Creative genius at work-Mandy Nicholson. Women behind the network Female Leaders At Fifty

Creativity and Leadership are intertwined.

I spent my happiest years at art college learning so many different techniques, artistic mediums, and doing what students do! But when I finished and walked away with my degree, I struggled to find a job in the creative space.

Fortunately, I had a back-up plan, having worked in bars and shops since the age of fourteen, I decided to find a temporary job in retail whilst I found the perfect creative position. Guess what? Twenty-five years passed by and I had become a Divisional Executive!

I mourned my creative career daily but applied my creative thinking to my job and it was like magic. The ability to see the end result clearly, within seconds of understanding the problem set me apart from my peers and I became a supervisor, then a department manager, then a stock investigation officer, then a store manager……the gift that just keeps giving.

But guess what? Most ‘creatives’ have this innate power to creatively problem solve, yet they are often overlooked or lack the confidence to step into a leadership role and take risks. I want to break down those limitations that are in place, on both sides, and see and feel the change when women step into their creative power. That is why I decided to become a ‘Creative Genius Consultant’. Yes, I consult with Creative Geniuses to help them to launch, grow and scale their creative business and make more money.

I do this because I am one of those rare breeds that has been successful in both arenas. It is my duty to share. So, I manifested my Creative Business Academy to help female entrepreneurs to step into their creative power and become the leader in their life and business. I want to share some of my steps into ‘Creative Leadership’, because the more people that understand there is nothing wrong with them because they think and see ‘differently’ the better this planet we live on will become (personal opinion disclaimer – you don’t have tothink, see or be like me!). 

What you see IS possible: I know that you may see in pictures and those around you just won’t get it. Let me tell you a story. I walked into my first store as a newly appointed manager and there really wasn’t much that was right. The team were deflated, nervous about this odd woman coming in as a manager (after all there were no women managers), the store was seriously underperforming, unwelcoming and the service was shocking. I think I was being tested! But I saw what I knew it could look like, feel like and absolutely be like. It was vivid this picture in my head, all I had to do was figure out the ‘how’ and I knew this would already exist in the hearts and minds of that deflated team. I just had to coax it out.

Fast forward twelve months and we had the best performing store in the company (over 800 stores!). I was being ‘visited’ by everyone and their granny in disbelief that I could have sales of +376%YOY. 

What you believe IS true: I believe in my vision and in my creative ability to get there. I have always inherently believed it because my dad told me I could be anything and do anything I imagined. So, I imagined myself into everything I wanted. 98% of children are creative, unfortunately academic subjects are favoured and it is ‘trained’ out of them in favour of a proper job. Those who know creativity sets them apart in a crowd go on to achieve success whatever they do, and the rest settle and live within the constraints of societies expectations of them. Creative’s are often seen as the weird and the whacky in society, the dreamers, but they are also the change bringers. Think – Einstein, Da Vinci, Picasso, Michelangelo, Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, Leymah Gbowee, J K Rowling and so many more.

You may not immediately associate all of these as creative, but they absolutely were/are creative thinkers and leaders. If I can feel it, then I can see it, then I can create it: Many creative people are communicating a feeling, a desire, an ending. It is the same in leadership. As the leader you want the team of people who you work side by side with to feel their way to a better future.

How will they feel to be a part of a high performing team?
How will they feel to secure their future success?

How will YOU feel when the job is done, and you can promote your right-hand woman and move on to the next project. It is like finishing that painting and starting a blank canvas, exciting and filled with whatever design is in your head. Feel it and create it. You have my permission to go and be the creative leader that you were born to be.

Everything else in life is just like the operation in a business, you learn how to do it, do it, retire and die. So, how much more joyful and purposeful can this journey we are all on be if we tap into our ‘Creative Leadership’ power and make the journey one of our own design?

Love & colour


Creative Genius ConsultantArtist & Author

To contact Mandy

Website – www.violetauraart.comFacebook personal page, I am happy to accept friend requests: http://bit.ly/2TbzDdwFacebook Biz page: http://bit.ly/2uxk45ULinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mandyrussell/Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mandyjnicholson/


How and why you should switch to an IT career-Women behind the network series-Cody McBride

How and Why You Should Switch to an IT Career  

It’s never too late or too early to begin planning for a career that fulfills and excites you. If you’re still on the fence about which career field to choose, you may want to think about IT or tech. IT, computer science, and all of the related industries are always on the move, which means you’ll never get bored. Plus, the demand for IT professionals is bound to keep growing. 

