Written by: Mica on December 18, 2020
Whilst the pandemic highlighted some of the widening inequalities within society relating to gender and ethnicity, the reigniting of movements like Black Lives Matter has also placed equality firmly centre stage this year. Take a look at this Tweet thread for some feel-good feminist moments.
2020 has provided us with many opportunities for learning and growth. We’ve all had to be more resilient than ever before, we’ve had to show compassion and care for those around us and most of all, we’ve had to be seriously innovative, in order to continue to thrive.
We asked the team to reflect on the year personally and how it’s been working at InnovateHer.
1st January 2020 was the day that I decided to write down my NYE resolutions. Like most people, I think of a few every year. They usually have something to do with dieting or being tidier, but this was the year that I wanted them to count. I had just come out of a difficult workplace – my confidence was low and my anxiety was high. ‘Get a meaningful job’ I jotted down, with a sense of dread in my belly that only a job seeker can understand.
I’m a proud Mancunian, but my scouse partner was desperate to move back to Liverpool. Regardless of football teams, for the past seven years that we have been together, I’ve actually grown very fond of the city – this could be the new start I needed, I thought.
‘Digital Marketing Executive’ the job ad said.
‘To help girls…’
Fast forward to my interview with the InnovateHer gang, I was taken aback by how relaxed I felt. We chatted about everything from gammy feet (I know!) funny memes, our hopes and goals. Afterwards, I remember walking to the train station with adrenaline running through my veins. About to burst with excitement, I rang my little brother. As I was relaying to him how it went I realised just how much I wanted to be a part of this movement.
After a screaming phone call and a contract, I was in the iHer office starting my first day. I’ll never forget the little gifts they laid out for me, and the handwritten welcome sign on the whiteboard – I had found my people!
A month after I started, a global pandemic hit. Like everyone else, I had to adapt to a new way of living. No leaving the house. No seeing my family. Cancelled holidays. It sucked, right? However, as I am writing this 2020 reflection, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. InnovateHer has not only been my source of income and fuel for my ASOS addiction, but it has also been one constant and positive thing in my life this year.
I may not be able to hit the shisha pipes at Concert Square, and things may still be far from normal, but I do have four inspirational women in my life that are always there on the other side of Zoom. And for that, I am grateful.
If someone had asked me to describe 2020 as a word I would have said something like “Disaster”.
This year has been a disaster, due to the heartache and challenges it’s brought to so many people across the world. Nobody expected there to be a global pandemic this year and as a leader, I didn’t expect to have had to deal with that, whilst steering the InnovateHer ship with Jo.
I’ve been reflecting a lot on the year over the past few weeks, trying to summarise what has happened. Whilst doing this exercise I couldn’t believe everything that had occurred. Personally, I bought my first home, adopted the cutest little dog (that helped me so much in lockdown), learnt to drive again, faced heartache at home when family members got sick, turned 30… the list of milestones goes on!
Meanwhile, InnovateHer went through rapid change; we had to make 2 redundancies earlier in the year, we designed and launched our online programmes in a matter of weeks to continue to support our communities, we built an amazing new board, lost many funding bids and won some too. We cried we laughed, we didn’t sleep, but here we are… we made it through!
If this year has taught me anything, it’s that you grow when you face challenges. People have shown so much strength and resilience, sometimes we don’t recognise this in ourselves, so it’s good to know that you can get through something like that and it shapes who you are.
Yes, this year has been a disaster in so many ways, but I am really looking forward to taking the experience and all that it’s taught me into next year. The word I’d now associate with 2020 is “Strength”. I’m so inspired by the strength I’ve recognised in myself and that those around me have shown.
If you’d have asked me for my reflections on leading a small business through a global pandemic a few months ago, the story I told you might’ve been very different. I might have said that we’re simply surviving. Now I would say that we’re thriving.
It’s certainly been a tough year. Living with high levels of uncertainty for a long period of time takes its toll on all of us. Trying to sustain a small business within this context is intense. There’s been a lot we’ve had to let go of; old ways of working, our offices, two team members, our original vision of growth for this year. This was all very painful for us and it taught me that flexibility, resilience and adaptability are key survival skills.
