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To celebrate International Women’s Day 2019 we shared a variety of inspirational success stories from our female Old Blues with our students. Here’s a snapshot of just some of our inspirational female alumni!

Emma Nutbeen, Class of 1992 – Legal Sector

What would you consider your greatest achievement since leaving Blue Coat?

Whilst being the Head of Legal at Matalan when it was a plc at only five years qualified was undoubtedly a real achievement, perhaps my greatest achievement to date was successfully acting for Thelma Madine (the famous Liverpool Gypsy wedding dress maker) in a design right infringement case against two former employees in the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court in London in 2017. The case was widely reported in the legal, local and national press and was particularly special for me because I had to return to my home town for numerous meetings with Thelma at her workshop. Only a fraction of cases ever reach court and seeing this one through and securing the victory for Thelma gave me real pleasure.

What advice would you give to the next generation of young career women?

If at first, you don’t succeed, keep trying until you do! There is a lot to be said for the old saying that “time plus effort equals success”. Obviously, you need some raw talent and a bit of luck along the way but there is no substitute for time and effort. For example, law is notoriously difficult to get in to and whilst I was lucky to secure a training contract during my studies, I know plenty of people who didn’t but kept applying, sometimes to the same firms, many times over before being offered a contract. So, if you have an aspiration then don’t give up when obstacles are thrown in your way. Navigate through them until you succeed.

What are the challenges you have faced as a woman in your career?

It’s been said that as a woman you have to work twice as hard as a man to get half as far and whilst I’m not sure that’s entirely true, I’ve certainly faced challenges along the way. These have included not being paid as much as male colleagues for doing the same job and having my career progression suppressed because I had a young family. The greatest challenge though is trying to balance work and family life, particularly if you have a husband who is also a high achiever. It invariably falls on the woman to arrange the childcare (and everything else for the children) and run the household; and even with the right outside help this can be tough when trying to give 100% to your career.

If you could have dinner with any inspirational woman, past or present, who would it be and why?

My dinner date would be Dame Rose Heilbron DBE QC (19 August 1914 – 8 December 2005). Rose was born in Liverpool to a Jewish family, attended The Belvedere School (now The Belvedere Academy) and was the first lady Judge to sit at the Old Bailey in January 1972. She was also the first woman to achieve a first-class honours degree in law at the University of Liverpool, the first woman to win a scholarship to Gray’s Inn, one of the first two women to be appointed King’s Counsel in England, the first woman to lead in a murder case, the first woman Recorder and the first woman Treasurer of Gray’s Inn.

I’d like to dine with Rose because she was my inspiration to become a lawyer. We also share some common heritage, so we’d have something to talk about! I too was born in Liverpool, went to Belvedere (before joining The Blue Coat in sixth form in 1990 as only the second intake of girls) and my father (who introduced me to her achievements at a young age) was also Jewish.


Helen Brown, Class of 1999, Assistant Editor, BBC TV Sports News
What would you consider your greatest achievement since leaving Blue Coat?

My greatest achievement has probably been getting the job I’m in at the moment – Assistant Editor of TV Sports News for the BBC. I’m currently the only woman on the editorial side of our management group.

What advice would you give to the next generation of young career women?

My advice to young women is set your sights high and then go for it. Work can – and should – be massively rewarding, so work out what you love doing then work out how you can get paid for it!

What are the challenges you have faced as a woman in your career?

I’ve always been in very male-dominated environments. Even at Blue Coat, I was in the era of girls only being admitted in sixth form so there were only a couple of dozen of us. Men and women do often approach things differently and I spend my days going to meetings where I’m quite often the only woman. The challenge has been to be confident enough to put forward alternative points of view and see that that’s a great strength, rather than a weakness.

If you could have dinner with any inspirational woman, past or present, who would it be and why?

