Fiona Dent: "work hard, play hard and live life to the full"
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Fiona Dent is a director of executive education at Ashridge Business School in the UK. She has also written several books including: The Leaders’s Guide to Influence: How to use soft skills to get hard results.

Ms Dent joined Ashridge in 1989 having worked previously in various HR managerial positions.

1. When did you know you wanted to teach?

I realised after one year at teachers’ training college that perhaps mainstream teaching wasn’t for me. But I liked the idea of working in a less structured teaching environment so decided that working in corporate training would be more appropriate, challenging and fun – it was. I’d found my dream job.

2. What do you enjoy most about your job?

The variety, autonomy and opportunity to use my initiative.

3. What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher?

Believe in yourself and follow your dreams (and the worst advice: you’ll never succeed as a teacher!)

4. What is the worst job you have ever had?

One of the insurance companies I worked for turned out to be a nightmare. I found out very quickly that the organisation culture was highly structured and paternal so using my initiative and having autonomy didn’t work. My main memory is constantly being told by my bosses: “We’ve always done it that way, why would we want to change?”

5. What advice would you give to women in business?

Be true to yourself, follow your dreams and be clear about what you want to achieve, have some fun on the way and don’t compromise on good quality work / life balance.

6. What is your favourite business book?

I have enjoyed many but one that always sticks in my mind and I recommend to many people is Your Best Year Yet: Make the next 12 months your best ever by Jinny Ditzler. Perhaps this reflects my own interests in lifelong development.

7. What is your life philosophy?

This isn’t a rehearsal, work hard, play hard and live life to the full.

8. What are your future plans?

I am now in my late 50’s and have had a wonderful career which has given me the opportunity to achieve things I never dreamed I’d do. I’m not ready to retire yet and looking ahead I’d like to spend more time focusing on new challenges and capitalising on some of the skills I have developed over the years: writing, research and coaching in particular.

9. What would be your plan B?

I’ve never really had a plan B but sometimes I think about running an arts and crafts gallery.

10. If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?

I would love to have been more confident earlier on in my career, though maybe it’s best that confidence develops with maturity, then its based on life experience.

Compiled by Charlotte Clarke

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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