“International Women’s Day is a chance for us to look forward to the legacy that we can create.''

Date published: 08 March 2021
Nova Roberts

The Council’s assistant director of change management & regulatory services Nova Roberts, said she has had ‘no reason’ to question her rights to be equal.

She said: “Growing up in the 80’s with two older brother’s, the first female Prime Minister and Madonna topping the charts - meant that I had no reason to question my right to be equal and surged ahead with this positivity and assertiveness.”

Nova said throughout her 35-year-career in both the public and private sector, so many inspirational women have influenced or supported her. It all started with a dream Saturday job working in a bridal wear shop when she was 13.

She said: “The owner of the shop was a wonderfully strong lady ran who ran her family business like clockwork. She took pride in her knowledge, was a very active part of the local Jewish community and most importantly instilled in me the absolute importance of putting your customer front and centre of everything you do.

“With no electronic point of sale system this came from listening and engaging with every person that walked in the shop. Building a rapport, gaining repeat business and being very active in the local community. She ignited a fire in me for retail and taught me everything she knew and I loved it.”

Nova was eventually offered a partnership in the business at 18 and inspired her to follow a career in retail, on a management training programme at Marks and Spencer, deferring her university place.

This gave her an opportunity to learn and develop at an accelerated pace and getting stuck in with all the frontline teams and customers. Taking leadership development courses, having responsibility for departments and leading on projects all before the age of 20.  

She said: “Needless to say the format of working, earning money and still being able to learn and develop was what I thrived on. So, the university place was never taken up and the chance to take formal qualifications whilst also learning on the job has carried on throughout my career. I am an enthusiastic supporter of this approach to learning still.”

Nova joined the travel industry in the 90’s at a time of growth, fascination with worldwide travel, big profits to be made and internet only in its infancy. Nova, seized many opportunities to develop and study whilst at Thomas Cook, as well as having her two children at this time too.

She said: “Working with some inspirational leaders and learning from them at each challenge and opportunities we faced together. However, I faced some difficult times too, experiencing two armed raids in a store where I was branch manager.

“Supporting my team and customers first with their recovery resulted in me ignoring  how I was feeling and later realising later that it had impacted me severely too. Reaching out for the counselling support didn’t come easily at the time when I always seen as the strong female leader with many male colleagues. However, I wouldn’t be who I am today without it, it was one of the best decisions. This equipped me well to take the lead in 11 September 2001, when I chaired the emergency response for Thomas Cook when the terrorist attacks changed the world and that of the travel industry forever.”

Nova moved into the public sector and described having ‘a fabulous mentor’ who coached her through her career change. She was generous with her time and later become Chief Executive.

She said: “I learnt compassion and the benefits of collaborative working both with customers and members.  It feels good to be able to make a difference to people and it not just being about profit.”

Nova is pleased to work for an ‘inclusive team’ at the Council, that has many women in senior and managerial roles and is something we should continue to be proud of and champion.

She said: “It is always so rewarding to encourage and support colleagues to learn and achieve and this is the most motivational part of any leadership role.

“Always reach out for support from colleagues, friends and family members, you really do get the best outcome and it helps you see through some of the most difficult situations whether at work or at home.

“When you’re juggling too much, take some time out, ask for help and make sure you focus on the priorities, control the controllables, review what’s important and what is your purpose.

“When your personal circumstances change  - sometimes dramatically and unplanned – take the time to reassess what is important and reframe your priorities so your focus is where it should be. Spend as much time as you can with your children, be present with them and as they become independent, you can be proud.

“Just as importantly, spend as much time as you can with your parents, they need you just as much as you needed them when you were a child, they have great experience, love and wise words and time never reverses.”

Nova said throughout her life, she has been fortunate to be surrounded by support and positivity especially from her parents and brothers. Her Dad has always strived to challenge his views on equality and has positively supported her.

She added: “I have always hoped that there with be equal opportunities for my daughter and my son as they move through life. International Women’s Day is a chance for us to look back on our achievements and look forward to the legacy that we create and how we build new pathways for how women progress, gain and sustain equality in the workplace, providing equal opportunities for all.”

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