Rebecca is passionate about female empowerment, was an active member of Refinitiv’s Women’s Network in New York and is a board member for the American Scottish Foundation (ASF). Since returning to London, she has applied to be a mentor with The Girls Network and recently launched a monthly lecture series within the company to provide networking opportunities and to promote female guest speakers.
Rebecca has been shortlisted for the 2020 WIBF Future Leader Award.
Can you tell us about your career path so far?
My career path to date has had its fair share of twists and turns, but it’s been great fun. Much to my parents’ chagrin, I decided against going straight to university to study medicine. Instead, at 18 I moved to London to pursue a career in modelling. It was an exciting and eye-opening experience, but the lure of higher education was always there, so a few years later I enrolled at Edinburgh university to read politics. While studying, I started to pursue a career in the Army, completing part of the Officer Training syllabus at Sandhurst, but some medical issues prevented me from enrolling full time.
At University I completed two summer internships, one with an events company and the second with Critical Solutions International in Charleston South Carolina; a company specialising in route-clearance and counter-IED technology. I then applied to the Mountbatten Institute who offer a full-time work placement in New York City as part of a postgraduate study program. I was offered a product analyst role at Thomson Reuters and when my work placement came to an end, I successfully applied for a product manager role for World-Check One where I am currently leading our AWS cloud migration.
What ambitions do you have professionally?
I would love to eventually transition into a more sales and strategy focused role, which I believe my current role gives me a great foundation for. Outside of work, I love volunteering for community focused projects, and have recently been volunteering at Chelsea and Westminster hospital as part of the Covid-19. I spend some time on wards with patients as unfortunately visitors haven’t been allowed and other times I help distribute donated food to the doctors and nurses. I would also love to start a charitable imitative at some stage and have a few great ideas for potentially doing just that in Scotland. Until then I’ve applied to be a mentor with The Girls Network and would really appreciate the opportunity to help guide the next generation of women – and also hopefully teach them that the traditional path isn’t always the right one!
You were seconded to New York last year, how did working life there differ to the UK?
New York is pretty crazy and you never stop. Every evening and weekend is busy. It makes it easy to burn out, but knowing I just had a year to make the most of the city meant I could strike a healthy(ish!) balance. ‘Networking’ is huge over there. In the UK I sometimes think that there is a stigma attached to networking, whereas in New York there is a constant stream of charitable events, openings and galas designed for that purpose. From a professional perspective, this provides great opportunities, but on a personal note, I found it helped to build connections, rather than friends; people can feel like means rather than ends. There are huge opportunities to progress your career, but the highly competitive nature of the job market also means that it can be quite stressful to keep the show on the road. Ultimately though the Mountbatten program gave me a fantastic opportunity to pursue one of my great loves: travelling. I travelled within the States every month, ultimately visiting 12 states and leaving some lasting and wonderful memories.
You have started a grass-roots initiative within Refinitiv, can you tell us more about that?
One of the things I noticed when I came back to London was that people within the organisation often don’t meet each other except via the odd phone call or video conference. Networking events, when they occur, are large events, but it can be intimidating to initiate conversation with people you don’t know. For such a large organisation like Refinitv, this can mean that people often feel out the loop or even isolated and cut off from the main decision-making hubs in London and New York. This is why I decided to try and make a bit of a difference; I love bringing people together and building networks, and I wanted to help share that with others.
You have also launched a monthly lecture series to provide networking opportunities to others, how is that going and can you tell us about what you have in the pipeline?
Well the series started fantastically, and the first event was very successful with some great feedback. Then COVID hit and that was that! The first event focused on bringing about thirty people together from within the organisation to listen to each other and our guest speaker. The way we chose people to attend meant that most were strangers to each other at the beginning, and the relatively small number of people meant they weren’t strangers at the end. I’m very much looking forward to setting up more events once things start getting back to a semblance or normality, and my volunteering commitment at Chelsea and Westminster isn’t as critical.
If you were stuck in a lift with three people, who would you want them to be and why?
Cynthia Enloe is a feminist international relations hero of mine. Re-imagining historical events and asking ‘where are the women?’ is an exercise which completely changed the way I think about politics, philosophy and history. I could not recommend her book ‘Bananas, Beaches, and Bases’ more highly. A friend in New York recommended the author and the novel ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (she is also sampled in Beyoncé’s ‘Flawless’). It’s centred around the Nigerian-Biafran War and she has been one of my favourite authors ever since; some of her TED talks are absolutely ferocious! Lastly, I would have to say Leah McSweeney from the Real Housewives of New York – I love the franchise but am obsessed with NYC. Leah is a new addition and she started a successful streetwear brand in her 20s. I find her really inspiring as she uses her platform (on the show and on social media) to raise awareness to social injustices in America. I just really appreciate the sharp, sometimes crass, way she advocates intersectional feminism to the other (rather waspy!) women on the show.