Need more detailed and concrete reasons? These answers to frequently asked questions could prove valuable. 

Why Should I Choose IT? 

When you choose a career field, you should look at the prospects for job growth. IT-related fields are predicted to continue surging in the coming years. This means that once you finish your training, you should be able to land a position quickly. You’re also likely to earn a much larger salary than other professions. 

If you’re a woman looking for a new career, tech needs you even more. That’s because, despite the proven benefits of having more female employees, there are still sizable gender gaps across multiple tech and IT fields. By choosing an IT career path, you could help close this gap.

Do I need a degree?

If you currently have a bachelor’s, enrolling in an online master’s IT program could give you an edge over others in the same field. You can earn a master’s with an emphasis on information management, data analytics, or cybersecurity. Many of which are included on the list of growing job opportunities previously mentioned. Choosing an online program will also give you the freedom to maintain a job and meet other responsibilities while you earn your degree. 

Don’t have a bachelor’s just yet? There are IT positions you can land without a college degree, but you will need experience and training. For instance, you could become a graphic designer, a telecommunications specialist, or a digital marketer. Just bear in mind that while a degree may not be required, having one can boost your prospects and pay. 

Where Can I Find IT Jobs? 

With the right education, training, and experience, the tech possibilities are endless. There are countless employers who are consistently looking to hire new IT personnel, including many of the most well-known financial institutions. Many of these companies are located in larger cities but they are also hiring more remote workers than ever before. 

You can check the career section of these companies to find jobs, but you can also use online job boards to find positions for multiple employers. Both small and large businesses advertise their IT openings on sites like Monster, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Indeed (to name a few). 

How Can I Land My First IT Job?

If you’re looking for entry-level positions, starting your job search early is key — especially in the Information Technology and computer science industries. As you work on earning a degree or experience, also begin networking with other professionals in your desired field. You can also ask your instructors for recommendations and connections to help you get your first job. 

For more seasoned professionals, know the challenges of getting hired are different rather than nonexistent. You’ll also need to network in order to land an interview and callbacks, but unfortunately, you may also have to deal with some ageism. The trick is to keep the focus on your years of experience and on your willingness to learn new concepts and processes. It can also help to keep your appearance polished, professional, and appropriate for the position. 

Whether you’re looking for a boost in excitement or a boost in pay, a career in IT can deliver. IT experts are some of the most sought after professionals in the market. Plus, with the demand for technology growing, your future prospects are bound to grow. You just need the right amount of education and experience to make your dreams of a career in tech come true! 

Looking to thrive in your 50s and beyond? Then you need helpful professional, leadership, and life resources like this one from Female Leadership at Fifty. Subscribe to the blog today.


No Age Limit – Hayley’s Story : Women Behind The Network

By telling my story I hope to lead the way and raise awareness of Premature Menopause/POI. As well as helping older ladies push and challenge their GP’s, when they try to prescribe anti-depressants rather than HRT. Stand you ground and shove the NICE guidelines under their noses.

As a younger woman who has been dealt this card, I want to help older ladies with my positive outlook on life. I have never let it define me or take away my spirit for a good life. I also want older ladies to support me by trying to raise awareness, as if we all stick together, we can get us women the support we deserve.

I have it tough yes, but I am not going to let it ruin me. We have one shot at this so let’s live it as happily as we can.

Here’s the background to my story….

14 years old and told I had gone through the menopause… yep that’s right 14 years old.

I will never forget that day, sitting on the bed in a hospital room waiting for the Consultant to come into me and my Mum saying those words. My Mum balling her eyes out and me comforting her asking her to not cry as it’s ok. Thing is it wasn’t ok, but then I had no clue what the Consultant was even talking about.

At the age of 12 I started my periods like a normal teenager. Then after a year they just stopped. I was struggling to concentrate at school and the nights were hell. Waking up dripping with sweat and just feeling weird. That’s literally how I described it to my Mum one day. I don’t feel like meMum, I feel weird. So off we went to the Doctor’s. I explained what was going on and I was referred for a blood test and an ultrasound. Then two weeks later a Consultant Gynaecologist confirmed I had gone through my Menopause and that I needed to start taking HRT tablets.

I was told I had a womb but a small one and that they could only find one ovary. That was the first and the last time I was going to see my Consultant. I am now 39 years old. I literally have never been contacted since. Not given any follow up appointments, no help, no guidance to understand what had happened to me nothing. Put on HRT (Prempak C) and left to just get on with it.