Who would I want to have dinner with? A cliched answer but I’ll have to say Michelle Obama. I’m reading her autobiography at the moment and she’s a total inspiration: focused, funny, philanthropic, grounded and – crucially – very aware of the strengths and weaknesses of her own character so she can work with them. That’s the greatest strength there is – embrace every bit of your character and use it.


Ashley Davies, Class of 2012, Business Development Manager at Cold Town Beer

What would you consider your greatest achievement since leaving Blue Coat?

Apart from earning myself a 2:1 in my degree, I would say my biggest achievement has been my development within my current career. After graduating university with an MA in International Business Management and Spanish, I started out as a Marketing Assistant for a hospitality company in Edinburgh. After 6 months, I was promoted to Business Development Manager and in April 2018, I launched a brand! A beer brand!

I love working in the hospitality industry and, contrary to popular belief, there is so much more to it than just pulling pints and waiting tables. There are some excellent career opportunities within the hospitality industry.

At the beginning of 2018, I, along with a team of 2 brewers and one other sales and marketing professional, launched Cold Town Beer, an Edinburgh-based craft brewery. After just 10 months, Cold Town Beer is now pouring in 6 cities across Scotland, has become a recognisable and reputable brand and has even opened it’s own three-storey, multi-faceted brewpub in the centre of Edinburgh.

What advice would you give to the next generation of young career women?

Fake it ’til you make it! I listened to a TED Talk a few years back, when I was in university, where the main message was just that and this message has stuck with me ever since. I definitely didn’t know how to launch a brand, never mind a BEER brand (I didn’t even like beer!) but the opportunity came my way and I grabbed it with both hands. I figured I could utilise all of the current skills and experience I had within the industry and anything I didn’t yet know, I could just learn along the way – and I did just that!

I still don’t know everything there is to know and am learning everyday so if you are given the opportunity to do something you love or something that will develop you further, both personally or professionally, don’t be afraid to take it.

What are the challenges you have faced as a woman in your career?

I work for a brewery… the main challenge I face is that it is a man’s industry! There have been times when my opinion or decision has been undermined because ‘she doesn’t even like beer, what does she know?’ but what I do know, is the industry. I know what is on trend, how to communicate with my customer and I know how to sell. So whilst I may not be able to brew the beer, I do have a wide skill set that is equally important to our business. We all have our own individual strengths and skills and just because you’re a woman in a man’s industry doesn’t mean that yours are not just as important as theirs. After all, what’s the point in having a product if you don’t have someone who can sell it for you?

If you could have dinner with any inspirational woman, past or present, who would it be and why?

I would love to have dinner with all of the women in the brewing and hospitality industry. Whether they are brewers, tasters, brand reps, sales managers, marketing managers – I’d love to hear their experiences and find out what I could learn from them. There is so much fun to be had in hospitality and no end to the creativity you can exude.


Nickoletta Michael, Class of 2011, Consular Officer at Foreign and Commonwealth Office

What would you consider your greatest achievement since leaving Blue Coat?

My greatest achievement has probably been completing my MSc in Politics, working at the House of Lords as a Parliamentary Researcher which was fascinating and now working for the Foreign and Commonwealth office which has allowed me to utilise my interests in foreign affairs and UK politics.

What advice would you give to the next generation of young career women? –

To always try to exceed the expectations you have of yourself and to always aim high. To be persistent and keep your focus regardless of the obstacles you face throughout your career and to not allow them to knock you down! We learn the most through the setbacks.

What are the challenges you have faced as a woman in your career?

Often having to work in male dominated environments, especially in Politics – but maintaining confidence nevertheless.

If you could have dinner with any inspirational woman, past or present, who would it be and why?

Michelle Obama! She has been a huge inspiration for me and her story has motivated so many young girls and women around the world. The way she was able to achieve what she did, despite the adversity she faced in an increasingly divided America, has given her a powerful platform to share her story and subsequently given so many aspiring females the strength to believe that they can achieve their goals and be the career women they want to be!

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