Women Following their Dreams # 8 – Kathryn Donaldson, founder of “Growing Talent”, marathon runner, wife & mother
Today I’m really excited to be sharing this interview as part of my “Women: Following their Dreams” series. Kathryn Donaldson is truly an amazing women who has made the most of her circumstances and created a successful business in a new country, is raising a delightful family, runs & runs & runs and is a dear friend too.
My aim in doing this series is to, once a month, introduce you to women who all have one thing in common, they have been brave enough to put an idea into action. Maybe you might be inspired by one of their stories, maybe their story will strike a chord with you, maybe what they are doing is something that you would like to do too, maybe you will find a new interest, talent, idea or realise that these woman are just like you and me. So grab a cuppa and take a seat and see where this series might take you.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I grew up in Wales and studied for a degree in Business Information Technology and French in London graduating with 2:1 honours degree. I spent 10 years at US Investment Bank Morgan Stanley, initially as a consultant trainer teaching bespoke internal software systems. I was promoted to Vice President leading the Technology Training Team before moving on to manage the Graduate Development Program and New Employee Learning & Development. Whilst leading the Technology Training Team my team won the Employee First Choice Award for excellence in client service. In 2009 I studied an Executive Coaching Diploma that paved the way for me to begin a portfolio career affording flexibility around my family. I consulted for Barclays Corporate first as Interim Head of Learning & Development, then as Project Manager reporting to the Chief Operating Officer. I relocated to Australia in 2013 and started Growing Talent in 2015.
I am wife to Matthew and Mum and taxi driver for 3 beautiful, curious and mischievous children. Life never stands still and that is just how we like it!. Weekends are about sport, the outdoors and how much we can cram in.
After an established corporate career what made you decide to specialise in coaching and in particular strengths coaching?
I’ve always had a fascination with performance, and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. As a child I experienced success as an athlete under the guidance of an inspirational coach who has unfortunately since passed away. He was excellent at understanding what motivated me and he helped me to build the confidence and belief that winning was possible. As I look back I realise what a difference his coaching made not only to me but also to others. I guess this experience helped me to appreciate the importance of a good coach and piqued my interest.
What I love about strengths coaching is that it focuses on developing our innate talents rather than our weaknesses. It’s such a positive approach to development and works on developing what is right with people not what is wrong. The conventional approach to development is to fix our weaknesses, and whilst we shouldn’t ignore these, Gallup research shows that our greatest opportunity for growth and performance improvement is through a strengths development approach.
You have migrated to Australia with your family, how has that transition been? Do you have any advice about establishing yourself in a new city both personally and career wise?
We are three years in now and enjoying life in Australia, it’s not been without it’s ups and downs though. Arriving in a new country and leaving behind my job, family, friends and an established network was a daunting experience. My husband’s family are here so that helped enormously, and I have met a beautiful group of friends who are a great support. My advice to anyone looking to establish themselves in a new city is to be patient, it does take 18 months to 2 years to settle in. Research and join local groups that interest you, this way you are more likely to meet likeminded people. Volunteer within the community whether it is at school or coaching sporting teams, you will meet other families and begin to integrate yourself into local life and widen your network.
You have now established your own consultancy? How did that come about? What is your key piece of advice for those wanting to start up their own consulting business?
When we relocated from London to Brisbane I spent the first year settling the family before focusing on what next for me. Having spent my career in the corporate world I felt it was time for a change. Also it was important for me to have the flexibility for my family, so establishing my own consultancy was a logical way to combine my career aspirations with a growing family.
My advice to those wanting to start up their own business is to be patient, things don’t happen overnight and building a client base is at times a slow burn. Take the time to join and attend networking groups and start contributing your expertise to build your brand and reputation. It’s important to make your own breaks, and to take opportunities when they present themselves even if it means pro bono work, or a very steep learning curve. You must back yourself and be brave. Within reason my moto is say yes then work out how later. I have learned that I am really quite resilient and that it’s ok to make mistakes along the way.
You do a bit of guest speaking work, how did that come about and what has the highlight been so far?
I had a lot of experience presenting to audiences during my corporate career. Shortly after I arrived in Brisbane however I spent a term tutoring a group of undergraduates at University Queensland. I was subsequently invited as a guest lecturer in the Business School and a guest speaker at one of their Alumni events.
I think my highlight so far has been delivering a Keynote on “Playing to Strengths” at the Australian Business Chicks Conference. It was held in magical Uluru, and a wonderful opportunity to meet some brilliant women and experience the beauty of the Northern Territory.
How do you juggle family life and business commitments?
Like most families it’s constant challenge of trying to keep plates spinning and not dropping any….sometimes successful, sometimes not! We do always seem to have a big mountain of washing that continues to grow, and a tidy house is not my top priority!. I try to fit any work commitments into school hours. It’s important for me to be around for school runs and school sports events, so I try wherever possible to schedule any meetings, or workshop delivery within the 9-3pm slot. I also deliver webinars later in the evening which works well if my audience is based in the UK.
What’s your favourite family meal?
I’m a real foodie so I don’t have one favorite. Depending on the day I am huge pasta fan and my kids love bolognese. My middle daughter is coeliac so I try to cook gluten free meals that the whole family can enjoy. We love Thai and Japanese food, particularly sushi and broths. Of course being British, nothing beats a good roast dinner!
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently working on a “career ready program” for graduates so I am reading The Naked CEO. My days are so busy though that I read about six pages then fall asleep!
Thank you Kathryn, you have achieved so much and there is some great advice there too that I for one will definitely be taking on board. To find out more about Kathryn and the business services on offer at Growing Talent head to her website.