How to succeed at work: four high-flyers reveal their career and style secrets

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There has never been a better time to be a woman in the work place. We have jobs that are varied and exhilarating - and as entrepreneurs we’re ahead of the game. Here Alice Olins, co-founder of career blog the Step Up Clubmeets four wonderful working women and asks them what success and life on the career frontline means to them. 

If you finally want to discover what to wear to work, join us for an exclusive style shopping event with Fenwick Bond Street and Step Up Club on September 29 from 6pm. There will be style advice from leading fashion journalist Carolyn Asome, plus makeup lessons and more - book your tickets here.

1. Artist: Sara Berman

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Sara Berman is a British fashion designer turned fine artist; one of her pieces is currently being exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery.

  • How I made it work: “I loved working in fashion but I never imagined that I would spend my whole working life in one role. That mindset allowed me the mental versatility to consider changing careers. Change is a natural catalyst for growth. If I compare my roles as a designer and artist, running your own fashion business requires grit in order to work, whereas my painting is more about practice."
  • What I've learnt: "The thing I am beginning to realise is that art, like design, is never a smooth path from A to B. I am learning to trust my process and know that even if I feel like nothing is working and I will never be happy with a piece, I will come through. I feel incredibly lucky to be in a situation whereby I am able to make my work."
  • "I love what I do. I am always thinking about it, in my head I am always working. It is solitary but I have a network of people around me that I trust to bounce ideas off or to look at my work and pass valued opinion. But at the end of the day it is just opinion and it always rests with me. I like that. I like the control and ownership."
  • Success is: "For me success is being happy in what I do. When my work is going well I am the happiest person alive. When it's not going well or if I feel a little lost then I am on the floor and horrid to be around. For me, success has nothing to do with selling my work, it's all about what I am working on and if I feel my practice is developing in a way that is truly engaging me.”

MY WORK STYLE

  • My style: "If I’m painting it’s baggy jeans and an old cashmere jumper (usually navy). If I’m meeting people then I like to play around and dress according to my mood. It usually leans towards the eclectic. How I look is very important to me. I express myself through clothes and sometimes paint what I am wearing."
  • My staples: "I am very lucky and get spoilt on the clothes front. My mother is Helene Berman so I get lots of fabulous coats from her. I have a grey pinstriped Crombie style coat that I love and wear all the time. Jane Lewis from Goat is my sister-in-law and I get lovely things from her too. I have a particular navy jumper that I wear so much that I have doubles.  I also love Bella Freud and often wear My Ginsberg Jumper - even though I shrunk it."
  • My beauty essentials: "I love Nuxe hair oil and spray it around with great abandon."

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Jumper, Bella Freud available at Fenwick Bond Street; Coat, Helene Berman available at Fenwick Bond Street, Brent Cross, Colchester, Kingston and Newcastle; Hair and body oil, Nuxe available at Brent Cross, Kingston and Leicester; Phoebe jeans, MiH available at Fenwick Bond Street, Colchester and Tunbridge Wells.

2. THE AUTHOR: Jemma Wayne 

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Jemma graduated from Cambridge University with an academic scholarship for her achievements in social and political science. Jemma’s first full-length work, Bare Necessities, was published in 2004. Her play Negative Space ran at The New End Theatre in 2009, and her first novel, After Before, was published in 2014.

  • How I make it work: "I thrive on creating something that will have an impact on other people but becoming a published novelist doesn’t just happen. I couldn’t just graduate from university and declare myself a writer. So I started in journalism, and at the same time began working on my first novel idea. It was during that process that I had an idea for a non-fiction book. Bare Necessities, a tongue-in-cheek guide to being a grownup, became my first published book. It didn’t feel like a fulfillment of the dream though, because I didn’t feel completely comfortable writing in that genre."
  • What I've learnt: "Fiction is a hard nut to crack. So many times I was told that the market was too crowded, or that being a new novelist was a disadvantage. Despite it all, I’ve had to have a strong belief in myself, which is difficult because most creative people are plagued by self-doubt! The idea for After Before, my first novel, came about by chance. I was at a charity event to raise money for survivors of the Rwandan Genocide. Listening to the speakers that night started the nugget of an idea. There isn’t a set format when starting to write a book, generally though, I gather my information, most of which I write longhand in a book, and then I pull together the characters and a rough plot."
  • My skills: "I come from a creative family, which means I don’t have a rose-tinted view of what goes into working in the arts. Through my father and grandfather, I’ve seen the hard work that goes into success in this sphere. My Dad is probably the closest person I have to a role model. I look to him for advice and he has been an example for me."
  • My achievements: "Being long-listed for the Bailey’s Prize For Women’s Fiction was extremely meaningful. I am a mother of two girls and I feel acutely aware of the challenges faced by women and girls today; the pinkification of toys, gender stereotypes, sexual violence and modern slavery all affect women more. It hadn’t occurred to me that After Before might have received less attention because the three protagonists are women until it was pointed out by a journalist. Even within an industry that is flooded with female authors, perhaps you are taken less seriously if your work is slanted towards women?"

MY WORK STYLE

  • My style: "Most days nobody sees me beyond the other mums on the school run. But when I have meetings how I look hugely impacts on how I feel. Even on days when I’m on my own in front of my computer, I feel more powerful when I’m dressed well."
  • Style staples: "I often end up in jeans (Citizens of Humanity), a blazer (Joseph) and tops (Whistles, or Theory). Oh and everything looks better with heels (Kurt Geiger)."
  • My beauty essentials: "Clarins Beauty Flash Balm. It gives that all important sparkle even when you’re not feeling it!"

