Stress Awareness Blog: Be the architect of your own success

December 4, 2019
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Written by Tim Scott, Director of People

In support of Stress Awareness Month, each day this week we will share a personal experience from one of our team members who communicate how they dealt with, or learnt from, a stressful experience.

The former professional golfer, Gary Player, famously said, “the harder I work the luckier I get!”

I can safely say that having overcome many personal and professional hurdles, I completely echo that sentiment.

To make a success of something, amongst other things, you need to apply the following;

  • Hard work: Are you putting the effort and hours in to achieve your goals?
  • Build robust relationships: Are you positively networking within your chosen field?
  • A clear vision: Can you see a pathway? Are you creating your own lane?
  • Self-awareness: Never forget your roots and be thankful for those who support you.

And some luck of course!

In support of mental health awareness month, I want to share a personal experience that combines the above points.

When I was a little younger than some of our trainees are now, Ford Motor Company sponsored my Engineering degree at Oxford University.

For a young girl, who’s background was far from the dreaming spires of Oxford, this was quite unexpected.

During my sponsorship I enjoyed placements abroad, working in Valencia, Spain, and later in car central itself … Detroit, USA!

It was around this time that I started to branch out and build relationships, both at Oxford and within Ford.

I also became more self-aware, acknowledging that I was not a “natural” engineer and realising that my skills lay in bringing people together to solve complex problems.

However, it could have been very different…

Before I began my undergraduate journey, whilst on my gap year working for Ford, the vehicle giant told me it had come to their attention that Oxford’s engineering degree was not accredited by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers.

As a result, if I went to Oxford as planned, they would have to withdraw their offer of sponsorship.

Coming from a single parent family with limited resources, I felt I needed financial support to get through university. 

I therefore felt I had no choice but to decline my place.  Can you imagine the heartbreak?

As a result, I went through clearing and was given a place at UMIST (University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology).  

Despite Ford’s decision, I maintained a strong, positive relationship with the business, and continued to have an “all problems are solvable” attitude.

Stress Awareness Blog: Be the architect of your own success

A few months later, Lady Luck shone!

A female Maths tutor at my Oxford college, Dr Hillary Ockendon, somehow (to this day I don’t know how) got word that I had reluctantly declined my place.

I’m not quite sure what Dr Ockendon did, but I do know she was incensed enough to intervene and write to Ford!

On the basis of what she said, Ford’s HR Manager, Andy Palfreyman, reviewed my case and incredibly made an exception.

He overturned the decision based upon what Dr Ockendon had written, and upon the goodwill I had created through my hard work.

One of the favourite Ted Talks, in part because it is so brief, concluded that there are eight key attributes to being successful.

These are:

  1. Passion
  2. Work
  3. Get Good
  4. Push
  5. Support (aka Mums!)
  6. Serve
  7. Ideas
  8. Persistence

You’d be right in thinking that a number of the above points are interlinked.

To be good at something involves persistence and hard work, as well as a passion for what you do and support from those around you.

I hope my experience demonstrates that no matter how unfair things may seem, or however difficult situations become, we must persevere, rely upon our strengths and relationships, and strive for the sunnier climbs!

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