Dr Joanna Berry began her presentation to the room with the reassuring statement “ we are all hanging on by our finger nails”
A reassuring statement because Dr Berry is a successful academic, Chair of the North East IOD, has a strong business background and a degree in law from Oxford University. Why then is she like the rest of us, hanging on?
One of the most engaging aspects of our business lunch events is that our speakers are always, open and honest in their presentations, even people, like Dr Berry, who we all tend to think we know surprise us with the honesty of their career story.
Joanna is a naturally entertaining speaker; taking us back to her childhood growing up in Hartlepool gaining a place at Oxford was her first major success. With an offer to read English literature, her passion and another to read Law, her parents guided Joanna to choose law; she hated it and in fact only gained her degree on the second attempt. Honest admission 1
University led straight into a marriage that by her own admission should not have happened, closely followed by a move to South Africa to practice law, both adventures ended badly. Honest admission 2
Returning to the UK, Joanna headed for London and held some high profile senior jobs before realising she was not a good employee, not a team player and resented being told what to do. Honest admission 3
Timing was in Joanna’s favour it was the infancy of dot.com success stories after leaving corporate employment Joanna set up on her own business. She began building successful companies with high profile supporters, a whirlwind of celebrity endorsement and rapid business growth, which equally rapidly juddered to a halt when the business climate shifted and the money stopped flowing in. Her golden goose suddenly became a bad business model and failed. Honest admission 4
At this stage in her life Joanna also became a single Mum and for practical reasons returned to the North East to have the support of her family. It also seemed like the perfect time to take an MBA. That MBA led to a PHD and a move into academia first at Newcastle University and now at Durham. Joanna confessed that the world of academia does not sit easily with her business background; the gap between the theory and the reality is a big challenge to her. Honest admission 5
Bringing us right up to date with the challenges of her role in academia, her ambitions for change in the university sector, the harsh world our young children live in today and what is next for her in life, Joanna wrapped up her talk.
The lunch today was introduced with a by-line on the importance of honesty when forming business relationships, how creating an environment of trust is essential to good business.
This actually segued perfectly into Joanna’s talk; she spoke with real honesty and integrity about her personal challenges, successes and failures. For anyone in the room that thought they knew Joanna they certainly left knowing a lot more and with increased respect, a great new business contact and yes “we are all hanging on by our fingernails some of the time”
Next Tees Valley event Monday 1st April with Dean Benson, CEO of Visual Soft – click here to book
Next Newcastle event Monday 20th May with Nevil Tynemouth – click here to book
Jesmond Dene House
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