Sue Walter CEO of Maggie and Rose [Podcast]
In this episode, we spoke to Sue Walter who is the CEO of Maggie and Rose, London’s first and best-loved family members club.
Sue is no stranger to Member’s clubs, having been the CEO of the Hospital Club where we met back in 2011.
The Hospital Club was a club for creatives and was founded by Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen and Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics. It opened in 2004 and sadly closed in 2020.
Sue has had a diverse and interesting career having started in HR with the Metropolitan Police before being the HR Director at the Royal Opera House, worked for Universal Music, and joined the Hospital Club for the first time in 2002. She’s also worked in the Education sector, and was Group CEO of the Coppa Club before joining Maggie and Rose at the end of 2019.
Sue is an amazing and inspirational leader and we had a lot to talk about including:
- The Maggie and Rose concept
- Adapting to the pandemic
- Developing a digital platform in 4 days
- Using the learnings from the pandemic
- Rapid product development by knowing your audience
- How the Maggie & Rose staff adapted to the changes?
- How junior members respond
- Options for keeping the digital offering post-pandemic
- Sue’s choose to challenge for International Women’s Day (her answer will surprise you)
- The roles mentors have played in Sue’s career
- Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen’s influence
- Do women make better leaders and better boardroom decisions?
- Diversity of thought and the 2 tribes
- Why Sue believes we need men at the table to solve gender equality
- Advice for Gen Y, Gen Z and Gen Alpha
- Sue’s favourite memory of the Hospital Club
- The secret of a great member’s club
- The best piece of advice she’s ever received
- Advice you have for her 19-year old son
- Who inspires Sue and why?
- Challenges as we move out of lockdown
- Learning how to relate to each other again
- The best use of technology during the pandemic
- Managing a good work/life balance in 2021
- Sue’s biggest hope for 2021
- What Sue is reading at the moment
- 3 pieces of practical advice
What sue is currently reading: The Naked Sun by Isaac Asimov
More on Sue
You can listen to the episode via podcst.link/s3e3 or search for “pragmatic futurist podcast” in your favourite app.
Welcome to the podcast all about the near term future with practical advice from a range of global experts to help you stay ahead of the curve. Every episode answers the question what’s the future of with voices and opinions that need to be heard. Your host is international keynote speaker and Futurist Andrew Grill.
Andrew Grill 0:24
Today’s guest on the podcast is Sue Walter, who is the CEO of Maggie and Rose London’s first and best love family member’s club. So he’s no stranger to members clubs having been the CEO of the hospital club when we actually met. She has had a diverse and interesting career, having started in HR with Metropolitan Police, before being the HR director at the Royal Opera House, worked for Universal Music, and joined the hospital club for the first time in 2002. He’s also worked in the education sector, and was group CEO of a copper club before joining Megyn rose at the end of 2019. Welcome, Sue.
Sue Walter 1:00
Thank you. Thank you for having me, Andrew, it’s lovely to see
Andrew Grill 1:03
that so we are no strangers full disclosure, we’ve known each other for nearly 10 years. Do you remember the time we actually met at the hospital club?
Sue Walter 1:10
I do. Actually I remember it very, very clearly. It was in my I think it might have even been my first week at the hospital club. And I decided, I don’t know if you remember Andrew. But when I took over the hospital club, it was actually in a pretty bad way it was the club was failing. And I decided that the most important thing that I needed to do when I joined the club was to find out what was going wrong. And I felt that the best way to do that was to actually meet the members and see what they had to say. So I ran a series of discussion groups called Have your say, and I think you may have come to either the first or the second one. And that’s how we met.
Andrew Grill 1:47
It really set the tone for not just a friendship. But the way I see your management style, which is fantastic. I’ll tell you my walking buddy this morning, that I was really excited about interviewing you and you had a great management style. And importantly, it wasn’t just a Okay, let’s find out. I’m the CEO, let’s find out what people do and don’t like it permeated through the whole time at the club. And I remember that because it was a member’s club and had multiple levels more often modifies the club, I would see you walking around, you’d be talking to the staff, the the members, and it was really, it had a very different approach. And it’s something I’ve tried to do in my leadership style as well. But back to Maggie and Rose for those not familiar, what’s the concept behind Maggie and Rose.
Sue Walter 2:24
So Maggie and Rose was founded back in 2006. It was founded by two young mothers who basically were frustrated with the lack of facilities available to families with young children. And sadly, my son was too old when it was launched. But I remember too well, when my son was young, you know, the choices that I had were to either take my son with me to adult places where people would roll their eyes and tarts if he threw a wobbly which children often do. Or I would have to go to a ballparks with him which were not really designed for me as an adult. And there was nothing really which was designed for both adults and young children. And Maggie Bolger, who was the original founder, her husband at the time, was on the board of Soho house. So they came up with the idea of kind of a Soho house for families, which is the best way to describe Maggie and Rose. So it is very much an environment which caters both for children. But it’s still beautifully designed and you know, well run so that adults also feel that it’s catering for them as well.
