Kimberly Lovegrove is an Education Director, a Mother, and a fellow “Escapee” who went through the Tribe process in 2015. She has faced some challenges in her time in the corporate world, but has learned from them and risen from them with grace. Here she shares the benefit of her experiences – both in the working world and as a mother of two young boys – you’ll find she’s more than a little badass! Enjoy!
Did you always know you what you wanted to do?
I always knew I wanted to work closely with people, but I would say I stumbled into the Education industry, rather than actively seeking it out at first. My first job in Education was at MIT where I worked with a group of students on various community engagement initiatives. I absolutely loved my job – especially working with such a diverse group of intelligent and driven people and knowing that I was making an impact on their educational journey. In just a short time, I was hooked and I have been working in this industry ever since. I truly believe that Education transforms people’s lives – it’s a stressful and challenging industry to work in, but also incredibly rewarding.
What training/qualifications did you need to do to get to you where you are?
In Higher Education, you typically need a Masters degree at least (PhD preferred). After about 3 years at MIT, I worked my way up to the point where I knew I wouldn’t move any further without going back to school. So, I decided to get my MBA in Higher Education Management at UCL. It was my reason for moving to London, actually!
What is your proudest personal or professional achievement?
I’m a firm believer that we find our true strength in our most challenging times. We all have moments in life where we need to take a pregnant pause, dig deep and determine who we want be. For me this was when I was 22 and I stood up to my boss who was sexually harassing me, and (pardon the language), I got the assh*le fired.
I’ll spare the details, except to say that I was only 22 at the time – straight out of uni with a lot of debt and pressure to achieve, so the thought of leaving my job didn’t feel like a viable option to me. So, instead I kept my head down, kept quiet, and did everything I could to not be left in a room alone with him ever. I eventually reached a point where I had had enough, and I figured I had two options – say something or leave. I asked myself a question: What did I want to be able to say when I looked back at this situation? Who did I want to be? So I chose to say something.
The whole ordeal was one of the scariest and most stressful moments of my life, but also the proudest – because my actions ended up helping others. Once I came forward, it didn’t take long for other women to find the courage to do the same. I’ll never forget the day he was escorted out of the building and the collective sense pride and relief we felt together.
I share this mainly because I learned so many life lessons that I still carry with me to this day, 15 years later – most importantly that only good things can come from being open & honest, and standing up for ourselves. We all have that little voice in our heads that tries to hold us back, especially when things get hard. If you know it’s the right thing to do, keep going. Chances are you’ll end up helping others in doing so. And, that even in our scariest moments we women can be pretty badass!
Were there any inspiring people that helped/supported you along the way?
I have an amazing mother who has always been a strong example of hard work, dedication, and perseverance for me. She was a single mom of 3 who had to start over from scratch after putting her career on hold for over 10 years. Especially now that I have kids of my own, I am just in awe of her. I genuinely have no idea how she did it all. She is my superwoman.
Being a woman in the workplace can come with its own unique set of challenges; can you share some examples of your experiences and how you managed to overcome them?
The Education industry definitely has its fair share of ‘boys clubs’, which can be challenging for women in a number of ways.
The one thing I found particularly challenging, especially as I moved up in positions, was to stay authentic. Over the years, I had developed a whole new work persona without even realising it. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that I was an entirely different person inside the office. I just wasn’t my best self. I let certain comments or jokes slip off my shoulders when I should have stood up for myself or colleagues – I didn’t want to get labelled as ‘emotional’ or ‘uptight’. Sometimes I’d sit there and let colleagues talk over me (or ‘mansplain’), or I’d hold back on pushing certain issues too much in fear that I might get labelled the ‘bitch’… and so on. Somehow, I let go of who I was and what my deal breakers were.
I don’t think I really noticed this until I started a family. I wasn’t treated too well by my manager once she found out I was pregnant. During my maternity leave it was suggested that I would ‘check out’ by some of my senior colleagues and I was overlooked for opportunities. Then when I returned to work after maternity leave it felt very different – like all that I had accomplished for the school was no longer of value. At first, I let it happen. I was nervous about leaving my job of 9+ years so I tried to ignore the comments. I reasoned away the missed opportunities. I made very little mention of my son in an effort to prove that my dedication remained unchanged. Nothing about that felt natural or authentic and I didn’t like who I was at work.
Thankfully, it was around this time that I started the Escape school, which helped me rediscover my true self and my confidence. At the end of the course I decided to leave my job for a company that is more aligned to my values. I just had my second son a few months ago, actually, and the experience has been completely different – much more positive this time around. It’s been a great decision for me.
Throughout your career progression have you had to make many sacrifices in order to succeed?
I’m not sure I’d call it sacrifice, but I worked very hard and long hours for years. From working full-time during my Masters degree, and averaging 60-80 hour weeks for years, I ended up missing a lot of birthdays, weddings, family trips, dates, etc. I basically put my personal life on hold for work.
I’m not placing blame, though. This was all me. I was eager to prove myself and I loved my job. It was fun and exciting, I was constantly learning, and I worked with some brilliant people. Plus I’m a chronic people-pleaser, so I said yes to every project I possibly could, and I made myself overly available to my colleagues and students – hardly ever switching off. It helped advance my career, but I got burnt out a lot, and I’m sure I could have achieved the same result without stretching myself so thin. Looking back I could have reined it in.
Now that I have a family, I’ve learned to maintain a healthy balance. I still commit the same level of intensity for my work, but I’ve learned that working smart doesn’t always mean working more. I am much more efficient with my time, I set realistic and achievable expectations for me and my team, and I stick to my boundaries. I’m less afraid to say no, and as a result I feel much more in control now. Saying no is empowering!
What advice would you give other young women starting out on their careers?
First, you might feel that you need to say yes to everything – every project or assignment that comes your way – just to prove yourself. There is certainly nothing wrong with being eager and excited, and I’m not saying that you shouldn’t put yourself out there. But be strategic and make it work for you. Have a goal in mind – whether it’s a job shift, a new company, a new enterprise, a promotion – and try to focus on the projects that will help you gain the exposure, contacts, skills and experience that will help get you there.
Second, find your people – those who know you best and will be completely honest with you in any situation. We all face situations in our careers where we feel stuck – a difficult conversation with a superior, a big presentation, feelings of self-doubt, etc. It’s natural. Make sure you have your people who you can rely on to help you through those tough times, especially if it means challenging you or telling you something you don’t want to hear. Being challenged to think differently is how we grow. Find the people in your life who can do that for you.
What would have made your career path smoother, if you could go back in time and change things?
I would have given myself the permission and confidence to set boundaries and not to succumb to the fear of missing out. I don’t regret working as hard as I did. I’m proud of what I achieved. But if I could go back and do it again, I would have allowed myself to slow down a little and be more present for family and friends.
If you didn’t work in Education, what else would you have done?
I think would have ended up doing something in music management. I managed a few bands on the side back in the day and I loved it.
How do you choose to switch off in your down time?
Ha – with a 2 year old and a 4 month old, I hardly ever get downtime 🙂
But honestly, I just love time with my family. They keep me grounded and they’re my happy place. One of my favourite things about having kids is that you get to see the world through their eyes and appreciate the fun and excitement in life’s simple things. So my perfect way to switch off is to put down my phone or laptop and just play – especially if it involves a dance party with my 2 year old. 🙂
If you would like to follow up with Kimberly and connect with her, feel free to email her on firstname.lastname@example.org. She would love to hear from you!
Also, if you or a woman you know has a story to share, contact us at ToGetHer Further and share the wisdom and personal experience for others to benefit!