘waste’ but it is actually one of our fastest growing industries with so many opportunities for development. It’s also all about invention and sustainability as we look for better ways to handle our waste.
 
Reflecting on my biggest achievements in life so far… I am a carer, my brother has complex needs and I have been a carer for him for many years. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I left university to care for him and my sister while completing my degree at home.
It was a very difficult time and balancing my educational needs and my family’s needs during a pandemic was very difficult but we all got through it in the end, I graduated from university and my family was safe too.
 
In the majority of my jobs with the exception of Lush, I have always been in male dominated careers. In previous roles like when I was an Assistant Manager for Enterprise Rent-A-Car, I constantly had customers looking past me to my male colleagues when they wanted to speak to a manager because they felt like they weren’t dealing with the right person, even though I was their superior. There were also the looks of disbelief when I would say I was the manager so I would almost have to prove myself to the customer and to my colleagues that I was worthy of the role.

 

Outside of work, I really love gardening, reading and cross stitch and just generally walking! I think it’s so important for your mental health. I was lucky enough to go to the Chelsea Flower Show this year and that was exceptional!

 

The three tips I would give to young women starting their careers are:
  • It’s easier said than done but take up space! Your ideas are valuable and your voice deserves to be heard! You have been hired into that role for a reason and you deserve to be there, do your best to ignore the imposter syndrome and smash that role.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help, from older women in your team or other women in your industry. I would recommend LinkedIn or networking events to meet other women in business, it can be nice to feel you are not alone.
  • Believe in yourself. ‘She believed she could so she did’ are wise words to live by.
The best bit of advice I’ve been given was when I was in high school I had an amazing geology teacher who really believed in me, especially when I was lacking in confidence and believed in myself.
He really pushed me to achieve the best grades in all my subjects, not just geology. And I will never forget on my GCSE results day when I collected my envelope he told me ‘that I should be really proud of myself and that I had worked so hard and I deserved everything I had achieved/’

 

A woman who has impacted my life, an obvious one but still very important, is my mum. They are the generation that paved the way for us and my Mum has always made sure that I believed I could do anything I set my mind to.

 

Do I think enough is being done by businesses to address gender imbalance? In a word – no. I still think there is work to be done to make it an equal place for all genders, men included. Diverse teams drive innovation, enhance decision-making, and improve financial performance. The journey towards gender balance starts with a commitment from the top. Leaders must set clear diversity goals, monitor progress, and hold themselves accountable.
Female leaders should be promoted and supported as role models, as their success stories can inspire and mentor other women within the organisation. Offering leadership and skill development programs specifically designed for women can help them advance in their careers. I have experienced this mentorship in a few roles and I find it to be very effective, especially if the mentor isn’t directly in your department as it can be a great way to help if you are experiencing issues directly within the team.
If the relationship between mentor and mentee is well established it can also help quickly deal with any harassment/inappropriate behaviour within the company that the new employee could experience.
Establishing mentorship and sponsorship programs where experienced employees guide and advocate for the career advancement of female colleagues is vital. Facilitating and encouraging participation in professional networks and associations for women can also make a significant difference.
Publicly reporting on gender diversity metrics and progress towards achieving gender balance goals is essential for transparency and accountability. Creating channels for employees to provide feedback on diversity initiatives and suggest improvements can help refine these efforts.
Offering on-site childcare facilities or subsidies can help employees manage work and family responsibilities. Promoting programs that support the physical and mental health of employees, recognising that these can disproportionately affect women, is crucial.
 
I say to my 16-year-old self… that your GCSEs and A levels are really stressful and they are important, but your results will never hold you back from what you want to achieve. Although you are by no means the brightest in your friend group, you are one of the most hard-working and that drive will take you everywhere you need to go.
It won’t always be easy but in less than 10 years you will be the sales manager at one of the most rapidly expanding waste businesses in Wales. You will be trusted by senior management to take chances, and despite your age and gender, you will be well respected and valued.

 

For more inspirational Role Model stories like Emily’s, take a look at our blog!

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