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Joanne Delbridge
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Director of Public Relations, UK & IrelandSpecsavers
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Manager of a book shop in Guernsey

This was my first job after completing a humanities degree. I didn't really know what I wanted to do with my English Lit degree but it gave me great insight into retail and what is involved in running a business, from dealing with reps and ordering stock, to merchandising and accounting, window display, customer service, and how to deal with complaints!

Journalist for the Guernsey Evening Press

I started as a junior reporter and worked my way up to deputy features editor with responsibility for page design and layout, proofing and editing and submitting my own copy. I wrote a weekly 'women's page' when that was fashionable at the time! I was the paper's first female sub-editor - print media was still very much a man's world - we weren't even allowed to wear trousers to work then (unless we were climbing a ladder!).

Assistant communications manager, Specsavers

When I applied for the job I wasn't quite sure what a comms manager did but I heard such good things about the company that I was determined to be considered for the role. It turned out to be the best career move I ever made and allowed me to find and develop skills I didn't even know I had. I helped launch our customer magazine, organised some really exciting events, set up a children's charity, and started doing public relations activity without even really knowing it!

Asked to set up a public relations department for Specsavers

What a challenge, building a new department from scratch! The company were amazingly supportive, especially the founder, Dame Mary Perkins, who is now patron of Everywoman. Under her guidance I was able to develop my skills and learn on the job and although I made lots of mistakes on the way, not least in managing people - something I hadn't done before and is one of the most challenging aspects of any role - I always received the support and encouragement I needed to be the best I could be.

Director of Public Relations, UK & Ireland
Specsavers

I absolutely love my job! I get to work with some amazing people, including lots of famous ones, and have a fantastic team who I love like my own family! I have been privileged to have been involved in some life-changing charity work. I work cross-functionally with many different departments, helping to ensure that, when people think about their eye health or their hearing, they think of us first and foremost! Leading a department is constantly challenging but never dull. I am fortunate to have a great role model in Dame Mary Perkins who leads with passion and energy.

I am 55 and a chartered PR practitioner working for Specsavers.
English
Advertising/Public Relations

Listen, listen, listen... it is easy to hold one's own opinions as the most valid and important but it is really only from establishing all the facts, listening to what others have to say, watching and learning so that you are completely informed that you can then trust your judgement. Jumping in enthusiastically when not completely sure of your footing can impact your log-term credibility. That's not to say that you shouldn't follow your gut instinct also - a bit of female intuition and emotional intelligence is also important!

My Education
BA (Hons) in English & American Literature with Philosophy
University of Kent at Canterbury
Kent, England
Chartered Practitioner of Public Relations
Chartered Institute of Public Relations
London
Art, Biology, English Language, English Literature, History, Mathematics, Physics, Religious Studies, RE, Sociology, History of art 
Grammar School for Girls, Guernsey

Loved the girls, hated the bitchiness - being sent to Coventry, being whispered about behind your back, the casual bullying that was pretty endemic. Also the assumption in those days that the career opportunities open to you were to become a teacher or secretary or hairdresser. I really wanted to follow my passion for arts and interiors and follow a career in design but was actively discouraged. Still, it all turned out all right and I manage to channel my creativity through aspects of my work and in my home life.

More about me

You can't work in a public relations role without being interested in people and having a degree of empathy and emotional intelligence. You need to be a adaptable, change your tone to suit your audience, and have lots of energy. You also need to be innovative... its a crowded market out there and technology is constantly evolving so you have to stay abreast of change to remain relevant and pertinent. These are exciting and challenging times!

My role model Dame Mary Perkins showed me that showing a little thought for those you work with goes a long way. She still hand writes birthday cards to all her staff and is always first with a little thank you card for a job done well. Small acts of kindness help make an employee feel valued. Put myself forward for challenges - there is always something to learn from stepping out of one's comfort zone! And take criticism on the chin. I have had some tough feedback in my career, and have had days when I have wept on the journey home, feeling like a failure. But rather than railing against what can feel like unpalatable truths, it is better to acknowledge and use that feedback to be a better more competent version of yourself.

I would have LOVED to have been an architect or interior designer. Even when I was a young girl I used to move the furniture round at home to find a more aesthetically pleasing formation, much to my mother's amusement and despair I am sure! I still love nothing better than redesigning spaces to make them flow or look better and have developed several properties for myself and family and friends over the years.

Take education more seriously! Instead of thinking it was cool to skip class and smoke behind the bike sheds, leave revision to the day before and blag my way through exams (luckily I had a photographic memory so some how managed to wing some good results), I really do wish I had applied myself a lot more and aimed for Oxbridge. I did't take myself seriously as a woman or realise the opportunities that could be available to me - being popular and having a boyfriend seemed like the most important thing then. I wasted my intelligence and the education I was so lucky to have access to.

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