Catherine Grainger, Novec Brand & Communications Manager, 3M.

We’re delighted to be sharing our final inspiring woman for 2018 – Catherine Grainger, Novec Brand & Communications Manager, 3M. Enjoy some inspiration to end the year….

1. Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Catherine Grainger. I’ve worked at 3M for 18 years and my current role is Brand & Communications Manager, promoting and developing content for a fantastic range of products under the brand Novec™, across the EMEA region. I live with my husband Paul and children Daisy and Tom in Derbyshire.

2. What is it that you love most about your work?

I love the diversity of both my work and 3M. I didn’t set out to stay at 3M for so long but there are so many different career paths that can be achieved in one company due to the sheer breadth of our technology platform, and the amount of development opportunities we are offered. Novec, the product I’m responsible for, has some incredible applications including immersion cooling of data centre servers, coatings of PCBs and tiny electronics in smart phones, sustainable fire extinguishing in data centres and more. I love talking about 3M and Novec, and developing content to tell compelling stories about our products. My role covers Europe, Middle East and Africa so I spend a lot of time communicating with colleagues from different cultures and different parts of the world. I also get the opportunity to travel and visit some interesting places. But not so much that it interferes with family time!

3. What strengths or personal attributes do you think have really helped you to succeed?

For me, communication is what I studied at university, it’s what I do for a living, but it’s also what I’m good at and what has helped me progress. Being able to communicate clearly at all levels, being able to get on with your colleagues, and good presentation skills have all helped me throughout my career. And though many of my meetings are now virtual meetings via Skype, this actually increases the need for good communication. Too many people multitask when on Skype and don’t engage properly in the discussion, I think it’s vital to work even harder at communication and rapport when you’re not face to face. Although I don’t have a natural affinity with technology, I am interested in how it’s shaping communication, content and marketing. Recently I’ve created a few ‘vlogs’ on LinkedIn about topics I’m passionate about, like change management, and work-life balance. It feels very ‘exposing’ to film yourself talking and post it online, but I’ve had a lot of engagement and positive comments. I think as a marketer it’s vital to immerse yourself in new platforms like social, and ‘practice’ on yourself as a brand – it helps you to sharpen your craft.

4. How have you managed set backs / challenges along the way?

I try to stay positive and remember that old parenting adage that everything, good or bad, is a phase. My toughest challenge was a period of ill-health a few years ago in which I had to have multiple operations over a 2 year period. Every time I thought I was on the mend my health went downhill again. It made me appreciate how important health is, both physical and mental. Without it, everything else suffers. I try to look after myself, I’m not an athlete by any means, but doing a 5km run a few times a week now gives me energy to tackle the rest of my work and home life.  And the support of others at work is vital, having colleagues you can trust to bounce ideas off and occasionally have a moan to, provides perspective and energy to pick yourself up again when you’re having a tough time.

5. What is your formula / top tips for a successful work / life balance?

Wow, the $64,000 question. I’ve done a combination of part-time and full-time working since having children, having worked a 3, 3.5, 4 and now a 5 day week. There’s pluses and minuses to working part time, for me it worked well in giving me extra time with the kids when they were little, though when I worked 3 days I personally felt it was difficult to get everything done at work. Women who work part-time tend to be hugely efficient, but often miss out on the social niceties at work like the water-cooler chats and the lunches with colleagues. I now work full-time with occasional travel, and though it can sometimes feel relentless, I’m lucky that I have the flexibility to work at home which makes it easier to do school related activity. Whatever works for the individual, I would say do it, and try not to feel guilty about what you’re not doing! Women who work are great role models for their children. And cleaners, if you can afford them, save a lot of time and solve a lot of marital arguments! I have a wonderful cleaner who does our whole house and an hour of ironing for me every week. Without her, my life wouldn’t quite function and I would sacrifice many, many things before losing her.

6. What advice would you give to a woman looking to achieve a senior role?

Use and develop your network. Get to know people wherever you go, and always be approachable, friendly, efficient. Do things for people without looking for anything in return. It gets noticed and people will remember you… and even if they don’t, you’ll feel good about yourself! ‘Like’ and engage with people’s social media posts, don’t simply lurk in the background.   Sponsors and mentors are really important – don’t be afraid to approach senior people at your company and ask them about their career history. If you’re looking for a mentor, buy them a coffee and ask if you can pick their brains for 10 minutes, it doesn’t have to be an official mentor request.

Confidence in yourself is also important. There’s an adage that says when it comes to a job description, if a man can tick 5 out of 10 boxes he’ll apply, whereas a woman will be discouraged if there’s just one box she can’t tick… cliché or not, it’s human nature to focus on the negatives or the things we can’t do rather than focus on the positives or the bigger picture. Have faith in yourself that no-one is a ‘perfect’ applicant for a job, everyone will have elements they will need to learn along the way. Everyone has ‘down’ days when they question their judgement or capability. I have an email folder called ‘Feel good’ and when I receive compliments or positive feedback, I file the emails in there to review when I need a boost.  Most importantly, look after your physical and mental health (fitness, fresh air and vegetables are good. Wine can sometimes help 😊) and try to be the best version of yourself. Believe you can achieve it and you will!!