Julie Ashmore, MBA ACIB, head of SME lending, HSBC Bank Plc, discusses balancing her career, her family - and her polar exploring

Julie Ashmore North Pole

I am constantly asking myself whether I’ve got the balance right and one thing’s for sure - I know I am not alone in thinking or worrying about this. I occasionally have days where I feel I’m doing everything badly, juggling work and family priorities and it’s not about which ball am I going to drop but more like which ones can I physically keep in the air? However, I also have days where I feel like I can take on the world and win!

Besides being a mum to two small children, aged 9 and 10, I have a demanding role in Banking and in my spare time I am an adventurer. In 2012 I skied to the South Pole to mark the centenary of Captain Scott’s fateful journey and two years later I completed the Polar double with a trip to the northern most point on earth.

I have always been ambitious and I’ve never seen having children as a barrier to my career. In fact I would say the opposite is true and motherhood has helped me develop professionally. For example, since becoming a mum my planning and organisational skills have been tested to the limit and proven to be reasonably robust! I also feel I now have far more empathy with team members facing issues outside of work and struggling with their own priorities.

I thought I’d share a few of the things I have learnt over the last few years.

There’s no place for guilt – It is destructive and achieves no purpose. However, it has a habit of creeping up on us when we’re least expecting it and can be debilitating. That moment when you’re rushing the kids to school, late for an important meeting, and your child announces they’ve forgotten something. A quick response of “It’s too late!” brings tears from little eyes along with a generous serving of guilt. So I have learnt to acknowledge that guilt exists but then park it and get on with my life and doing the very best I can.

Develop selective hearing – At times I have prolonged periods of time away from the children, particular when embarking on an adventure. This absence has been met with some criticism including from people close to me. However I have developed selective hearing – there are people who give advice which is challenging yet constructive whilst others are quite frankly negative and unhelpful. I choose to ignore the latter, recognising that their comments are often a reflection of their own lives rather than mine. On the counter side, I have a couple of ‘trusted advisors’ who will give me good, honest feedback including telling me what I really need to hear even if I don’t want to hear it!

Look up and check out the view - It’s easy to be so focussed on the day to day that we forget to look up, see where we’re heading and whether it’s where we want to go. I set myself goals on the horizon and regularly reflect on how we’re doing as a family, how the career’s going and whether a change of direction or balance is needed. I prioritise to attend sports days, concerts and other events but there are times when work needs to come first. I’m ok with that as I believe the children are growing up understanding that life is about making good choices, balancing priorities and anything worth having has to be earned.

The most common question I’m asked is whether I believe you can ‘have it all’. Can you have a career, raise a young family and succeed with both? Perhaps unsurprisingly my answer would be a definitive ‘yes’. In my opinion much of the pressure on working parents comes from within, rather than from external sources. We’ve already covered off the guilt but then there is also the lack of confidence and self-doubt which often comes along with being new parents. It can be daunting and stressful coping with a new member of the family and establishing a routine, let alone juggling work and other priorities at the same time.

Personally, I sometimes look back and wonder how I got to where I am today. I’m very proud that the children are well balanced and thriving. The career continues to progress nicely and I am planning my next big adventure for 2016.

I think the answer is I just relaxed and didn’t think about it too hard. I dealt with the guilt, chose my advisors carefully and focussed on where I wanted to be on the horizon, rather than being scared by the obstacles and hurdles along the way. I believe we all have the ability to achieve so much more than we think, both from a physical and mental perspective. We just need to open ourselves up to the opportunity and we may just surprise ourselves as to what we are truly capable of!

Julie Ashmore will be talking more about her exploration and sharing her experiences in an inspiring keynote speech at Making Reward Personal. To register to hear Julie speak, and see the rest of the programme, CLICK HERE