If I had to do 9 to 5.30 every day...I wouldn’t still be here
I’m Caroline Mayes, I’m a Director at Stride Treglown.
What are your passions?
I’ve always been somebody that does lots of different things – so variety in life is really important to me. I’m from a musical family so I sing in a choir and there’s always been quite a lot of music in my life. I used to run a brownie pack and there’s now a lot more football in my life than there ever used to be. I’ve got two boys who are always out doing various sports.
Who or what inspires you?
This is quite a difficult question for me but I think probably the people around me have always inspired me, so whether it was family when I was younger, my own young family now, or the people that I work with, or the people I was at university with. I think that I do bounce off people quite a lot. I’m fairly competitive but I like to make sure that I’m working in a fairly harmonious team and a harmonious setting and work towards helping that. It doesn’t always happen at home obviously.
How did you get to this point in your life?
So I guess I’ve had quite a linear progression I suppose. From school I did A levels and then went to university to do architecture. I chose architecture because it seemed to be a balance of arts and science. When I first did my UCAS form, there were four different courses on it and the careers teacher gave it back to me and said don’t be so ridiculous, they won’t take you seriously, go and decide what you want to do.
So I went to university and I was lucky in that the course really suited me. That variety element – bringing lots of different things together has been – was really good and has been really good. I was at Bath which is a thin-sandwich course, so you get some periods out at work. I worked for a one man, sorry, one woman practice in my final year there. Had a year out at a large corporate practice and came to Stride Treglown straight out of my part two.
I had a friend working here and I’d heard some good things and I’ve been here ever since really. It has been a big part of my life and I’ve now been here 16 years which is way longer than I ever thought I would be here.
What are your experiences working here?
My kids are now nine and twelve – so they’re getting bigger – but, inevitably as the woman, a big part of my life and my work does have to work around them. I would say that I put in my fair share of blood, sweat and tears in this place over the years but what I’ve got back has been respect and the ability to flex things so that I can still do my job around me – which is really important. And now that I’m a director, I feel like I have responsibility to make sure that that happens to everybody else certainly.
One day coming in and my colleague sauntered in and he was just like “Oh you seem to be in a bit of a tizz this morning”. I said, “You know, the kids have not had breakfast…I feel like I’ve run a marathon to get here.” And he just looked at me like he had no comprehension of what I’d had to do. So I really remember that day as a sort of a point in time. But generally, kids are older, all a lot calmer in the mornings now. So I walk to work because it’s important that I’m able to control when I arrive and leave. We have a car sharing policy because our parking is limiting, but that doesn’t really work for me because I’m always in and out at odd times of the day.
Talk me through your day?
I’m involved in projects but I oversee projects and I run a studio so there’s a lot of talking to people, meeting people, in and out in terms of internal meetings, client meetings, project meetings which might not be local so there’s a fair amount of travelling in what I do now. I work flexible hours so I do two long days a week and two short days a week when I leave at just before 3 o’clock to pick up my youngest from school. I officially don’t work on a Friday, although I quite often do work on a Friday now. It’s not unusual to do a 15 hour day. I don’t like to do them very often but they do happen and when they happen, I have to flexible enough to do that as well.
What are your aspirations?
In some ways I’ve done what I wanted to do. You know I got married, I’ve had kids, I’ve reached what some might say the top of the company. I’m at a period of my life probably where I’m actually trying to work out what that looks like again – and I have to say, to maintain some flexible element to my work is a key driver moving forward for me because actually there is so much going on in home life. You know if I had to do 9 to 5.30 every day and there was no flexibility in that then I wouldn’t still be here.
So aspirations are probably to travel a bit more, spend as much time as possible with the kids whilst they’re still young enough to want to spend time with me – which now seems not far around the corner. I suppose in terms of work, I aspire to help build the company into somewhere that people want to work. I think that’s really important to me.
People are a key motivation personally and it is really important that women around the company feel like they know that there is a path for them here which, some people don’t always think. Any working mother will tell you it’s the being everything to everybody; I’ve got to be 100% Mum at home, 100% director at work. But sometimes that is a strain. Some weeks it works, some weeks it doesn’t.
What’s your foundation for support?
My husband. I’m only able to be as committed to work because he’s been able to be flexible and I think we do make a good partnership. He does all the cooking at home for example. Everyone always is shocked when I say that but I don’t like cooking, he does. And actually that works well for us. So being in a mutual respecting partnership, whether it’s work or at home, is really important for me and does sort of ground me.