Janet Bridgwater MSc MCIPS is the CEO & founder of two successful businesses, an experienced mentor, writer and procurement specialist. In this blog post, she talks about her career journey so far, what motivates her, the challenges she’s faced in life and her experiences of working in male-dominated industries. She also includes some information about an exciting opportunity for a marketing postgraduate student at the end!
Almost 40 years ago I began my career as a PA to a Purchasing Manager at Thomas Smith & Sons Drop forgers in Birmingham. At that time, my expectation was to follow suit like all young woman who reached 18 years old, and that was to become a Secretary. But even then, I knew I wanted to raise the bar in my career and become a Buyer, so when the Purchasing Manager offered me a promotion within 2 years, I took it with both hands.
This begs the question “How many women out there yearn for much more in their careers?” and also “How many of them just settle for what they are given, rather than reaching for a promotion?”
My motivation for success was simple – I had to strive to be better than what, not only my peers, but also, I had to aim higher to achieve the “best version of myself”. Thinking back, my self-belief was stronger than that of most of my other female colleagues – I approached everything with such strength and courage, I even surprised myself sometimes. Night school with two young daughters and raising them as a single parent, made life even harder. But I believe if there is a will you will find a way.
Life has a habit of throwing a curve ball at you – just when you think you are getting somewhere and life is panning out well for you, out of the blue something will come along and throw you right off the path you are following and knock all the energy out of you.
My curve ball came at just 30 years old, when I found out I almost had stage 4 cancer of the womb. If anything is going to stop you dead in your tracks of progress, cancer will. Despite catching it just in time and having a full hysterectomy, my confidence and stamina took a huge blow. It felt like a huge hill to climb, but I was strong and so determined that I kicked that cancer right out of the park and came back with more vigour and commitment to succeed.
The saying “If it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger” has been my motto in life for over 25 years. From that day, I have gone from strength to strength and have gained not only my Chartered status in Purchasing, but also my master’s degree – these have made me a well-respected expert in Procurement. I firmly believe if you really want anything in life, you really can achieve it, if you try hard enough. The pain to achieve your dreams or goals must ‘scare’ you otherwise, as the saying goes, “If your dreams don’t scare you, then they aren’t big enough.”
Inspiration is an important part of achieving your dreams; equally having a mentor or career coach can help you plan out the steps needed to achieve what you want out of life. Being a woman should never stop you from reaching the top of your career or your goals. Although, in the fields I have worked in such as Automotive, Manufacturing and Aerospace it is male-dominated, particularly in Engineering where I spent most of my time, you can still achieve success, if you really want to.
I recall one day whilst entering a room at leading Aerospace company, being asked if I was there to bring in the tea and coffee. I ignored the remark, taking a seat at the large, oak boardroom table. The CEO walked in and asked the 23 gentlemen seated at the same table, if I had introduced myself, and followed stating that I was the new Manager. Some looked down with embarrassment – it became apparent that a few resented the fact that a woman could be in a Senior Engineering role! Over the years, similar occurrences of this nature have happened, but the feeling of satisfaction to be in that privileged position always makes me shine.
Woman will always strive to succeed; it is in our nature. We are determined, courteous and will keep on pushing through to get to where we want to be. Bridging the gap from where they are now to where they really want to be, is a trait that strong career women who have a desire to succeed with always be there in society.
In 2020, after a wonderful trip to Disney with my daughters and three grandchildren I came back in March, only to contract Covid-19 at Gatwick airport. After being ill for four dreadful weeks, I somehow managed to escape death (once again). I decided if I did survive, I would finally write that book about my life, my career, my successes. In September 2020, six months after surviving Covid, I became a published author, and I have never felt prouder than I did holding the first printed book – I Wasn’t Expecting That on Amazon, another massive achievement. I would highly recommend writing a book to every woman who has a good book inside her head.
Today I run two very successful businesses. Bridgwater Consultancy Ltd, which has been established for 10 years, is a Procurement Consultancy company which uses a self-developed diagnostic tool to improve people’s skills, improve processes and reduce prices to add to the profitability of the client.
I also run The Bridge to Success Ltd which we are developing an online membership site for students through to Consultants for, lecturing for University of Derby, Solihull College & University for Chartered Institute of Purchasing Supply (CIPS) students.
We are currently looking to recruit a Marketing postgraduate to help develop the brand and gain greater visibility in the industry. This will be an interesting and challenging position, with potential to be permanent after the placement period of 12 weeks commencing in March 2021. If you would like to join us, please contact us firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Janet Bridgwater, CEO & Founder of Bridgwater Consultancy and The Bridge to Success