“I've recognised the importance of shedding that corporate mask to reveal my true self” Helen Kings CDir, COO ivolve Group

Helen Kings moved swiftly from Aldi graduate trainee into senior leadership roles across different industries. Her CDir qualification has enabled her to nimbly apply her skills to different sectors and she is currently enjoying the sense of purpose that comes from leading operations and growth in a social care organisation. Here she talks about knowing your strengths and being prepared to try new approaches and think outside the box.

My career journey has been a whirlwind of different experiences, shaped by the sectors I’ve navigated and the challenges I’ve faced along the way. From the start of my career as a fresh-faced graduate trainee to my current role as COO of ivolve Group, I’ve learned lessons about resilience, credibility, and the importance of authenticity in leadership.

I embarked on this journey after completing my studies in English and Philosophy at Cardiff University. Joining Aldi’s graduate trainee programme provided me with a solid foundation in business fundamentals, setting the stage for my future endeavours. Moving through roles at Somerfield, the Co-op, and eventually Compass Group, I gained exposure to various facets of operations, sales, and client relations, learning lots along the way.

Throughout my career, I’ve learnt how to bring businesses together, manage change, and drive growth. From my early days navigating the aisles of supermarkets to my current role shaping the future of a social care organisation, I’ve thrived on strategically assessing businesses and implementing improvements. However, the journey certainly hasn’t been without its challenges, particularly in confronting gender inequality in the workplace.

As a younger female leader, I’ve often found myself navigating a landscape tilted in favour of my male counterparts. Overcoming these hurdles required perseverance and a commitment to self-improvement. Seeking to bolster my credibility in male-dominated environments, I pursued professional qualifications, including membership with the Institute of Directors and the Chartered Director Programme.

The Chartered Director qualification was both one of the hardest challenges and one of the best experiences I’ve undertaken. I took my time, studying over four years, while working and also having two babies! The training not only expanded my knowledge but also instilled in me the confidence to challenge decisions and thrive in non-executive director roles. One of the most profound lessons I’ve learned along the way is the importance of authenticity in leadership. Initially hesitant to show vulnerability, I’ve come to realise that authenticity is the key to making deeper connections and enabling genuine relationships to grow.

Looking back, I would advise my younger self not to be afraid to make mistakes, keep work fun, and be prepared to show vulnerabilities. While I’ve developed a hard shell to cope with working in predominantly male environments, I’ve recognised the importance of shedding that corporate mask to reveal my true self.

Reflecting on my journey, I’m reminded of the transformative power of qualifications, vulnerability, and authenticity. I hope that I can give aspiring leaders confidence to embrace their strengths, confront challenges head-on, and lead with authenticity.

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