Professional Liverpool & LCC Annual Carol Service

Last week, I attended the annual Professional Liverpool & Liverpool and Sefton Chambers of Commerce Annual Carol Service. Held in the surroundings of St Nicholas Church, the service radiated a warm feeling of community and goodwill, heralding the start of the festive season.

When I arrived at the church after braving the freezing December weather, I immediately felt the warmth of the surroundings, followed by friendly greetings. This set the tone for a fine evening of Christmas carols and networking. In addition, I was visually struck by the architecture of St Nicholas Church, as it was beautifully pristine in appearance.

I had never attended a carol service before, so this was a new experience. Indeed I enjoyed the service, as it was rich in festive tone with carols and hymns sung in hearty voices. There were also readings from prominent Liverpool business speakers, including Julie Sankey, Bill Addy, Stephen Burrows, Paul Cherpeau and Laura Stuffins.

The service was topped off with a visit to Fazenda, for some delicious mulled wine, mince pies and the opportunity to network with new and familiar faces. It was a nice touch to end a lovely evening, which certainly helped to put me in the Christmas spirit.

Many thanks to everyone involved.

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What Have I Learned from Networking?

Throughout this blog, I have made no secret of my enjoyment of networking. Over the years, I have attended many networking events, seminars, public lectures, as well as various professional gatherings, of which I have met hundreds of people from various backgrounds. From politicians, chief executives, solicitors, accountants, entrepreneurs, and many others, I have had the pleasure of listening and learning from many interesting conversations and discussions.

With job security at a premium these days, today’s professionals need to develop relationships with clients from other industries. This is where the ability to network with other people becomes an important skill to learn, however it can also be understandably intimidating for many.

Networking is more than just about meeting people and exchanging business cards. It is actually about getting to know people through the art of conversation, and to develop a sense of rapport, through listening and understanding the needs of others. Through this, professionals can discover what they have in common with others, and this helps to lay the foundations for successful networking.

There are so many resources on networking, from books, online articles, podcasts and more. With so much information available, I have drawn on my own experiences, and condensed my thoughts into some brief, but hopefully useful starting points, to help others in their networking endeavours. From the points I have listed below, I hope these will not only be beneficial for networking newcomers, but also for experienced networkers to consolidate their own skills.

  1. When introducing yourself, relax, smile and warmly shake hands.
  2. Develop relationships over a long-term meaningful basis.
  3. Think about how you can address somebody else’s professional or business needs.
  4. Understand your values, strengths and weaknesses.
  5. Remember to be honest and genuine!
  6. Respect the opinions of others.
  7. Conduct yourself in a professional manner.
  8. Avoid speaking about anything commercially or politically sensitive.
  9. Listen first and then speak.
  10. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  11. Keep politics to a minimum.
  12. If you exchange contact details, follow up straight away and keep in touch.

To summarise the points made, successful networking is simply showing your authentic self, and connecting with others. This is done by listening, learning and understanding what you have in common with other people that you meet and converse with. Although it is intimidating to converse with strangers at first, remember that networking takes practice, so don’t worry if you struggle initially. With time and patience, you can become better and more confident at networking.

So what I have learned through networking? For a start, I have become more comfortable with conversing with people from different backgrounds. It has also allowed me to broaden my horizons and understanding of other industries, outside of my own. As a result, networking has pushed me out of my comfort zone, enriching my professional and personal life, which has given me more confidence. Finally it has also allowed me to listen and learn from my peers, and from those more experienced than myself.

In conclusion, I have not only developed my networking and communication skills, but I have also been able to create and carefully nurture professional relationships. It has also allowed me to create and share online content produced on this blog, as well as promoting professional content created by others. Therefore if I can benefit from networking, then you can also benefit from it too!

Thank you for reading!

Liverpool Girl Geeks – An Introduction

A common concern in the IT industry is the shortage of skills to meet demands of companies and organisations. Complicating matters further, is that there is no simple solution to this. However there is one solution, which I am interested in bringing to attention, which is to encourage more women into technology.

For this article, I have decided to focus on Liverpool Girl Geeks, an organisation who strive to encourage more girls into pursuing their passion for technology. Formed in 2013 by Chelsea Slater and Rebecca Jones, the organisation strives to provide positive interventions from coding, marketing and gaming, through events, courses and workshops.