Andrew Grill 3:23
And I’ve actually been to your Kensington facility way back when my daughter was having birthday parties with her friends when she was in London, we actually had a birthday party, they were one of her friends. So when you join to see I thought, oh, I’ve been to one of those I know exactly what it’s all about. And it’s a great space. It really is.
Sue Walter 3:37
And it was the first of its kind. And since then obviously there are a number of family members clubs, which which have launched but at the time that it was launched, it was very much cutting edge. And I do remember at the time thinking God, I wish that had been around when my son was younger, so So yeah, there’s definitely a need for it.
Andrew Grill 3:53
You joined Maggie rose at a really interesting time you’re doing rapid overseas expansion, then COVID closed everything down. How did you adapt back in March 2020.
Sue Walter 4:02
It happened so fast. I don’t know if you if you remember, Andrew, but the Prime Minister announced, I think, the lockdown on a Monday and we were locked down by that Friday. And it was so fast. So we didn’t really have time to think about it. We had to mobilise we had to galvanise really quickly if we’re honest, although we knew about the pandemic, and we, you know, we heard about COVID. I think to some extent in the UK, we felt it would be similar to previous pandemics where they didn’t quite touch the UK. So I think it came as a shock that actually it hit us and it hit us as hard as it did. In terms of the business we we immediately went into action mode. So the immediate thing was we knew we were going to have to close our clubs and our nurseries. We were going to have we had like three or four days in which to get them closed down and to communicate with our members to communicate with our staff to figure out what we needed to do. And the immediate priority was to put those things in place. But once we started working on tasks, We then it was then my job to think beyond that once we’ve closed it down, we are a community. So what do you do with a community when there is no space for that community to be and to connect. And immediately my mind started to think about, well, we have to pivot, we have to create something online. Because we can’t just simply shut down the clubs and then leave our community without any kind of support or contacts for however long the lockdown is going to be. And at that time, we didn’t know, we didn’t know it would be at least six months. So at the same time that we were quickly locking down our business, we were trying to build a digital platform to migrate our community to and the reason I’m smiling Andrew is we pretty much set up a digital platform in four days. And my original business plan when I took over Maggie and Rose, you know, I was going through the whole market testing proof of concept. And I was thinking it will take 12 months to get it off the ground. We ended up the reality is we ended up doing it in four days.
Andrew Grill 5:56
That’s a really great story, because I think most people had to basically pivot and go from working in an office to being online. And I was doing a webinar with a law firm the other day, and I was talking about the fact that, like you said, if you were doing this old, the old way you would do pilots and tests and it would take months, if not years, because they’re barriers in the way the barriers removed, because the government said you have to do this. So moving forward, if you want to do something as as dramatic as a new product or a service or an opening, how will you take the learnings of what you did in four days and accelerate things going forward? What did you learn? And what can you take on from that?
Sue Walter 6:33
That’s a great question. I think for me, the key learning is that I’ve worked in so many different environments, and one of the things that I think we’re all guilty of is perhaps over analysing and overthinking things. And I think what, you know, whilst, you know, I’ll put my hands up, we made a lot of mistakes, because we set something up in four days. And we were literally learning as we were going along. But having said that, we did set it up and we got it into the market and it was doing its job. And then we started shaping it in real time. So so to me there is there is a balance to be had between putting something out into the market without properly understanding your market. And over analysing something to the extent where you become paralysed by analysis, and it takes you far too long to put something out. And by the time you put it out, it’s too late already. So. So for me, it’s the big benefit that we had when we launched in four days was that we did understand our market, we knew our community, we knew what they wanted, we knew what they needed, we knew that there was going to be all these parents at home with young children. And they were going to be panicking. What are we going to do with our kids? How are we going to cope? How are we even going to have communication with our child about what COVID is and why they have to be at home and why they can’t be at school? So we knew our audience. So the question for us was really, okay, we just need to get something out there. Because we, we know who our audience is. And we know that the product won’t be perfect. And the key thing for us was that we just communicated with our members, we just said, Look, we’re getting this out, because we know you need the connection, you need the support, but it’s not perfect. And we want you to help us to shape it to make sure it’s meeting your needs. So the learning for me really is that actually, as long as you know your audience, as long as you know your market, sometimes it’s okay, just just just to jump into the deep end and swim and then figure it out once you’re in and would I do something in 12 months next time, not necessarily, maybe I could do it in four months or six months. So I think it definitely has shaved quite a lot of that process. But you do need to know your market. I think if we’d kind of jumped into the deep end without really knowing our audience, I just think it would have been a disaster from the beginning.
Andrew Grill 8:40
Now I know you’re surrounded by a great team at all the clubs, how did the staff adapt to this rapid change?
Sue Walter 8:45
It was interesting, because we had two sets of teams really. So we had the largest part of our team, nearly 80% of our team went into furlough early on. And the you know, they had to adapt to a world with work to suddenly a world with no work. And then I had a very, very small team who stayed behind with me and helped us really pivot and build the digital piece. The team that stayed working with me adapted really well, that we suddenly went into task mode, there were a lot of things that needed to be done in a very short period of time. And then even when we launched the platform, we were constantly thinking, how can we make it better? How can we improve it? So so we were we were kind of we were backed up, we were busy. And I think that helped. I think it was actually harder for the people who were at home to adapt, in all honesty, because suddenly, you know, they went from having a world which was full of work to a world where to begin with. It was fun, and they could go for walks and they can make sourdough bread and they can connect with family. But as the months will run, their sense of connection and their sense of purpose started to erode. And I think that that’s been the hardest thing for us actually.
