Women in the Workplace: Interview with Emma Mclean

To celebrate International Women’s Day we interviewed someone who we think is successful in their career.

It’s quite hard to define what is considered ‘successful’ but after talking to Emma Mclean we feel like she’s perfected this definition. We met up for a coffee in Auckland and chatted with Emma who has a background in marketing, is a mother of three and is stylishly proud. Learn more about Emma below:

Tell us a bit about yourself

My name is Emma Mclean and I am a Career Coach based in Auckland. Before I became a coach, I had a number of senior Marketing roles both in NZ and in the UK working for companies including Telecom NZ (as it was known then!), Accenture, DDB, and IAG. In my personal life, I am a daughter to Sue and Bruce, wife to Ken as well as a mother to three children and one dog called Yoda. I am actively involved in my community both as a Trustee on the Board of Trustees at my children’s school and as a volunteer facilitator with the Springboard Trust. But possibly my most important role is that of the Chief Happiness Officer for both my family and my business!

Celebrating International Women's Day with Emma Mclean
Celebrating International Women’s Day with Emma Mclean

What has been the highlight of your career?

Tricky to chose one and I hope I have a whole lot more still to come! But if I had to choose one, it would be when I was working at the management consultancy firm Accenture in London in the early 2000s. It was a fabulous company to work for because my learning curve just went straight upwards for several years. It was there that I figured out – if I’m not learning, I’m not happy. Add to that, I travelled a lot for work, stayed at swanky hotels, went to some seriously cool work parties and met my husband – then I’d have to say that it was a highlight!

What are you currently reading?

Recently, I really enjoyed Michelle’s Obama’s book “Becoming”. It was fascinating to learn that even before she became First Lady, she had chosen to pursue a life of service instead of following her fellow Princeton and Harvard graduates on a well-worn path into the legal profession. She is definitely one of the Originals as Adam Grant would call them. Plus it was funny to hear the story of how she met Barack (spoiler alert – he was her intern at the law firm she was at!).

“Dress like you are the boss.  Do that long enough and you’ll become the boss.”

Tell us a bit about your current role

After many years of informally coaching colleagues and friends, I formally qualified and established my Coaching practice in 2018 . I help women stop scrolling through life and start creating outcomes they actually want. The phrase “the days are long but the years are short” really rings true with my clients. They know they need to make a change (eg: change their job or go back to paid work) but are not too sure on how to start. My role as a coach is to sit alongside them, give them the space to articulate what they want, help them map out an action plan of how they are going to get there and then hold them accountable to doing it. Plus we have a lot of fun along the way!

Celebrating International Women's Day with Emma Mclean
Emma wears Grace Hill Workwear Blazer and the Grace Hill Silk Cami

What are some things that you see holding women back in the workplace and how can we solve this?

That is a big question but I can give one perspective. There are many contributing factors but I think one of the biggest is ensuring quality and affordable childcare can be accessed by all NZ families. Personally I find the school holidays especially challenging and even more so as my children get older. I feel like there is a big opportunity for someone to think outside the square and solve the school holiday problem for working parents and employers.

Tell us a bit about your style

I guess a have a few different styles depending on what I am doing during the day but what is common among all of them is that I don’t mind standing out from the crowd. In fact, when I went to one of my son’s school the other day he commented to me “Mum, why do you always have to wear lipstick that you can see from outer space?”. I guess he is not a bright lipstick fan! When I have been coaching my corporate clients this summer, I have enjoyed wearing a dress with a jacket to break it up plus a fun necklace. I like my personality to be reflected in what I wear. For days when I am on school pick up, my trusty denim jacket is never far from my side. And unfortunately for my son, neither is my bright lippie!

What tips do you have for dressing in the workplace?

What I wear is important as it impacts directly on my attitude towards work. For example, I know that if I am working from home for the day, if I don’t get out of my activewear by 9am then I will spend the day achieving very little. But if I am dressed in my “it’s business time” clothes by 9am, my to do list will be nailed by 11am. Whatever profession you are in, I think when you dress like you are serious about doing a great job, it can translate into better productivity. My final tip would be to dress like you are the boss.  Do that long enough and you’ll become the boss. And we will solve the earlier question of what is holding women back!

What do you define as being successful?

My definition of success is living a long, good, life. Success is looking after my body not so that I am a size 12 but so that I can live independently when I am older. Success is being able to help my children raise their own children. Success is spending time with my family and friends, talking, laughing and holidaying.

What keeps you awake at night?

Apart from worrying about whether we have enough trestle tables for our upcoming School Fair, I sleep pretty well at night. I find going to bed at a regular time is a good trick for me as is getting up at the same time every day.

What was the hardest decision you ever had to make?

I was working in London when 9/11 happening and it really scared me. I decided then, that I wanted to move back to NZ. But I had to leave behind a really good job with a great future in front of it. It was a hard decision and coming back to NZ was not without its speedbumps in terms of re-establishing my career and network. But new opportunities emerged from this and I think all experiences you have (good or bad) help to make you the person you are today.

What’s one change our readers could make right now to help them get closer to success in their career?

Back yourself! Believing in yourself will make a massive difference to what you can achieve. If you notice any negative self-talk creeping into your thoughts, gently thank them for showing concern for you but then ignore them and keep moving forward. You got this girlfriend!

Dress like you are the boss! Emma wears the Grace Hill Workwear Blazer, Grace Hill Silk Cami and Slouch Pants
Dress like you are the boss! Emma wears the Grace Hill Workwear Blazer, Grace Hill Silk Cami and Slouch Pants

If you need someone to help you with your career and you’re based in Auckland, then we totally recommend getting in touch with Emma!