What drew you to the rubber industry, and what has made your career in the industry rewarding?
Working for the Royal Society of Chemistry in London and Cambridge for several years as assistant editor on its inorganic journal Dalton Transactions, an opportunity arose in Hertford for a position as technical editor for the journal Rubber Developments at what was then the Malaysian Rubber Producers Research Association in Hertford. Not knowing much about the rubber industry, within a very short space of time I was hooked and amazed at just how vital this liquid that came out of a tree was to so many products that keep the world moving, safe and comfortable. In the early days, I worked with some of the most talented and respected scientists and engineers in our industry. I then became involved with technical marketing and promoting the Malaysian rubber industry all over the world, where I expanded my knowledge and made so many friends from different cultures and countries with shared values and a love of our industry.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
Without a doubt, starting a new business to champion our industry and the best in it six months ago. Although, the timing could have been better!
What do you count as your biggest failure and what has it taught you?
Never having the confidence for such a long time to voice my opinions, push myself forward and try to implement changes in what has sometimes felt like such a conservative, male-dominated industry. With time, I did speak out more and it has taught me that the world doesn't end when you challenge those above you and try to introduce new ideas; in fact your contribution can sometimes be welcomed!
Who or what inspires you?
My primary school teacher Mrs. Brooks who terrified me into becoming a good math student at a very early age.
Linda Gardner, the pub landlady during my barmaid years, a glamorous, savvy business woman who gave me confidence and taught me how to dress.
Patrick Moore - The Sky at Night.
My colleague and co-founder of Rubber Heart David Cawthra and his wife Kate for having to face the most unimaginable tragedy, but having the courage to try to rebuild their lives and strive for happiness again.
Who were your career mentors, and what role did they play?
Unfortunately, mentors were somewhat lacking during my career! This is why I'm so passionate about professional development and continued learning, and so proud to be part of the Rubber Division, which has these values at its core.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
This is too hard to answer! Having nothing profound immediately come to mind, I'm going to say "keep your shoulders back and stop slouching." (I was 6 foot tall at age 13!).
If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?
Listen, ask questions and get to understand the company.
What would you tell someone considering a career in the rubber industry?
Go for it! Rubber is everywhere and the world as it is couldn't function without it. There are so many pathways you can take, and although it is an old and often very conservative industry, it is also a great community of dedicated and innovative individuals and companies. It is time for more young disrupters to come and make their mark! You will never be bored.
In your opinion, what needs to be done to encourage females to pursue STEM-related careers?
It's all about instilling confidence at a young age and making girls believe that their curiosity, interest and aptitude in math and science can lead to a fulfilling career. Young women need to be exposed to role models and introduced to female scientists and engineers from academia and industry. There should be more women in managerial and leadership positions—the talent is out there.