Yet amongst all that loss there’s also been immense growth and learning. There have been so many positives to celebrate – for instance finally pivoting to become an online training provider and reaching girls all over the UK. Our team has never been so connected, supportive and productive. We have even gained 4 new partners, retained 90% of our existing partners, and won a funding bid.
For leaders everywhere, it has been one of the most testing years. I’m proud of the way we’ve risen to the challenge, stayed calm, and moved the business forward. I’m celebrating having a Co-Founder as without that mutual support it would’ve been a lot harder.
One thing I’ve personally learned this year is that in a crisis situation I manage fairly well. I’m resilient, level-headed and focussed. It’s forced me to continue to examine and evolve how I behave as a leader to benefit those around me. I’ve turned to coaching, leadership courses and yoga to help me with this journey.
So there’s lots to mourn and lots to celebrate. Providing space and opportunity to reflect and do both of those things in equal measure is really important as we close this year.
I entered 2020 on a mountaintop both metaphorically and literally….I rang in the new year on top of a mountain on the coast of New Zealand overlooking the most beautiful seascape, and as I took in the breathtaking view I was brimming over with HOPE because I knew that upon my return to the UK that I had so much to look forward to and I was due to start my new job at InnovateHer. Life was good, I was experiencing the “mountaintop” – there was so much to be thankful for!
And then the Pandemic struck.
I faced everything that everybody did – restrictions, staying home, no travel, health scares, financial difficulty, the uncertainty of the future, fear.
However, I had a constant that helped me keep a level of ‘normality’ and ‘perspective’ and that was my role at InnovateHer. Thankfully I was able to keep working from home and as a team, we adjusted and pulled together. It was an empowering experience to be united with the same vision all working together towards the same goal. At times it was tense and the pressure was on to survive the pandemic but in all honesty, I believe we thrived in the face of adversity and what we have to show for 2020 is pretty spectacular!
I have worked in female-led organisations before and I have never experienced the level of genuine support and encouragement that I have at InnovateHer. I believe that a strong team is the result of strong leadership and that if you want your employees to be motivated, authentic and full of integrity then it has to be exemplified from the top. Here at InnovateHer that is exactly what you find! I am proud to work in a team and be under the leadership of kick-ass, world-changing women!
Bring on 2021…We’re just getting started!
As I unpacked my Christmas deccies this year to put on the tree, I re-read the Christmas card I’d sent to Jay in 2019 ending in…‘to a year full of adventure’. We looked at each other and kind of laughed with a tired expression – it’s quite hard to believe what’s happened. A ‘raw’ kind of year I guess is one way to describe it.
I’m writing this final piece after spending the last few hours with the team reflecting on the highs and lows of each month to close off the working year. Jo puts it well, ‘you can write the highs and lows of work, but I guess it’s hard to separate work from home’.
I feel lucky to be in a team where I can genuinely be myself, no judgement, just honesty – the space to say, “I’m not having a good day”, “I miss my family”, “I’m so nervous about doing this”, “I can’t go on another video call”. The space to go for a walk when you need it, the space to find some sort of routine, to cry, to process things that were happening to family, friends and were completely out of your control. So mainly I feel grateful to have had some space…which many have not.
As a team, we’ve accomplished a lot, but really all that matters is that we supported each other through this. A life balanced with work.
Today, I look back on the year with peace and gratitude for many things I’ve experienced and learned – something my Dad said to me once which I always think of, ‘imagine you’re walking through a muddy stream, when you look back on it, it begins to settle’ – it’s been a tough year, but we got through it.
We stand with everyone when we say that 2020 felt like the longest year ever, however, thanks to a newfound resilience and strength, we have been able to reach 320 teens, work with 16 schools and 10 amazing mentors this year. With that, we are able to stand firm in our belief that nothing will stop us from giving the gift of tech education, and 2021 will definitely be no exception, so cheers to that!
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