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Interview with Dame Stephanie Shirley

Dame Stephanie Shirley talks to us about the influences in her life and how she has approached them to achieve success…

‘Remember the hardest times of your life’

I was a child refugee from Nazi Germany. Trying to resettle after that huge disruption from family, language and country always reminds me that I am capable of dealing with anything.

‘Don’t attack your frustrations – go around them’

Frustration is a part of everyone’s path. I have learned not to try and bash things but to find another route. Go around, go over, go under. Do not let them anything become an obstruction!

‘Good managers are vulnerable managers’

If you can’t do something, admit it and ask one of your team to do it. Through this, I got better results, was a better manager and had a happier team. But you have to hand over responsibility with a genuine desire to empower others or you can be labelled as a ‘helpless woman’. If you empower others it works better than a cash bonus in the long term. Empowerment drives people.

‘Fail well’

When something goes wrong it is important to celebrate what it was about it that was also a success. Whenever my business has failed, I made sure everyone who was involved felt good about what we got right together.

‘As a woman, there is a responsibility to succeed’

If I fail, they will say – ‘yes, well we tried a woman and they’re not very good.’

‘Luck has nothing to do with success’

But chance plays its part. And you have to seize on chances whenever they appear – even if you think you’re too busy. The easiest way to let an opportunity slip by is by telling yourself the timing isn’t right. But if a golden chance comes by, always squeeze it in.

‘Don’t compartmentalise yourself’

I am not a mother here, a wife there, a businesswoman somewhere else… I am holistic and elements of all that I am should feed everything that I do all of the time.

‘Knowing how to self-nurture is crucial’

I get a lot of clarity and peace from swimming 3 times a week because I do it for me, and me alone. And surround yourself with people you like as much as possible!

‘Take advantage of your innate, female multitasking ability’

I always keep more than one thing on the boil. Failures don’t crush you so easily and it’s easier to let something go if you have other projects to immediately shift your focus onto.

‘Caring and nurturing are not traditionally values you associate with business’

But it is how I have successfully run things. As a woman, I rear things – just like you rear a child.  I rear achievement. I grow and cultivate a mood or an idea. Business is about people, not things. Tapping into that mothering energy is an important resource available to women.

Dame Stephanie Shirley is the First Woman President of the Computer Society

To find out more about First Woman, Dame Stephanie Shirley, visit: www.steveshirley.com

Interview by Deborah Willimott

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