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Julia Hobsbawm is the founder of Editorial Intelligence, a knowledge networking business, and an honorary visiting professor in networking at City University Cass Business School, London. Having joined Cass in 2012, Ms Hobsbawm aims to promote the importance of intellectual curiosity and face-to-face connections to a business and its employees.
Ms Hobsbawm writes, teaches and gives speeches on a number of topics including entrepreneurship, women in business and work/life balance. She is also the author of several books, including The Power of the Commentariat.
In her spare time, Ms Hobsbawm enjoys reading fiction and walking with family and friends.
1. Who are your business heroes?
The publisher Carmen Callil who founded Virago Press was my first business heroine. She created a market out of something she was passionate and knowledgeable about. She was also a founder of The Groucho Club, which I still belong to and which is innovating in a fresh and profitable way to this day.
My great-cousin Gretl Lenz came to this country as an émigrée and started her own fashion business in the 1950s. When I was a child she would point her finger at me and say in her thick Austrian accent: “I am putting my money on you”, which was the biggest confidence boost and one I needed.
2. When did you know you wanted to teach?
After seven years running a networking business it has become clear that professionals need to be taught actual skills both in how to manage relationships and how to curate the right knowledge on a daily basis.
3. What do you enjoy most about your job?
There is huge scope for fresh research around social network analysis in the actual workplace and my clients and students are really enthusiastic about helping to build up a longitudinal picture of how modern networking actually works. I hope that this will be important for making a lasting impact on our understanding of not just social networks but also of professional networks.
3. What academic achievement are you most proud of?
When I completed my inaugural lecture at Cass I felt thrilled that something I have been interested in for years – the business of networking – could perhaps reach a wider audience.
4. What is your biggest lesson learnt?
Mistakes are the essence of progress. Constant learning is the driver of success.
5. What is the worst job you have ever had?
Being a barmaid in my late teens. The cramped workspace, the sloshing beer . . . the memories linger! I was awful at it and have hated pubs ever since. A close second was selling spectacle lens cleaner with live demonstrations in department stores to indifferent customers at weekends.
6. What advice would you give to women in business?
Trust yourself. Assert yourself without aggression. Always help other people. Find role models and make yourself known to them: if they help you they will stay role models. If they don’t, get another role model! I would also say to anyone in business: feel productive and learn how to prioritise and when to stop and reflect; overwork and stress do not make good business.
7. How do you deal with male-dominated environments?
I read the poem And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou if I ever doubt what I am capable of and no obstacle seems problematic. I like working with women and men and don’t regard either as being “better” than the other.
8. What is the last book you read?
For business and teaching: Networks, Crowds & Markets: Reasoning about a Highly Connected World – an incredibly accessible textbook by David Easley and Jon Kleinberg. For pleasure: The Baroness: The Search for Nica, the Rebellious Rothschild by Hannah Rothschild.
9. What is your favourite business book?
The Four-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris is a favourite, as is Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath.
10. If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?
I would have done a degree and I would have gone to business school. But I would not have done a business plan: I think they are overrated compared with just getting on with it and finding and adapting to your market as you go.