Andrew Grill 9:53
Now read on the website that the memberships actually held in the name of the child and they get to decide who comes and joins them at the club. So what was the response to this online platform from your junior members,
Sue Walter 10:04
that was one of the things that we really had to evolve. Because to begin with, we just thought, let’s take the classes that we do in our clubs, and let’s digitise them and start doing classes for our online platform. And they will it was well received by our junior members, particularly because they were seeing teachers that they recognise from the club and they wrote, you know, so there was some familiarity there. But I think as time wore on, it became a big concern to us and to parents that it was passive, and it was just passive screentime, the kids were just looking at the screen. And then here’s the rock for us at Maggie and Rose. Because we encourage togetherness, we discourage too much screentime. But suddenly, our only medium of communication was screentime. And so what the digital team started working on was really how can we make this more interactive? How can we make it less passive. So towards the end of the last summer, my team came up with a fantastic idea, which was really where the kids get to create their own stories online, they get to contribute to the content, they get to say what happens next, they get to actually email in ideas of things that they want to see covered. So they became a participant in the content creation, rather than just a passive observer of it, I suppose,
Andrew Grill 11:18
which in a way, the whole product has refined itself from instant market feedback.
Sue Walter 11:22
That’s exactly and I think it never sat right with me from the beginning, the fact that we were doing something which was very passive for children, because it really goes against the whole ethos of Maggie and Rose. So from the beginning, it didn’t sit well, but it was kind of needs must. But then as you say, It evolved as a result of market feedback. And as we were able to really build up our junior followers online, we were then able to properly engage with them. And it was great. I mean, if you go on to the digital platform, now there are children’s voices that you know, they’re telling stories that they’re getting involved in the content creation. And we want to do a lot more child user generated content or user driven content by children.
Andrew Grill 12:01
So it leads me to a follow on question, will you keep the digital offering post COVID? And does it give you flexibility in your offerings?
Sue Walter 12:07
Absolutely. I mean, long before COVID, I’d always felt that we needed a digital platform, because you as you know that the clubs and mortar model is slow. And it’s capital intensive in terms of opening up club houses. And there are communities all over the world where you have young parents who need support, who wants to connect with other parents. So from the beginning, it was always my vision that one day, we would have an E membership for cities, which don’t have club houses and don’t have access to Maggie and Rose resources. So that is still very much where I would like to take the digital product is one day, I would like to be able to perhaps put an extra layer on that and turn that into an EU membership that we can actually launch in New Territories. So that’s where I see it going. But I would still like to keep the basic level digital community which we’ve created as accessible to all parents. And then I’d like to then build an E membership. On top of that.
Andrew Grill 13:00
The theme of International Women’s Day this year was choose to challenge what do you choose to challenge and why
Sue Walter 13:06
we all have our own personal challenges that we deal with? So I thought a lot about my personal challenges. But then, then, then then I thought, actually, no, that’s not quite in keeping with International Women’s Day theme this year, which is about extrinsic things that are going on so. So for me at what I thought about is, I was bullied at school, when I was young, I was bullied for years. And back then I didn’t feel that I had a voice to challenge bullies. So it just went unchallenged for years. And in my adult life. I think as I developed a voice where I didn’t have a voice, I’ve always chosen to challenge bullies, because I think I know from personal experience, just how hard it is to challenge that sort of behaviour when you don’t feel that you either have the voice or the authority to do that. And I think ultimately, it’s just not okay to build yourself up by diminishing other people. And that’s really what bullies do. And I think constructive challenge is always good. I you know, when I think of challenge I don’t think of you know, shouting at people and pointing at them in a boardroom or something. I think this is about really seeking to understand before being understood. And I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that it’s not enough just to challenge the behaviour, I think you have to better understand the root cause why do people behave the way that they do? I think that most bullies don’t like themselves. I know that sounds like a very broad statement, but I think they don’t like themselves. I don’t think they necessarily like their behaviour. I think that they too are hurting. And they’re taking out that hurt on other people. So I think we have to learn to understand the cause of behaviour and deal with that in order to break that cycle. So for me, it’s really about better understanding why people do what they do, and then working towards breaking that cycle. And for me, that’s that’s how I choose to challenge.
Andrew Grill 14:46
I was bullied at school as well at the time I thought why am I being bullied? And as I’ve gone through life I’ve I’ve always looked back at the and I went to an all boys school, just to see maybe even through LinkedIn, what did they make themselves did they overcome that behaviour and I think if I ever I met them again at a school reunion. And I think we did actually 10 years in and had a very different discussion because they grown up and matured. But what a waste to go through the early formative years just not liking yourself or not liking people. It’s such a waste.
Sue Walter 15:13
I couldn’t agree more, did you find it quite cathartic when you met them at the reunion?
