Interviews

The balance between parenthood and career

Zena Couppey

Chief Commercial Officer, LGL Group

How would you describe your career journey to date?

Having started my career at the tender age of 16 years old, as one of the youngest ever trainee EY ever took on, I was always thriving to grow and develop. Working my way through the ranks during my now 22 years in financial services, I was Administrator, Assistant Manager, Associate Director, Managing Director and now Chief Commercial Officer. During that time, I have worked for a number of firms and have done a wide variety of roles and worked in many financial jurisdictions globally such as London, Dubai and Geneva. I’ve been very fortunate to undertake a lot of business travel opening multi-jurisdictional offices in the Middle East, Asia, United States and Europe. Some would describe me as a workaholic but the truth is, I have always loved working and my career is a big part of who I am. I enjoy the buzz of meeting new people, learning new cultures and building businesses. I was very fortunate to have some great mentors that helped me along the way but my mother is my inspiration, still today she is always pushing me to better myself. I have learnt that setting goals and hard work really can pay off and that it’s important to always keep growing and adapting. During my career, I have got to experience different types of business and their life cycles from owner managed to private equity owner and then most recently the listing of a company on the public markets. I definitely feel that my career has taught be to be more resilient in everyday life and has definitely helped me on my most recent challenge of managing two children under the age of two!

What lessons have you learnt in business that will always stay with you?

Always stay true to yourself, stand up for what you believe is right and align your individual values with those of your company. Always act with integrity and treat people as you wish to be treated and respect everyone’s voice.

Work collaboratively with your teammates, build a strong team that you respect and trust and you will achieve much more.

Most importantly never give up, always keeping trying, resilience is a fantastic skill. Take time to build and nurture your network, building strong personal relationships is vital in a customer service industry.

Congratulations on the birth of your daughter last year. How have you found balancing parenthood and your professional life?

Returning to work when my son was only four months old was hard, I never fully appreciated how I would manage everything and was torn between wanting to be an amazing, hands-on mum and continue in my career. So, when I found out I was pregnant with my second child, when my son was only nine months, I decided it was time to take some time out to raise my young family. I took 14 months off with my children and it has been some of the best times of my life but also the most stressful and challenging. I won’t lie, adapting from a very fast paced career to being a stay at home mum was something I found hard. I worried about my legacy and how I would return to work at such a senior level. It was my husband who encouraged me to think about returning to work and I am so glad he did as I am now finding my way as a working mum and I hope to help other women in the career by sharing things I have learnt along the way. Finding a balance that works for you and your family is the most important thing.

We have a fantastic nanny who is a big part of our family and has helped me learn how to be a great mum. My husband travels a lot, so without her I would be lost. I don’t pretend to be super mum but I have found a way that works for us as a family. We have a good routine and we try and take time out for family and for us. Some days work like clockwork and some days just don’t go to plan at all. I can look down at 10.15am in a board meeting and realise I have breakfast or sick on my shirt. Real life mum problems.

I never fully appreciated how I would manage everything and was torn between wanting to be an amazing, hands-on mum and continue in my career.

You completed the IoD Certificate and Diploma recently, why did you decide to go for the qualification?

Having completed my ICSA at 22, I always had a strong focus on Corporate Governance and wanted something that would give me a broader understanding of this area relating to public companies and best practice of board performance.

Deciding to take a year off was a big step for me and I was keen to continue my self-development. Studying the IoD Certificate and Diploma really helped keep me engaged. It was great to meet other people especially on the courses in London as they were so varied and so informative. I sat my last certificate exam at 37 weeks pregnant (challenging to say the least) but I wouldn’t change it and it encouraged me to go on and do my Diploma. Sitting this when my daughter was just eight weeks, I was delighted to pass this in November 2019. I am now looking to go on and complete my Chartered Director course work to hopefully take the interview later in the year.

What have you learnt from studying the IoD Diploma and how will it assist you in your career moving forward?

I have learned a lot about best practice corporate governance for companies, strategy, leadership and the importance of assessing the financial health of companies. It also provides clear learning tools for managing board conflicts and ensuring you have the right mix of people around your table and the benefits that independent NED can bring to businesses.

What advice would you give to young directors of the future?

Have a career plan that is realistic but challenges you, be comfortable with your goals and objectives and ensure you are always learning new things. Have good mentors that you admire and respect and ask them for feedback on your performance and support in dealing with situations you find difficult.

Don’t get disheartened with setbacks or failures they only make you stronger, resilience is a great strength to have. Do something that makes you happy, if you’re happy you will be more motivated and ultimately work harder towards your goals.