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Know yourself and be yourself says Selfridges’ FD

Book open Reading time: 2 mins

Today women make up about a third of the Chartered Institute of Management Accounting’s (CIMA) membership and half of our student body - we’re dedicated to supporting the progression of women into senior roles in business.

Here, CIMA alumna Katrina Nurse FCMA, CGMA, Finance Director at Selfridges shares her story, from Debenhams’ trainee to Finance Director of a world famous luxury department store.

Left to right: Saiyeh Jawanmardi, UBS; Lesley de Jager, Wood Group; Katrina Haley, HSBC; Katrina Nurse, Selfridges; Lisa Heneghan, KPMG; Rachel Spedding, Bright Network.

"For a while at Debenhams I was the only female member of the team. The guys I worked with were great, many of whom went onto amazing roles and I'm still in touch with them now, but I lacked a female role model. There was a particular style of leadership back then, it was the late 80's, a time brimming with bravado and self-confidence. I find it hard to believe now but I was quite shy back then and could get embarrassed so easily. I probably didn't stick my neck out too much for fear of getting it wrong. I thought I'd never become a Financial Controller or Finance Director because I just wasn’t ‘that sort of person’. I didn’t believe I had those qualities.

However I was very self-motivated. If I spotted something I thought was interesting, I’d investigate and present my findings to my boss. I was also supporting the marketing team at the time and was pretty much left to my own devices. I soon discovered I could be influential by doing what I said I would do, demonstrating my ability and questioning things.

I soon set myself apart and when I was given the chance to step up, I realised I did have leadership potential - I just hadn’t recognised it before. It took the backing of my colleagues to give me that confidence and since then I’ve always stood by this adage - know yourself and be yourself.

Nobody is perfect, nor does anyone have it all sussed - we each have our strengths and weaknesses. Understand your passions and the qualities you can bring to the table, and in areas you’re less confident, learn from those around you.

Equally, don’t ever try to be something you’re not – you will get found out. It’s exhausting to keep up a front ten hours a day, five days a week, for however many years."