Andrew Grill 15:17
Yeah, because they actually had a whole different view of me I by then I’d become successful, and they knew that I need to respect you now, because you’re an equal, whereas before they saw them selves as as better than me, which is kind of crazy.
Sue Walter 15:29
Exactly. And that’s what I mean, it’s about diminishing others in order to make yourself feel good about yourself. And that comes from that doesn’t come from a good place that comes from a dark place. And I think, you know, when you are the victim of bad behaviour, sometimes I think we have as human beings, we have the tendency to make it about us. But actually, it’s not about us, it’s about that person and how they feel about themselves.
Andrew Grill 15:52
What roles have mentors played in your career to date? And can you name some really great people that have mentored you,
Sue Walter 15:58
mentors have meant so much to me in my life, I mean, it’s been completely life changing for me. When I was growing up, my parents were working all the time. So I didn’t really have adults influence around me in that respect. And when I looked out, you know, into the world, I didn’t see women who looked like me doing things. Most of the women from my background, from my community, were getting married, having children, and that was all that was expected of them. So for me, having mentors has meant, you know, it’s almost like somebody’s looking at you and seeing a different part of you that you don’t see yourself. And I think it and I missed having that kind of reflection in my early life. So I think my first mentor, I was fortunate enough actually to have a mentor in my first type of job in a civil service. And she was my line manager at the time. And when I left university, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. So I just kind of wandered into the civil service. And it was always supposed to be a stopgap. But my line manager saw in me, qualities which I didn’t even see myself. And she felt that I was really good with people, I was really good with influencing I was good at getting the best out of people. So she encouraged me to go back to university and get a HR qualification. And she was the one that encouraged me to go into HR when I had no direction whatsoever. And it was under her guidance that I moved into that. And I ended up the first part of my career. You know, I ended up becoming very successful in HR, I rose to HR director and worked in some amazing organisations, but that can all be traced back to her and her encouragement. And then later on in my career after having built a successful career in HR, another line manager was also a mentor. This time it was a man. And he pushed me into operational management. Again, he saw something in me, Andrew, which I didn’t see in myself, he felt that I wasn’t just working in HR, he felt that I was actively impacting on business strategy and helping our business leaders leaders to perform better to enhance the performance of their business units. And he basically pushed me out of HR, and practically frogmarched me into my first MD role. And I remember being terrified at the time, but he was so forceful, and he had so much belief in me that I just didn’t want to let him down. And he definitely impacted me. So those two pivots were both as a result of mentors. And then I think the biggest mentor and the most, the person whose voice I still hear in my head is Paul Allen, who I met when I was at the hospital club. Most people will know him as co founder of Microsoft, the code that he created for Microsoft that Microsoft has changed the world forever. In addition to Microsoft, he was also one of the world’s great thinkers. And I loved our talks because we would sit and talk for hours, and he would always encourage me to think outside the box. His favourite questions were so what and what if, and he inspired and challenged me and still does, you know, today, I can still hear his voice in my head asking what if, and he always you know, that we all need people in our lives, who see things in us that we don’t see in ourselves, but also who propel us to think bigger and stretch out our arms further and go faster than we thought we could. Because you know, we are our own worst enemies in terms of self limiting beliefs, we will always hold ourselves back and tell ourselves all the reasons why we can’t do something. And I think having that voice outside of yourself, which says yes, you can do it, and here’s why you can do it. And that’s why I think mentors are important.
Andrew Grill 19:30
Certainly, Paul passed away a few years ago, but I know that he would have been saying, of course you need to go and be CEOs making roses is perfect for you. So
Sue Walter 19:38
he didn’t place any limitations on himself. You know, when he died. He was writing a book. And it was, you know, sadly, he never got to finish the book. But it was an incredibly ambitious book. In this book, he broke down what he saw as four or five of the world’s greatest problems that we were facing. And he and this book was all about his ideas for solutions to those problems. Whether it was climate change, or whether it was global poverty or pandemic, so, and, you know, it’s an incredibly ambitious book for someone to write, but that’s how we thought he always thought big. And he always thought beyond the limitations, and he certainly never placed those limitations on himself. And, and I think that inspired people around him to do the same.
Andrew Grill 20:20
a controversial question for you. Do you think women make better leaders and make better boardroom decisions?
Sue Walter 20:26
I’m going to say no to that, because because I actually, I tell you why I don’t think they make worse leaders or better leaders, the way I think about it is I don’t tend to think about good leadership or leadership or capability as being driven by gender. I think in my career, when I spoke about my mentors, earlier, I’d had a female mentor and a male mentor. And in my career, I’ve worked with great and terrible leaders. And I’ve learnt a lot from both of them. And they were men and women on both sides of that spectrum. So to me, a great leader, a good leader is defined by their personal attributes rather than their gender. So I don’t think it’s as linear as that.