Even when Prempak C was discontinued a few years back I wasn’t even informed by my Doctor. The pharmacist told me when I went to pick up my meds. Meds, may I add that I have to pay for… which I find astonishing. I need to take these daily and I had none left so luckily after a long phone call Imanaged to get in with a GP the next day. Who then told me there was no exact alternative and she was putting me on another brand. But that was horrendous. All my levels went crazy and my symptoms returned, and my bleeds were so painful. I then was changed onto Femoston which I took for years. But I have since learnt after a consultation with Dr Louise Newson that many symptoms I had presented at my Doctor’s with, were in fact menopausal symptoms. My GP never linked the two and instead prescribed me anti-depressants for insomnia. He should have sent me for blood tests, which would have revealed my estrogen levels were too low and my HRT infact needed adjusting. I have also realised since taking control of this and speaking out that I should have been having DEXA scans. I have never been for one in my life. I have since pushed this with my GP and I now have one booked for Jan 2021. 

As a child I needed to learn what it all meant, and back then there was hardly anything on the internet to read and even to this day limited material to a teenager experiencing this happening to them. This needs addressing as I felt lost for years as I just didn’t understand it all. Medical professionals looked at me like I was some sort of freak. If I was given a pound for the amount of times a doctor or nurse has said to “me you poor girl” when I answer the dreaded question… “what medication do you take”. I would have had loads of work done on myself. Which leads me on to how I have felt growing up… hating what I saw looking back at me in the mirror. The one job a woman is given to do, and I couldn’teven do that properly. I felt like a failure. A failure as a woman. 

I can’t say I grew up depressed I just learnt how to cope. I grew up not liking my appearance. I suppose I felt insecure about myself.  I struggled with relationships with guys as I knew I had it looming over me that one day I was going to have to tell them. Even when I did tell them or my friends neither understood. I even lost a friend over it as she said I was lying and that it was a sick thing to make up! Charming ay…  The response I got from the close few I did tell was always the same… It will happen one day mate, loads of women are told they can’t have kids and they do. 

Nobody understood what I was saying. Because no one was/iseducated enough, No one knows what it means. Even to this day people still do not understand. So, in my words I say it how it is…. To produce a baby, you need an egg and a sperm,and I don’t have eggs, end of.

Since I have spoken out, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted and in a way I feel free of it. I hope that by speaking about my experience out loud I can try and get this recognised more. To help educate all, that this can happen at such a young age as many are still so unaware of this. I have even been called a liar on some so called “menopause support groups” on Facebook, as people do not believe that this can happen. To help Mother’s if their daughters are showing any signs to get them to the doctor’s as soon as possible. I also want women to push at the doctors for them to listen to you. As doctors still sound like they are in denial that it can happen to younger women. As well as to get people to speak out and not hide it all inside, because you feel everyone will be gossiping about you.

Unfortunately, it happens to all of us females one day. There is no set age limit on it, which I am living proof of…..

The present day….

So life currently is busy, busy, busy, as aswell as working a 40 hour week, trying to get my story out there… me and my Husband are currently going through the Adoption process 😊We always knew it was the route we wanted to take. We had discussed in length the idea of going through IVF and he accepted my decision that it wasn’t something I wanted to do. I had already grieved for years that I was never going to have a baby of my own biologically so egg donation for me just wasn’t the way I would see myself become a Mum. In my eyes to be a parent it is to provide endless love, support and just adore your child. I know how much love I have to give,and for me to be able to give that to a child whose own parents cannot do this is a much more fulfilling way. I also now see that maybe things do happen for a reason as that reason is to find my Child and give them a much better life.

The adoption timeline is actually a lot shorter than it used to be. So please if you are considering this don’t let that put you off. Once you have got through the Pre-stage and into Stage 1 it can feel a bit slow waiting on training days and workbooks to be issued, but you just have to keep the faith that it’s just part of it all and it will all be worth it in the end 😊

We are currently heading towards the end of stage 1 and praying that we will make it into the second stage. That will be when we are working towards a date to go to panel to become approved adoptive parents.

Soooo, wish us luck 😊


Contact Hayley on Instagram prematuremenopause14 and twitter @CockmanHayley


Top Tips for getting that job at 50 plus– View from a Recruitment Consultant- Nicola Brooks

Ageism shouldn’t exist in the workplace, but it does and unfortunately you can’t stop it from happening. But what can you control when you are applying for a role you really want?

A new job is like a blank book and you are the author.”—Author unknown

Here are some tips that I would advise all candidates to adhere to, but these are especially useful for overcoming prejudices interviewers may have on appointing over fifties.

