ARTICLES

Siri’s Story

Siri Soosalu

Head of Design for Womenswear at Superdry

“People don’t realise it, but fashion is actually a very male-dominated industry, especially at the higher levels – I’d say that in most fashion-related companies, management is still about 90% male.

I’d always found it quite hard to find my place in that environment. Women who were strong and vocal were often labelled ‘difficult’, while those who were quieter and more gentle were written off as ‘ineffective’ – it felt like you just couldn’t win! I tended to second-guess myself a lot, always comparing my work to that of my colleagues and coming down quite harshly on myself.

So when I was put forward for a leadership programme, aimed at fast-tracking people with potential for director positions, I was really surprised and pleased – and thrilled that they were offering the support of some 1-1 coaching as part of the programme. I was even more pleased when I was paired with Sarah, as I very quickly felt so comfortable with her and just knew I was in safe hands.

We worked together over the course of about a year, and one of the main things we tackled was growing my confidence in my own abilities. Sarah was just fantastic at getting right to the root of the issue and helping me to think differently about myself at quite a deep level. She wasn’t about just changing things on the surface, or offering empty praise – she was incredibly practical and specific, and we spent a lot of time talking through different scenarios that came up in my workplace and planning responses.

As a result my confidence has grown hugely, and I’m now so much more comfortable sharing my opinions and ideas. She’s helped me learn how to be assertive without being aggressive, growing my skills within my personality rather than trying to make me act like someone different.

Another issue for me was around people management – I love having a team, but on the whole they’re very young and have incredibly dynamic, creative working styles. It’s a lot of personalities to manage, and they have different needs, especially around flexible hours and wanting a lot of autonomy in their work.

Sarah helped me learn how to have a more flexible management style, adapting my approach to each person and context, rather than feeling like I had to have just one leadership style and stick to it. She taught me how to positively influence situations, to get the best out of the other people involved and get the best outcome for the project. I feel like my relationships with my team, and also with my manager and the other directors, are so much stronger now and I find it a lot easier to work with them.

Not long after my time with Sarah I got a promotion within my level, and I’m actually on another leadership programme now. Both of those things have been great for my confidence that after I get back from maternity leave (I’m about to be off for six months having my first baby) I’ll still be able to keep growing in my career. And I have no doubt that a huge part of that recent success is down to the changes in my mindset and skills, brought about by the work I did with Sarah.

Her support has also ended up having an amazing impact on my personal life. The ideas and advice she offered, and the way she changed my attitude to so many things, has helped me find a lot more balance while still being ambitious. Plus I feel so much happier now, and better able to be kinder to myself.

So I just can’t recommend Sarah enough. She’s an incredible listener, asking all the right questions and just gently and sensitively offering reflections and insights. She’s calm, intelligent, focused, and passionate about getting the best out of people, and she unearths things you never knew were there, challenging you in a sensitive but firm way. I always left my sessions with her feeling empowered, inspired, and positive, so if you’d like to feel more of that in your working life then Sarah is absolutely the woman to work with!”

sarah@sarahperugia.com

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