Andrew Grill 21:09
I like to think of diversity in terms of diversity of thought, and that can come from creed, religion, gender. And I know myself when I was on the Rotary Club of Sydney board, I always loved the diversity of thought from my female co board people because they you think differently, because the species are different. And so just as I talk about the thing with the two tribes, in every organisation, there are the born leaders. Or sorry, there are the going digital, and there are the born digital, and they think differently. And I think it challenges you. So again, I don’t really see gender either. But my goodness, my female friends just have a different view from things I have. And they challenged me and it’s fantastic. So they just bring that that that diversity of thought you get from every type of diversity, I think is what makes the world go round.
Sue Walter 21:54
100% one of the attributes that makes a great leader is the ability to surround yourself with great people. And and I think, to me, a great team is a diversity. If it’s not diverse, it’s not a great team. And that’s diversity in sex in ethnicity and background, even in training. You know, if you surrounded yourself with Oxbridge graduates, you know, you’re going to get one train of thought. And if you know, so for me, it’s it’s, it’s, you know, why wouldn’t I? Because this is my advisory team, why would I not surround myself with it by the people who are going to give me the best and most diverse advice? And who are going to say no, to me, and who are going to challenge me because those things push me to be a better person and a better leader. So, so to me, you’re absolutely right, Andrew, I think, you know, having diversity of thought around the board table 100% is important, not just male, female. You know, it’s the complete gambit of MCs. However, to be a great leader, I don’t think it matters whether you’re male or female,
Andrew Grill 22:51
I listened to a recent podcast where you said that to solve gender equality, you need men at the table? Why do you think that’s important?
Sue Walter 22:57
most societies in the world if not all of them started out as being a patriarchy so so the roots of the patriarchy, the legacy are so deep rooted. And I think in order to unpick that legacy, and really build lasting change, this is not about temporary change, this is about lasting change. And you and I both know, Andrew, because we’ve both worked in large and small organisations, that in order to get lasting change, all stakeholders have to be signed up to that change. Yeah. So to me that the gender equality argument is no different than any other major change that one is trying to implement. So you have to have all the stakeholders at the table. And I think absolutely men have to be a part of that. That discussion, not least because of historical issues, not men are bad, women are good, just because of historical issues. Men have always been in that more senior more supreme position. And I think, therefore, they have a role to play both in terms of educating themselves about the issues, but the role that they can play in terms of influencing change. And then I think, you know, more and more I, you know, I talk a lot to my male friends, who are all in different parts of industry, and more and more, they’re becoming stakeholders, as fathers of young daughters and sons and his brothers and husbands and all my male friends who have daughters, they don’t want their daughters to be held back. They want amazing things for their daughters, they want their daughters to achieve and be everything that they want to be. And I think, as, as far as men are starting to embrace their roles in women’s lives, whether it’s as partners, or brothers or fathers, they are wanting that equality for the people that they love in their lives every bit as women wanted it. And I think, you know, that men have a stake as much as women do. And I think from a woman’s point of view, it shouldn’t be a competition. It shouldn’t be us against you. It should really be that, you know, you’re our colleagues, you’re our allies, you’re our partners, and we need you at the table to help us find solutions but also to help us challenge this behaviour in the in the boardroom, going back to What we were talking about about bullies at the beginning, sometimes women, particularly in more junior management positions, do not feel empowered and do not feel that they have a voice. If there is a more senior man in the room and there is inappropriate behaviour, then I think men have a role to play in challenging that behaviour and making it okay to change that behaviour.
Andrew Grill 25:19
We’re both Gen X, I won’t give away our ages. But we’re similar in age, which means the people that follow us may not have these issues, because they might say, Well, of course, it’s gender equality, what why are we even discussing it? So? Do you have some advice for Gen Y, Gen Zed, and the new one Gen alpha,
Sue Walter 25:35
with my son, what’s interesting is I’ve never really had to sit him down and say, you have to respect women, you have to do this, you have to do that. He just naturally, I mean, in his mind, there are no limits to what women can achieve. He’s never thought about it in those terms. And he’s 19. And I honestly believe that my generation in particular, you know, I can remember, early on I started working in the late 1980s, early 1990s. And I can tell you stories that would make your hair curl about, you know, men and women and how they worked in the workplace. But I actually think there is a whole generation which is coming up now, which is not going to experience that for them, it’s going to be normal, as normal as digitization of the workplace, I think they will, it will just be However, there is still as you said, Gen Y without disclosing our age is, I think Gen Y has a lot of work still to do. Because we have that legacy. I can still remember workplace when I was excluded, because I was a woman and but my son’s generation will not remember that because that will not be a factor of their workplace.