Liverpool Girl Geeks is not only very important to help close the gender gap, but also to provide the UK economy with the digital skills required in the future. In my opinion, closing the gender gap is imperative, because the lack of women in technology roles in the future, will damage the IT industry and the economy if not addressed.

Closing the gender gap in technology will not only benefit businesses, but also men too. This is because a level playing field can be worth up to £2.6 billion per-year for the UK economy, and men would also benefit from the additional sharing and collaboration of knowledge, skills and ideas.

It was through last years’s Women in Tech event that I attended, that the size of the gender gap in technology was brought clear to me (you can read my thoughts here). Since then, I have thought a great deal about this, and have since concluded that businesses, industry experts, education and society must all come collectively together and work towards bridging that gap, and correct the gender imbalance. This is where the excellent work of Liverpool Girl Geeks is vital, and deserves to be applauded and supported.

I find it very heartening to see the work down by Liverpool Girl Geeks, to help bridge the gender gap. However there is more to be done, in order to ensure that women and girls are able to pursue their technological passions, on a rightfully equal basis.

On that note, I shall leave you with a famous quote from the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”

Thank you very much for reading!

Weightmans Wednesday – Liverpool Organic Brewery

Today the beer industry in Britain is changing, with the rise of micro-breweries. Creating their unique brand of real-ale, made from traditional and fresh ingredients, micro-breweries are proving very popular with the beer-buying British public.

At this month’s Weightmans Wednesday event in Liverpool, I was delighted to listen to an interesting talk from Mark Hensby of Liverpool Organic Brewery. Along with a packed audience, I was very keen to hear the story of the brewery’s success.

From the beginning of the brewery in 2008, to the success of Liverpool Gin and Real Ale Events, Mark gave a very eloquent talk, taking the audience on a journey. Even more pleasing was that Mark also allowed for audience participation throughout. Listening carefully, I was impressed with how Mark replied with modesty, dignity and humour.

Mark explained about his background, setting up the brewery, growing it and also how it has hosted many successful beer festivals, through Real Ale Events. Examples of such festivals include St George’s Hall and most notably St Luke’s Church, which have been successful. This has resulted in the positive effect of helping to breathe life into Liverpool’s historical landmarks, generating publicity and revenue. There was also a mention of a rum and prosecco event, which drew humming sounds of delight, from some audience members.

In difficult times, when the general beer market is declining, the real-ale market is growing. I learned the number of micro-breweries in the UK have grown from 400 to 1600 today, which is a clear sign of the popularity of naturally created ale. If there is a lesson to be learned, it is that market trends fluctuate, which apply to every industry.

Liverpool Organic Brewery has grown to be a real asset. Reflecting on the event, my opinion is that it captures the spirit of what is great about Liverpool. Not only has it been successful with customers in the UK and beyond, but it incorporates and respects the city’s identity, whilst promoting it internationally. The brewery also provides a wide variety of naturally crafted ales.

I would like to thank Mark Hensby, and also everyone at Weightmans for putting on an excellent evening. Just listening to Mark’s story was well worth the excellent turnout alone.

Taking the Occasional Break

I recently returned from a holiday in Orlando with my family (and no, I was not caught up in Hurricane Irma). With hot weather, laughs, roller coasters and Disney fireworks galore, I not only enjoyed myself, but it was lovely to spend precious time with the family, and visit the wonderful sights including the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Busch Gardens and Universal Studios. All of this allowed me to rest and recharge my batteries, whilst exploring and educating myself on American culture, such as pancakes for breakfast, sports bars, and flea markets.

As professionals, there are occasions when we need to take a short rest, by switching off and recuperating, with little distractions. To achieve this, I cut myself off from LinkedIn and any professional e-mails, to focus on enjoying myself with my family, as well as making the most of what Orlando had to offer. Feeling the warm Florida sunshine and surroundings was so stimulating, that I was so immersed in my holiday and I hardly thought about working or networking.

Taking time away from the trenches of professional life is important for mind, body and soul. The reason is that if we want to remain at our optimum best, we must remember to take an occasional break to unwind and relax, wherever it is in Orlando, Ibiza, Cornwall, or just from the comfort of your own home. It is about taking a short time to do something enjoyable, or completely different, before returning with renewed energy and vigour, and in my case a good tan.

As for Orlando, I will honestly say with a full heart and contented mind, that it was a great experience. This was despite feeling physically fatigued toward the end, due to the constant travelling to and from the resorts, but the great times, laughs and memories was certainly well worth it all.