Nicola has been recruiting senior level finance professionals into the NHS for 21 years, working for Interim Professionals and the permanent division, Executive Professionals. Together with NHS England & NHS Improvement, Nicola established “Women in Leadership for Finance”, a networking group of senior female finance leaders which addresses the imbalance of gender balance at board level in the NHS. She can be contacted directly at nicola@interim-professionals.co.uk

  1. Use your experience to your advantage– Credibility, gravitas, wisdom but also the combination of 30 + years in the workplace – what experience have you gained over this time that someone in their 30s or 40s may not yet have encountered in their career? Be clear and confident about this.
  2. Keep up to speed with technology – a common misconception is that “older candidates” will be out of touch with new technology and social media. Do your homework to make sure you do not fall into this category. Make sure you are active on Twitter and Linked in, Keep up to date with TED talks, webinars and podcasts on new technologies relevant to your field. Make sure you are adept at MS teams and Zoom and that you are comfortable initiating meetings. Practise these at home, engage your kids or your friends’ children who have grown up with these.
  3. Develop your networks and do your research – your network will be invaluable to get background information on the role you are interviewing for. Take every opportunity on offer to speak to the hiring manager or individuals who you know will be involved in the interview process. Ask them questions about the role, what it’s like to work there and listen. The more you know about the role and the more the interviewers know about you and the research you have done on the role/organisation, the stronger your chance of getting the job. If the hiring manager has put their telephone number on the job advert, ALWAYS call them and make it personal. The more experience you have, the wider your network should be – use this to your advantage.
  4. You are not too old to get a mentor. Be clear what your development areas are and work on these with your mentor. Also reverse mentoring with an individual more junior than you can help you to connect with a different generation and to learn from them.
  5. Think about your image – This is important at any age, dress for the job you want to get, not for the one you have. Regardless of whether a meeting is in person or online, the interviewer will inevitably make subconscious assumptions about you based on your appearance and this is something you can control – own your space.
  6. Keep your CV brief –it’s unrealistic to cram a 30 year long career onto 2 pages but try to keep to 4 pages or less, focusing more on the more recent and more senior roles. Eliminate language from your CV which no longer exists e.g. “Personnel”.
  7. Demonstrate you are open to learning new things and constantly evolving. A common misconception of the more mature candidate is that they will be set in their ways and resistant to change. What have you initiated or changed in your current role? What are you doing right now that is new? This doesn’t have to be work related but could be learning to play chess or the guitar, or learning a language.
  8. Ask for help – do you have a recruitment professional/colleague or friend you can trust who can look over your CV or cover letter or who can do a mock interview with you? No matter how much experience you have, you can still get better at being interviewed.

Nicola has been recruiting senior level finance professionals into the NHS for 21 years, working for Interim Professionals and the permanent division, Executive Professionals. Together with NHS England & NHS Improvement, Nicola established “Women in Leadership for Finance”, a networking group of senior female finance leaders which addresses the imbalance of gender balance at board level in the NHS. She can be contacted directly at nicola@interim-professionals.co.uk


I wish that I had duck feet…. Women Behind the Network- Female Leaders At 50 – Sweet Gill

I wish that I had duck feet

…and I can tell you why.

You can splash around in duck feet.

You don’t have to keep them dry.

I loved reading this wonderful children’s book by Dr. Seuss to my three boys when they were young. First published in 1965 and with cartoon illustrations, it’s a simple story about a boy who wishes that he could have different animal parts such as duck feet, a whale spout and a long, long tail. He thinks this will give him an advantage over his nemesis Big Bill Brown. The boy quickly finds out there are consequences to pretending to be someone else.

It got me thinking about how we adopt certain styles of leadership depending on the business situation we find ourselves in – it could be to connect more fully with customers; to launch a new product to stay ahead of competitors; to adapt strategically when uncertain times emerge or to simply be excellent communicators and motivate our team. What should a good leader look like? Is there such a thing as a Natural Born Leader and if the aliens landed tomorrow demanding: ‘Take Me to Your Leader!’ where would they go?

Setting up and running Maurizio Dining & Co. with my husband in August 2016 was a huge learning curve. Along the way I discovered some interesting things about myself (who knew I hadenough resilience to work with the husband!) and in hospitality, an area of business that initially I knew nothing about (love eating pizza but selling it was a new concept). Having a blended career means there’s definitely overlap in skills and attitude. My part-time work as a Video Producer is creative and it comes more naturally to me as I’ve been in the industry of broadcast television (firstly as a runner on a show called Beadle’s About!), and then video communications (mostly in education) for over 25 years. But nothing really prepares you for starting a new business as much as taking a risk and just getting stuck in.