Andrew Grill 26:35
That’s the hospital club, because it was a big part of your life, Do you have a favourite memory of your time at the club,
Sue Walter 26:40
on a personal level, we all have the great love of our lives that we will always remember. And in work terms, you know, without diminishing anything from my other work environments. The hospital club, I guess, is the great love of my life in terms of my work environments. And, and that the reason for that is there are just so many so many memories, so many happy memories, and I genuinely and I’m not making this up, I used to leap out of bed every morning, and I couldn’t wait to get into work, and how many people can say that about their job. But if you forced me to come up with one memory. So the 10 year anniversary, the hospital club had been around for 10 years. And I don’t know how many people know this. But the building of the hospital club was very, was very significant in the Second World War and in the First World War. And we decided to mark its 10 year anniversary to do a nod to the Second World War. And we brought in a swing band and people dressed up in as wrens and as RAF pilots. And we basically recreated a second world war base. I remember just walking around this building. And if we were like transported back to the 19, late 1930s, early 1940s. And everyone was happy, everyone was smiling. And every single part of the building was humming and buzzing. And people felt a real sense of ownership and pride over this organisation that had lasted for 10 years. And it was just a you know, I mean, I wish I could just sometimes you wish you can just freeze time. And that was one of the moments I wished I could freeze time because it was just a moment of just pure pride and happiness. And I always look at that and think, yeah, that was that was an amazing night.
Andrew Grill 28:17
I’m so glad you mentioned that you really like going to work because it showed on your face. Every time I’d see you there You were always happy was such a place because for a number of reasons. I mean, I remember the brushes with fame in the lift. I mean, I rode the lift for the any Linux from rhythmix. And Dave Stewart, who was one of the co founders, he was there a lot, I got to take a couple of my favourite memories. Dave did a couple of nights for members. The first night he actually had his daughter there, and he stripped back Sweet dreams to just one or two tracks. And that was just amazing. And the second time he performed, he basically made up a vodka commercial on the spot with audience from the crowd. And it’s like, where are you going to have Dave Stewart write an ad for you to a room of 100 people over an evening. It’s things like that, that I’ll never forget, it was really a magical place.
Sue Walter 28:57
As a co founder, Dave, as you know, was so engaged in the space. And you know, some of my favourite memories of Dave was, you know, he, when we got when we introduced bedrooms into the hospital club, I don’t know, I’m sure you probably saw this, but you know, he would stay over in the bedrooms. And then he would treat the club as if it was his living room and he would come down in his dressing gown and his hat straight from his bedroom. And he would go to the bar and he would order a martini in the evening and his dressing gown and it was just this kind of quirkiness and there was always something going on in the club. And and that was the really wonderful, exciting thing. It didn’t matter whether you came in in the morning or the afternoon or the evening, there was always something and you know, people were always telling stories aren’t Did you see this happened at the cloud or that I met this person or I saw this thing and you know, it’s lovely to hear your stories about it as well.
Andrew Grill 29:46
When I was at IBM, I would actually have a lot of my meetings there because it was far more interesting in a building in Southbank. And it became an event so people who hadn’t ever been to the hospital club, I mean, there are lots of clubs in London, as many people know there’s Soho house and shortage and everything else, but there was something about going Maybe the hospital club and I was one who hasn’t been there. And I’ve had my daughter’s birthday parties there, I would host friends for movie nights. And I had my birthday there a couple of years ago. And it was really like, Oh, this is a cool place, Andrew. And they thought more of me, they thought I was even cooler because I was a member of this cool club. The hospital club made me cool.
Sue Walter 30:17
Well, you are cool, Andrew. But I think that that that’s a lovely thing that you mentioned about the club. And that was that’s to me is the secret of a really great member’s club, is the fact that people connect, and they meet each other. And, you know, you and I met and we were still friends today, 10 years later. And, and, you know, there are so many people in my life today who I met because of the hospital club and is still in my life. And, and I think that to me is the secret of a great member’s club, I think where you can go in not know anybody, and two hours later, you’ve left and you’ve met, and you know, someone,
Andrew Grill 30:47
I’m not sure our product extinction of having martinis at Megyn Rose is probably going to cut it just yet.
Sue Walter 30:52
Not quite know. But we do soft drinks for parents, because obviously parents do as you and I know, sometimes need to drink, I’m sure
Andrew Grill 30:59
you’ve been given a lot of advice from a lot of your mentors, but what’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given? And who gave it to you,
Sue Walter 31:04
I’ve always been really, really hard on myself, you know, nothing. I’m a perfectionist, like most people in my role, and nothing I’ve done in my life has ever been good enough, it could have always been better. And my first line manager that the woman who’s, who encouraged me more in who encouraged me to get into HR, she saw that, you know, she could see that I was always frustrated with myself and never quite being good enough. And, and I and she picked up she was a wise woman. And she picks up that the reason I was frustrated with myself is I was always comparing myself against other people who I thought had done better, they’d got better degrees, or they, you know, they had lived in a better place, or they’ve achieved more in their lives. And they had more direction because I never had direction. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. And, and I always found myself, I always found myself coming short. But when I compared myself with others, and Maureen said to me, so don’t ever compare yourself with other people, because everyone’s journey is unique to them. And actually, you should only ever compare yourself by how far you come on your own journey relative to where you began, because where I started and where you started is completely different places. And I may have come a hell of a lot longer than you have. But to the outside world, it might look like you’re more successful than me. But actually, I’ve come a long way on my journey. And I think that’s that was really important to me, because I started at that point, I stopped looking externally and started thinking about myself and my own journey and how far I had come on my own journey. And I think we can only ever measure success. Success should never be measured by the extrinsic we can only measure success by our own personal journey. And it’s not always obvious to the outside world. It’s not always milestones that are clearly marked. Sometimes it’s overcoming our own personal demons.