Rhymes & Records at the Jacaranda – Monday 7th August 2017

Writing and performing poetry is one of my favourite hobbies. Just the thought of creating a piece and reciting it to an audience of like-minded people, is an obsession that fills me with nothing but plentiful joy.

Last week, I attended an open mic night called Rhymes & Records, held in the basement of The Jacaranda. Located on Slater Street in the Ropewalks area of Liverpool, I was unaware of the famous historical significance of The Jacaranda. This was because it was one of the early venues where The Beatles played, so the location was very intimate, as the audience were sat very close to the stage.

I had never previously been to Rhymes & Records or The Jacaranda, so I was surprised with the layout and design of the basement. As I stood on the stage reciting my poems, I felt the buzzing anticipation and warmth supportive feel of the audience, and my fellow poets. It was a wonderful and uplifting atmosphere, which is a very special feeling. An added bonus was that I even managed to thankfully avoid bumping my head against the low ceiling!

In addition, I was impressed with everyone who got on the stage to read out their poems. It takes courage for a person to stand in front of a microphone, and read out a poem they have written to an audience of strangers, especially when it has been written from the heart, and of a personal nature.

There were so many poems related to different subjects, which made the audience laugh, contemplate and cry. These included subjects such as past nostalgic times, as well as serious topics including mental health, LGBT issues and also about grief. This last subject was magnificently covered by Christina Thatcher, who was headlining the evening. Christina performed some poems from her book “More Than You Were”, related to her own personal experiences with grief, which she performed so beautifully, that I was mesmerised and emotionally moved by her performance.

In conclusion, Rhymes & Records was an excellent evening, and I would like to thank Lyndsay Price for organising and hosting the event. My thanks also go to Christina for sharing her wonderful poetry, all the poets who performed, and to the audience for their support.

I recommend Rhymes & Records for an entertaining evening of poetry, of which more details can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

Weightmans Wednesday – National Museums Liverpool

At last week’s Weightmans Wednesday, I was delighted to listen to Fiona Philpott and Sandra Penketh from National Museums Liverpool (NML). This is a group that consists of 8 free museums and galleries, providing various historical, geographical and contemporary collections and exhibitions. These venues include the Museum of Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery and the World Museum, employing 450 full-time staff.

Listening to Fiona and Sandra, I learned about how successful NML has been for the city. This is because MNL’s economic impact on the Liverpool City Region cannot be underestimated, with 3 million visitors attending the city’s museums and galleries each year, contributing £53 million to the local economy.

NML’s success is down to the tremendous effort put in behind the scenes. Organising successful exhibitions require painstaking negotiations with domestic and international partners, devising alternative ways to maximise resources, and identifying what exhibitions will be effective to reach audiences. In addition to the above, having good background knowledge of subjects related to exhibitions, is also very important.

I also learned from Fiona and Sandra about NML’s willingness to try new things. A classic example is by encouraging and providing creative opportunities for contemporary artists, through the John Moores Painting Prize, which invites contemporary painters to submit and display their works. NML also strongly values the importance of education by working with schools and communities, and promoting social change and equality, by tackling social, historical and contemporary issues. An example is their Pride and Prejudice research project, and the Art of Solidarity exhibition, which explores, educates and presents untold stories, through interactive and accessible means.

Fiona and Sandra also touched on some of the upcoming exhibitions. An example is the Terracotta Warriors, which is coming to Liverpool in 2018. Whilst I have already seen pictures of the exhibition, it has already attracted considerable media attention, and I also believe it to be a real coup for the city of Liverpool, to display this interesting exhibit. Therefore I sincerely hope the Terracotta Warriors exhibition proves to be a major success for NML.

I would like to personally thank Fiona and Sandra for providing a culturally enriching talk. My thanks also go to John Kemp, Henry Sterling and Sarah Gerard of Weightmans, for organising an entertaining evening of networking. My thanks also go to Prescient, for providing a sumptuous buffet, which complimented the experience.

To conclude, Liverpool is a city with plenty to offer from a cultural perspective. With a tremendous wealth of art and history exhibitions, there is so much to visit and learn, from the landmarks, museums and galleries across the city. NML provides many opportunities to educate and enrich the lives of everyone, making it a valuable asset to the city of Liverpool.