To inspire others on International Women’s Day, we caught up with one of our own leading ladies and Commercial Director, Anna Golden.
Balancing motherhood with being a board Director of a UK leading venue; Anna offers advice on how to succeed authentically and why ambition can be seen as a turn-off...
‘Tell us about your early years and how you took your first steps onto the career path
I really didn’t know what I wanted to do after school so I took a gap year and travelled around Australia and Thailand. Once I returned home and after strict instructions from my parents to ‘get a job or go to University’, I embarked on a 4 year degree course in International Hospitality Management, it was a broad course with a year abroad...so perfect!
After leaving University and having work experience in Australia and across Europe, I thought perhaps it would make sense to get a job in the UK for a year (or 18 months tops). I took a position as a graduate trainee with Forte Hotels primarily based at the Cumberland Hotel in Marble Arch. The camaraderie was fantastic, I started in Rooms Division and looked after the group bookings which were often in conjunction with the Conferences being held at the Hotel. That’s when I first got involved in the Events side of the business, and I loved it from the start. There were certainly a lot of late nights - but we partied pretty hard too.
What was your biggest motivator?
For me, what motivates me more than anything is doing the best job that I can. I have to be passionate and authentic about what I am doing, selling, and what the strategy is. All jobs at the beginning of your career can have their tricky side and like everyone there are days when you wish you were doing something else, maybe somewhere else, but on the whole I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
What’s your advice for others?
Whilst I was building my career, I realised I was becoming more ambitious for the business than for my own personal gain. It was more important to me to work hard and do well for a company and a job that I was passionate about. It wasn’t necessarily about reaching the top role within a company and I believe this is what’s driven me through my career – passion for a good job and great people.
Ambition is a good thing, but not always. My advice is to be ambitious within your role, do the very best you can and that way you’ll always succeed. If you set your sights on something much higher, then you are likely to lose focus on being the best you can be. Brilliance, passion, hard work and enthusiasm will always be recognised and stand you in good stead, whereas ambition can sometimes be misconstrued, misplaced and misunderstood.
Have you faced any challenges in your career, particularly working in the events industry?
Challenges, well life would be dull without them. In the events industry - challenges are the difference between it being good and being great. I think they definitely make us stronger people, and much better at our jobs or life in general.
Working for Olympia London at this time must be an incredibly exciting but busy environment, how do you achieve a work/life balance?
Having a good work to life balance with a family is always a challenge. You can feel guilty not being at home when your children return from nursery, school, exams or a sporting success or failure. You also feel guilty from being away from work when a difficult call comes through, a hard decision needs to be made or a member of your team has a problem. We’re going through a very exciting time having just received the green light for redevelopment plans and right now I’m trying to be available and present for everybody, which sometimes feels like a huge juggling act, but would I want it any other way? The answer would always be no.
What’s been your biggest achievement and best highlights of your career to date?
The single biggest personal challenge for me and the team has to be facilitating the closure of Earls Court. It felt like a second home to many of us, not just staff but organisers, contractors and suppliers too. There were some phenomenal memories wrapped up in the 77 year history of that building. However, it is challenges that make us stronger and our biggest achievement was definitely securing over 80% of the Earls Court business to come with us to Olympia London. The support of the industry was amazing, and it was heart-warming to see the reaction of exhibitors and visitors when their events moved and they first experienced this iconic and beautiful venue.
I’ve also been extraordinary lucky to have gained the respect of my peers in such a way that made me a natural choice for board director. This was certainly a real highlight of my career and something I’m still very proud to have achieved.
What advice would you give women in the industry who have been faced with inequality and are looking for new opportunities to grow and build a long term career?
Without knowing it women often find that we have a point to prove, its part of our make up to do the best we can. I genuinely believe that women have earned their right to take a seat at the table, women in the workplace has evolved so much in the last century and I for one feel we should celebrate how much we have achieved.
I personally have never experienced any inequality at work, but I am sure I am lucky in that respect. Olympia London has always been hugely supportive of me and all its staff. There is no discrimination, we work in an environment of inclusivity. Initiatives like flexible working hours are as important for everybody, not just Mum’s and Dad’s.
My advice when looking for growth in your career, is to be ambitious in the realm of what you’re doing now. Do the best you can and the opportunities will come knocking… and if all else fails… learn golf, apparently that’s where all good meetings happen.’