Role Model Corner – Louisa Symington-Mills
What led you to set up your business?
After I returned to my City job as an equity research analyst after my daughter was born, I felt I wasn’t able to participate in networking opportunities as I had previously. With a long commute, my evenings meant rushing out of the door as close to 5pm as I could, and hot-footing it home to see my baby before her bedtime. My company had a women’s network but their events started at 7pm in a local bar, and were primarily social rather than informative.
I really wanted to meet other working mothers in the same boat as me – trying to keep a tough City career moving forwards, whilst managing some kind of work-life balance too – as well as to learn, and to be inspired.
The idea to launch a network for working mothers in the City came to me whilst I was working at my desk one morning, and by the end of the same day I’d created a limited company – then called Citymothers – and started to build the website. I was impatient to get going!
Now, that network has turned into Cityparents, an amazing, dynamic network of nearly 15,000 working parents in City professions. We organize around 80 lunchtime seminars for our members, covering a range of careers, parenting, wellbeing and tech topics.
What’s the best thing about your role?
The combination of incredibly focused, motivating and stimulating work, and the way it balances with home and family life. As CEO I drive forwards every part of our growing business. So during the day, I’m flat-out planning super relevant and rewarding initiatives. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to know that we’re really making a difference to employees and workplaces in the UK. Then, come 3pm I’m able to collect my two young children from school, and be fully present for them through the afternoon and evening. Generally that means being a taxi service for their activities!
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
In early 2015 my husband was relocated to the United Arab Emirates for his work. We made the decision collectively as a family that we would give the relocation a go! But it wasn’t an easy decision – Cityparents was really getting going, and at the time I was running it on my own, in my spare time and alongside my day job. I had to figure out a way for Cityparents to continue to grow and expand successfully without relying on my physical presence. That process resulted in our first hire, my colleague and now business partner Helen Beedham, who has been absolutely instrumental in the development of Cityparents in recent years. Since then we’ve continued to expand our team – there’s now 6 of us – and we all work remotely, although I’m definitely the farthest from London!
In what ways are you adapting your working methods to new technology and AI?
My relocation obviously forced me to look at how I would interact with my team in the UK, as well as of course Cityparents clients and members! We use internet-based video calls for nearly everything, including our weekly team meetings and project reviews, as well as client interactions where possible. It works extremely well, bar the occasionally technological hiccup! I’m also personally very excited about the launch of Cityparents Webinars later this month – the only downside of moving overseas has been not being able to attend as many of our wonderful events as I would like. Now, with the new Webinar programme, I can access Cityparents event content from my desk here in Dubai.
Who has had the most positive influence on your career or on your approach to business, and what did they teach you?
My husband, undoubtedly. He has supported every step of my journey through the workplace – from helping me to identify how to begin my career in finance, through to navigating two maternity leaves and ultimately giving me the confidence to launch my own enterprise. He has extensive business experience and is an excellent sounding board. I became a business owner by luck not design – when I created Citymothers I never expected that 6 years on it would be my sole occupation and employ a growing team – so his counsel in helping me navigate the ‘ups and downs’ that are naturally encountered in a growing business has been incredibly valuable.
If you’d know then, what you know now… is there anything that you’d want to go back and change?
I wouldn’t change a thing.
Louisa Symington-Mills is the CEO of Cityparents Ltd (www.cityparents.co.uk). Cityparents is an inclusive network of nearly 15,000 individuals who have a shared interest in balancing home/family life with a progressive, professional career. In addition to the Cityparents network, which is aimed at employees, Cityparents Ltd operates a City-wide network for HR and Diversity & Inclusion professionals called Cityworks. Launched at the start of 2017, this network aims to connect employers, encouraging the sharing of best practice in HR, D&I and Wellbeing policies through events, surveys, networking and online resources.
This issue in a snapshot:
- Artificial Intelligence and coaching – opportunities and challenges
- Book review – ‘How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back’
- Will AI affect women more than men?
- Technology and kids – the good, the bad and the ugly!