Adventures in Pasta Land: How Not To Start A Food Business

It began so quickly that we barely had time to think. But I soon learned that this suited my leadership style well. In February 2017 we launched A Valentine’s Venetian Dinner and Drink pop-up event in an empty shop on Mill Road, Cambridge. Within two weeks we had the challenge to source ingredients, produce and price menus, market the event, sell tickets and run the evening making sure all 40 diners had delicious food and drink to enjoyplus a great ambience to be in. It confirmed to me that, despite the pressures of troubleshooting right up to opening, I’m driven by deadlines, enjoy a challenge, can lead a project creatively and be innovative on a tight budget. 

The night was a huge success and within three months we’d opened permanently as a small, local, independent Italian kitchen and wine bar. It really was a case of frugal innovation – a concept that Professor Jaideep Prabhu from University of Cambridge says is: ‘Doing more with less – whatever your location’. It’s about adopting a mindset of keeping things simple for maximum effect. Since then, I’ve tried to keep this in focus when making decisions. Here’s what’s helped me so far:• Mentoring. We were lucky enough to find a neutral voice with oodles of business experience. He helped us see different viewpoints and find solutions to move forward.Perfect at managing our different personalities, understanding our vision and giving advice.• Networking. Join like-minded groups and communities where you can build relationships and contacts to share ideasand keep learning. Locally I found the resources and short courses at EnterpriseWOMEN useful: https://www.jbs.cam.ac.uk/insight/2019/entrepreneurial-myths/ and to connect nationwide I like: https://f-entrepreneur.com/about-us/• Investing in my team. Having the right personalities on board can complement your strengths and weaknesses. It’s an on-going process but a range of experience and diversity certainly helps – we’re about to employ an apprentice pizza maker who will grow professionally alongside our business.• Being creative. Thinking outside the box can bring new ideas to the forefront. Our brainstorming sessions have resulted in delicious food and drink additions to our menu. Pasta with chocolate? Er, no thanks but our Sofia Loren pizza is a firm favourite.• Trusting my senses. At first, I found it difficult to listen to customers who didn’t enjoy their dining experience. But I learned that all feedback is valuable and it’s okay to get it wrong…as long as we then put it right.• Taking time out. It’s so important to relax and spend quality time away from the business. One of our team sayings is: “And don’t forget to breathe!” Keeping your sense of humour is essential to get through tricky times.

Psychologist Kurt Lewin says there are three main leadership styles but of course there are many more: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/leadership-styles explains these in a bit more detail.

Keeping leadership fluid and transformational is what works best for me as I’m not a natural leader as such. But we do all lead in some way or other at some point in our lives, even if we don’trealise it at the time. Whether it’s taking charge of family life, standing up for ourselves at work or diving into a new venture, leadership exists in many shapes and forms. 

We’re Not Saving Lives, Just Cooking Pizzas And Pastas

I think it’s important to remember perspective. This can be easy to forget especially when things sometimes go wrong (power cut in the middle of service, dealing with unreliable suppliers or having to pivot in a pandemic).

We’ve created our 3E philosophy to help us maintain perspective.The 3Es are:

ENHANCE our customers’ dining experience (and we’re proud to say we’re finalists in the Cambridge News Business Excellence Awards).

ENCOURAGE working in a collaborative way as this helps to build our brand more organically.

EMPOWER our team to be the best they can be by encouraging a flexible and inclusive working culture where all ideas and opinions are welcome.

It’s okay not to have all the answers straight away as I believe sometimes there is no right or wrong decision to be made. I think of myself driving along my own business journey with lots of spaghetti junctions along the way. There are traffic lights that make you stop and reflect; fast lanes when you have a deadline; roundabouts to revisit a problem; hitting the curbside when it all goes a bit wrong; dead ends when it’s time to move on and success when you find that perfect parking space. The point is,whatever the adventure, I’ll get there in the end.

As Dr. Seuss says at the end of I Wish I Had Duck Feet:

And So…

I think

there are some things

I do not wish to be.

And that is why

I think that I

just wish to be like ME.

Be your authentic self and lead the way that works best for you.

Contact Sweet Gill D’Apollonio at: info@mauriziodining.com


Website: www.mauriziodining.com

Connect on social media @mauriziodining