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Beauty Flash Balm, Clarins available at Fenwick nationwidetop, Theory available at Fenwick Bond Street and Newcastle;  heels, Kurt Geiger available at Fenwick nationwide;  blazer, Joseph available at Fenwick Bond Street, Kingston, Newcastle, Tunbridge Wells and York; jeans, Citizens of Humanity available at Fenwick Bond Street, Brent Cross and Newcastle.

3. THE EXECUTIVE: Maria Hvorostovsky

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Maria is the Director and Founder of HVO Search. Based in London, she runs a bespoke executive search firm working internationally within digital, retail, consumer and technology industries. Her clients include Deloitte, JW Anderson, Quiksilver and Michael Kors. She is also a Business Start Up Mentor at Virgin Start Up.

  • How I made it work: "I launched the company in 2012. I wanted complete control over something. Recruitment was the business that I knew, so I wasn’t scared of taking that leap. Maybe it was just the right moment? My specialty, my passion, is innovation and the relationship between retail and digital. How these two worlds co-exist, the developments in fashion tech and how technology is changing the fashion industry as a whole. What I love about my business is bringing people together within the dynamic, ever-changing sphere of online fashion.
  • What I've learnt: "In my second year, I was doing really well in terms of business, but something was missing. I realised I needed to actually get out there and meet people. This shift has made a huge difference to how I conduct myself and how receptive other people are to me. Being social through your work is so much healthier than being stuck behind a laptop and just focusing on the bottom line."
  • My skills: "If I had to list the skills that make me good at my job, I’d have to say, perseverance and humility. I am a natural risk taker, which helps when you have your own business. And learning how to ask for help, that’s been a skill that hasn’t come naturally but it’s one that is necessary to make me a successful leader."
  • My inspiration: "The biggest thing in the past few years is the movement of women supporting women. Previously, I only had male role models. At the start of my career women at the top were scary, they were unapproachable; but that has changed. Today I draw inspiration from so many amazing women; women like Michelle Obama, the entrepreneur Julie Meyer and I love Arianna Huffington. She presents women positively in the work place and she values the importance of looking after your mind and body too."

MY WORK STYLE

  • My style: "I travel a lot so being comfortable is important. The clothes need to move with me."
  • Style staples"I love flats for freedom and heels for impact. I like easy dresses that don’t require me to think when I am rushing around from DVF or McQ Alexander McQueen for more directional pieces and Iro leather jackets are incredible. Many of my clients are fashion or lifestyle companies where product is important, so of course I am conscious of the impression I make."
  • My beauty essentials: " I can’t live without Eve Lom cleanser. It’s the only thing you need for clear skin, and Laura Mercier tinted moisturiser (oh and YSL eyebrow pencil)."

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Tinted moisturiser, Laura Mercier available at Bond Street, Brent Cross, Colchester, Kingston, Newcastle, Tunbridge Wells, Windsor and York; leather jacket, Iro available at Fenwick Bond Street;  skirt and top McQ Alexander McQueen available at Fenwick Bond Street and Newcastle; bracelet, Eddie Borgo available at Fenwick Bond Street.

4. THE PR: Bianca Presto 

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With more than 12 years specialist beauty PR experience, Bianca ensures the attentions of the UK’s most influential beauty media are on her brands. As well as being a PR director, she recently co-founded (with her husband) the food shopping site kishnubbly.com.

  • How I made it work: "I was all signed up to be an au pair during a gap year in the US when my Dad came across a communications course at our local college. I’ve always been confident and my parents instilled a strong work ethic in me so I was looking for a career that would allow me to work hard and play hard, something that’s creative and let me to engage with people on a daily basis. From my dad’s point of view, he just thought PR would give me an opportunity to 'use my big mouth'."
  • What I've learnt: "You can’t have an ego in this business, no job should ever be too big or too small for any PR and if you’re not willing to get stuck in, regardless of your level, then it isn’t the right fit. I’m not sure I’ve reached the “top” but I’m exactly where I want to be in my career at this point in my life, working with people that I love, who inspire me and I am still learning every single day. I’m surrounded by some of the most creative, inspiring and nurturing women I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. PR is all about connections and I remember the best piece of advice an old boss gave me “the assistants of today are the editors/ directors of tomorrow, so treat everyone the same.” Women that support and build up other women in our industry are the type of people I want to be around so I make it a point to surround myself with this positivity."
  • My skills: "I’ve always strategised. From day one, I’ve been single-minded when it comes to my future at work and now, most importantly how it impacts on my family. I choose to work at an agency that fully supports and encourages a work/life balance and I think it’s made me a better PR and mother."
  • "Everyday I’m thankful for the work opportunities I’ve been given over the years and the support of a husband that’s made the after-hours socialising and early morning starts possible. I can only hope that my constant juggling act as a working mother will inspire my daughter to want to have it all and then some. In terms of the future, I love my job and can’t see myself going anywhere else for a long time to come. I’m also working on a separate project with my husband to launch an online food-e-market place that will promote and support food start-ups and artisan producers."

MY WORK STYLE

  • My style:  "I mix things up and go for what suits me rather than one particular style or trend. I’m in the business of health and beauty after all so it’s important that I look and feel the part."
  • Style staples: "My favourite brands are Whistles, Tibi, By Malene Birger and James Perse for T-shirts."
  • Beauty musts: "Blink Brow Definer in Cinnamon Spice and a Bliss Triple Oxygen Facial."

biancamontageBrow Definer in cinnamon, Blink available at Fenwick Bond Street, Brent Cross and Tunbridge Wells; culottes, Tibi available at Fenwick Bond Street and Newcastle; skirt, By Malene Birger available at Fenwick Bond Street and Newcastle; shirt, Whistles available at Fenwick Canterbury, Kingston and Newcastle; culottes; By Malene Birger 

By Alice Olins