Andrew Grill 32:52
You mentioned you the mom of a teenager. And I was actually fortunate the other week to appear on his radio show, he asked me a lot of really probing questions, and it was funny to listen to it back. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve given him to date, and has he taken it on board,
Sue Walter 33:04
I grew up in a very strict strict Muslim household where everything was defined for us thinking for yourself was never encouraged. So I think I’ve tried to raise my son in a way where he can think for himself, he can figure things out, make his own mistakes, and I’ve tried to give him values and boundaries within which to operate Because ultimately, as parents, we just want our children to be good people. And I think that has to be probably the advice that I’ve given him the rest of it has figured out himself. But I tried to encourage him to always be kind and to pay it forward and to treat people with respect. Apart from anything else in life, you just never know when things will come around again. But I do believe that if you can as a mantra in life, if you can treat people with respect, if you can treat people well, I don’t think you will ever regret that. And and I’ve known a lot of people who perhaps have not treated what people well, and they, you know, they find it hard, you know, they’ve never, they’ve never really found peace within themselves. And I’m very proud of the fact that whatever I’ve done even if I’ve had to do really difficult things in my life, like make people redundant, for example, I’ve always tried to be humane and kind and considerate people, and I hope that my son will be the same.
Andrew Grill 34:15
You’re certainly someone that inspires me because I love your management style, the way you dealt with staff at the club and just the way you approach being a manager and a leader. But who inspires you, and why?
Sue Walter 34:28
More by accident than by design, but I’ve had an amazing, incredible career and I’ve met so many amazing people. And you know, I have lots of little bits that I’ve gathered from all the people I’ve met including you Andrew without wishing to make you blush, and I told you, you know, I learned something from listening to your podcast the other day and I made a change within my life as a result of that. But I think by far the person who has influenced me the most in terms of driving my career and my life is my mother. So my those of you Perhaps you’ve heard me being interviewed before will know that my mother never went to school. She She grew up in a country at a time when girls didn’t go to school. And there’s a great story which I’ve never shared with anyone else, actually. But I’m sharing with you, Andrew, where, when my mother was about 10 years old, she was the only girl with five brothers. And when she was 10 years old, she cut off all her hair and put on her brother’s clothes and snuck into the local school because she was so desperate to go to school, and she pretended to be a boy. And she managed to get away with it for about three months where she was going to school. And they just thought she was a boy, until one of her brothers found out and then she she was basically pulled out of school. But that’s how important education was to her. She was so desperate, and she still says the three months that she spent at school were the happiest of her time. And the reason why my mother inspires me is not because of what she’s achieved in her life. But what she hasn’t achieved because I often wonder if my mother had been given the opportunities I’ve been given if she went to school, for example, what could she have done with her life? Who could she have been today, and it’s quite possible, I wouldn’t even be here if my mother had gone to school, because maybe she just would have had a completely different life. But I’ve watched her throughout her life becomes smaller and smaller as a person, because she never got to be the things that she wanted to be. And, and I think she inspires me to really appreciate and, and take advantage of all the opportunities that I’ve been given in life, because she never had those. And I think, you know, I feel like the greatest accolade I can give her is to make something of myself, and to actually embrace the opportunities in my life that have come to me. And to me, she’s just a constant reminder of the many women around the world, not just her who had never had the opportunities we’ve had so, so yeah. So I think the fact that she never got to live the life that she wanted, has driven me to just embrace every opportunity and to try and live my fullest life. I
Andrew Grill 36:56
think we’re now recording this in the end of March 2021. So a lot of people have had the vaccine, including myself, we’ve now got some level of freedom because we can meet in groups of six. What challenges do you foresee as we never get away out of lockdown for the company, for yourself and for your team?
Sue Walter 37:13
I think the biggest challenge for us, certainly from my personal experience with Maggie and Rose is is for us to learn to reconnect on a human level, actually, because we’ve spent the last year living in a virtual world. And there are some members of my team, which I haven’t actually seen physically in 12 months. And, you know, whilst working in a digital space has definitely created efficiencies, and it’s definitely helped people have a better balance, particularly family, you know, members of my team with young families, I think it’s definitely helped them. The downside of it has been perhaps that it’s perpetuated a little bit more silo working. And I feel like we haven’t innovated as much as we could have done when we’re all in the same space. And there’s ideas bouncing off each other. And it’s almost like we’ve forgotten how to relate to each other. And I remember I was reading something, gosh, that six, seven months ago about people about war veterans coming back from the war and having to learn how to relate to their families again, because you know, for a long time they just connected by, you know, they would write letters or send emails, and they had to learn how to relate to people face to face. And personally, I believe that’s going to be the biggest challenge for us, at least for the next six months is learning how to be a team together again, in a physical sense.
