Simone Roche is making waves. From a career that began in the Royal Navy, to running her own successful business, Simone initiated and continues to lead the #NorthernPowerWomen campaign - bringing the force of positive collaboration to accelerate gender diversity.
Groundswell Innovation’s founder Jane Dalton is also Brand Director and Volunteer Ambassador of #NorthernPowerWomen. We caught up with Simone for our 10 Years in Innovation series just after she had been awarded the MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list.
Q: What do you think the next 10 years holds for the North of England?
A: I believe the next 10 years will bring great opportunities for the North. The Northern Powerhouse laid the foundations for this initiative in 2014, and we are working to continue this positive groundswell that is attracting big businesses to the North. We can’t leave our future to Westminster, and as individuals, we can’t leave our future to other people. The future includes all ages of working women – from career starters to career returners in their 40s to career re-inventors in their 60s! I always encourage women attending our events to bring someone with them that doesn’t look or think like them. By exploiting that diversity, by collaborating and disrupting the norm, we’re going to make a change.
Q: How can we all become innovators?
A: I truly believe in the art of the possible. I have found that by connecting people, and then mobilising those groups of individuals, we can make a greater good through positive collaboration.
Q: Do you believe you can teach an old dog new tricks?
A: We are all living longer, and we are all working longer. We know that we have a STEM skills gap, and I believe there are roles for the more experienced population to retrain and fill those gaps. I couldn’t be more passionate about the different life skills that older workers can bring to this challenge. We now have an MP responsible for tackling the issues raised by loneliness following a report into the subject by the Joe Cox Commission. One of my clients has an executive assistant in her 70’s working as a job share, and it’s this kind of flexible thinking that is going to teach that old dog something new.
Q: If you could turn back the clock 10 years, would you do anything differently?
A: I feel like I’ve been on a white water raft for the last 10 years, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m a real believer that things happening for a reason, and I’ve always innovated as I’ve gone along. For the last 3 years, I’ve run my own business, although I’ve always treated every job as if it was my own business. When I set up Events 1st, I knew that it was important to keep checking in with my team and my personal network, because together we make more than the sum of the whole.
Q: Tell us one small thing that we can all do that would make a big impact
A: Celebrate those achievements, and write down what you’ve accomplished. It’s easy to think about what we’ve still got to do, without taking the time to look back at those milestones and give ourselves a ‘high five’. That’s why we make a point of celebrating our roles models every year at the #NorthernPowerWomen Awards. And we should never be afraid to ask for help, because everyone makes mistakes or takes a wrong turn.
Q: Who inspires you?
A: I have 4 gorgeous nieces and nephews, and they inspire me every time I see them - the way that they play, create and invent. Within them, is the future of what’s possible. I also take inspiration from my 96 year-old Nan, who bought up her family during the war and had to endure nightly air raids. Michelle Obama showed us that the White House can truly be a team effort. I’m inspired on a daily basis by our roles models and Ambassadors at #NorthernPowerWomen by sharing a platform for collaboration.
And finally, I love Jane’s ‘I can do that’ attitude. Or when she can’t do it, she’ll find an alternative that often works better. She’s been an invaluable support to me; challenger and advocate of #NorthernPowerWomen, and I’m looking forward to the next 10 years.