Georgia Wilson shared her story and insights at GrowCFO’s International Women’s Day 2022 event. Below is a lightly edited transcript from the event.
Hi Georgia. We’re so pleased to have you speak at this event today. Can you tell us a bit about your background?
Hello everyone. I am Georgia Wilson. I am the Group CFO for a new scale-up called Together Group. I started only in October so I’m new to the role. It’s a pleasure to spend International Women’s Day with you.
My story focuses on the caring responsibilities that women face, whether it is for children, ageing parents, pets, friends, or extended family. Somehow caring falls into our lap, whether we are mothers or not. And we are meant to juggle that with being professionals.
After all, it’s a profession. This conversation is among professionals. So we are here putting our best face on. But some of us are panicking because of certain life chapters that just must happen, whether we want them to happen or not.
One year before Covid-19: balancing life and work goals
Putting myself back into 2019, one year before COVID came, I had a goal. My goal then was to be really visible at work and also be really visible at home.
I remember I had three objectives for the year. I had two bosses, and they’re both in different parts of the business, so I was making sure that I was supporting both of them without playing favourites, as well as supporting my son, at the time age nine, through the 11 Plus exam.
I really was not sure how it was all going to happen. I got some professional coaching to talk through how it was going to happen because society kind of tells us it’s either the children or the work, but to do huge goals all at once is perhaps impossible.
In that year, I was new in my role at the time as Head of Finance at Global Switch. In that same year, Dan at GrowCFO approached me and said, ‘I’m launching GrowCFO, do you want to be a part it?’ I thought of course, yes. So I joined that as well. All was going well, until it was getting closer to the exams and I thought, maybe I need to prioritise.
How am I really going to do this? You know what, it’d be great to be a CFO, but chances are I’m maybe five years away from that anyway. So perhaps I’ll pause on that, I’ll carry on doing a great job in my day job, or at least working towards that, and I’ll support my son. It was a hard decision because somehow you think if you pause, you kind of look like you’re not serious.
But I was open with Dan. I said, this is my predicament. I’ll pause on GrowCFO, but I will be back. I paused for about nine months or so. But we didn’t know that the biggest challenge of our lives was coming, and that challenge was Covid.
Life interrupted: readjusting at the start of Covid-19
I thought I had a plan now: how to sort out my job, how to support my son. But we rolled straight into Covid and our school went bust and collapsed. I had no school. For me, it meant ‘well forget about 11 Plus and getting into senior school because my son has special needs. He may be bright but he needs a lot of support and without a school, and working remotely at home fully…’
When we first began working from home, I felt as if I just wanted to get up and talk to a colleague, but I couldn’t. So you’re putting a meeting in the diary to discuss something that you would quickly close off by the water fountain or something over coffee. So much time was going into readjusting deadlines, supporting my team, finding out who was alive and getting through COVID, psychologically and everything else.
Launching a virtual school in the evenings
And no one at work knew, but my school had collapsed. I had no school and a child to get through exams. So what do I do? What do I do? I spoke to a friend who had shared an inspirational story that she wanted to start a school. And I went back to her and I said, ‘here is my scenario. And this means this is the scenario for all the parents in that school.’ And she said, ‘maybe there’s a gap in the market for virtual school.’ I said, ‘How about that? How about there is a gap in the market for virtual school.’
And so together on evenings, we set up a virtual school. Her job was to organise the school structure. She’s a teacher and qualified. My job was to get bums on seats. Well, bums in the living room seats. So I called around friends and family I knew who are professionals who really don’t have much time and asked, ‘are you happy with your current provision? Are you looking for better? This is what we have on offer.’ We were able to pull twenty-two children online into the year four, five and six combined class, about six children in reception and year one, and ten children into years two and three.
Whilst I’m busy with the homefront, what is going on with my job? Because I am also Head of Finance at Global Switch. Just at the time the school closed, the organisation decided to go through a massive transaction which required working on the weekend and all sorts.
“We are our best inspirations. We get it done.“
As women, we find that we have to juggle so much. And we have to keep encouraging ourselves. When I think back on what I went through March 2020 up to July 2020 when we first reopened, I would never imagine I’ll be sitting here now as a CFO, with a child who got through the exams, and got through some tough exams, with a school that’s going mainstream.
To cut a long story short, it works out. We are our best inspirations. When we know we need to deliver something, we get it done. And that’s what we bring into the workplace. That’s what we bring: that drive. There are no other options. What to do? Well, Zoom the parents, let them teach the child online and all the other things that we did, we collectively did that. And that’s why we’re here today.
Landing the CFO role
I remember I put GrowCFO on hold, and then suddenly it was a year on and we had passed exams and everything. I thought, let me just let them know that I’m checking back in. I’m back, thinking I’m just going to put my head down a little bit and catch up on all the things that had been left behind.
But Catherine and Dan saw something in me that I hadn’t even noticed. I was too busy sorting my family out and doing a good job of the day job. And suddenly they were saying, ‘don’t you think you’re ready to become a CFO?’ And whilst we were talking about that and I was adjusting to the idea, I got headhunted into my first role, which is at Together Group and I joined in October 2021.
Any final advice?
So what have I learned? I’ve learned that it is important to just take the journey as it comes. Put your best foot forward. There are others who will stand and fight for you. They’ll push you, they’ll support you, they’ll see that drive and ambition, they’ll see you doing everything possible. And they’ll want to be a part of that success. Keep going. Keep believing.
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