Andrew Grill 38:34
Yeah, great, I’m seeing a lot of that. And there’s been a lot of mental health issues along the way. And now you’re throwing people back in the same space. Again, I’ve got friends of mine who clearly that they don’t want to go back to the office because they like being out of that environment. And you mentioned bullies. And I think that’s part of it, that some of the environments that they work in, and some of my friends work in pretty high pressure, finance roles. There’s an inherent bullying that goes on, and maybe they’re not calling it bullying. But the reason they like being a home is that I have to surround myself so that I think will be really, really challenging. But we’ve kind of alluded to technology and digital platforms, what’s the best use of tech that you’ve seen the last four months?
Sue Walter 39:10
I caveat this with saying I’m not an expert in the tech space, I’m definitely that, you know, Gen Y, where I’m learning about it, rather than, you know, it’s integrated, and it’s in my blood. But I think, obviously, you know, there’s the obvious stuff in the workplace, but, but the stuff in the workplace that we’re seeing is is possible because of a technology development called 5g, as you know, and that’s enabled us to work faster to be more more proactive, it’s enabled better connectivity, it’s enabled better use of data, but but to me outside of the workplace, I feel like 5g technology is just got so much more mileage in it in terms of the things that we can do with it. And I and particularly going back to some of the things that we talked about some of the bigger global issues. For example, one of the things I was reading in the New Scientist is is that 5g He is now playing a really instrumental part in in helping to combat climate change, for example. So for for, for example, as a result of improved computer processing power, which has been brought about by the 5g technology, scientists are now able to attribute the role of climate change to severe weather events. And this knowledge is really important because not only does it help us to figure out how to protect, so how to predict and plan for severe weather events. But it also more importantly, provides us with the evidence that holds organisations and countries to account for their contributions to climate change. And this is this is really, to me, this is game changing, because I think climate change has been going on for so long. And there’s so much finger pointing but lack of accountability and, and even when you’re trying to hold people to account, I think there’s a lack of data to be able to back that up. And I think, as a result of this, being able to actually link severe weather events with actual contributing factors, I think will enable us number one, to be able to deal with those contributing factors. But secondly, to properly hold organisations and countries to account. So So what so I do feel that 5g, and you know far more about this than I do, Andrew, but it feels to me like we haven’t barely hit the tip of the iceberg on this one in terms of it’s reached.
Andrew Grill 41:18
I had the Chief Technology officers from Huawei on in the last series. And he he talked about 5g beyond, I mean, people just think it’s a speed improvement, that 5g is faster than 4g, but you’re very right, it enables processing power at the edge. It also allows connectivity, which we’ll hear a lot about the Internet of Things. And networks at the moment have a capacity constraint, whereas 5g is almost unlimited. So I think we haven’t heard the last of that technology. But it just gets faster and faster. So I have a 5g my fire, I’m in being a Futurist, I play with all this stuff. And I want to be at the cutting edge to see what I can do with it. And in learning, what can we get better? Final question, before we go into a quick fire round? How are you managing a good work life balance in 2021, before the pandemic,
Sue Walter 42:00
I’ve never ever worked from home. So the last year has been an education for me. And to begin with, I was thinking this is great, because I’ll actually be able to have a better work life balance, I think the reality has been the opposite in that the blurring of the lines between my work and my life has, has actually become even more so. And, you know, I do find I’m working earlier in the day, I’m working later in the day, I’m certainly working at weekends. Having said that, I can turn off the technology and put on my running shoes and go for a run. And that’s not something I could have done when I was in the office. So so so there are I am able to carve out moments for myself where I can just stop and go and clear my head.
the short answer is I am not there yet. With the balance. I think technology if anything has made that balance more difficult.
Andrew Grill 42:48
I have not made a single person that claims Yeah, we’ve mastered work life balance because it’s it’s an oxymoron. If you’re working then you don’t have a balance.
Sue Walter 42:56
The reality is both those things are important to me, you know, my work is important to me. My life is also important. Unfortunately for most people work is monopolistic, in the sense that it’s it takes up far more of your, your personal life, perhaps than it then is ideal. And that’s going to be the lifelong struggle really.
Andrew Grill 43:14
So let’s go to a quick fire round. quick answers are good answers iPhone or Android, iPhone, PC or Mac, my biggest hope for 2021
Sue Walter 43:22
biggest hope for 2021 is that we emerge from this pandemic. And as we do that we do not lose sight of the lessons that we’ve learned over the last 12 months because I think there has been some really great lessons. And I think as soon as we get back to whatever normal looks like, I think it’s very easy to perhaps lose sight of those lessons.
Andrew Grill 43:42
What are you reading at the moment,
Sue Walter 43:44
at the moment, I am reading an Isaac Asimov book called The Naked sun, which is really interesting actually, because it was it was published in 1957, I believe and and in this book, he describes a world where people communicate completely by the by technology, they don’t they never in the same room, they basically contact each other they communicate with each other in a screen or via an avatar. And it just felt very prophetic when I was reading it in the middle of a pandemic when I’m only communicating with people on a screen but it’s a it’s a you know, Asimov, as we know, was always writing about futuristic worlds but but this is a very opportune and I didn’t realise when I started reading the book but but this world where people and actually what’s interesting as well is people don’t mix with each other physically because of fear of germs of, of actually catching something, which is interesting. So, so the fear of catching something the fear of germs has driven society into a place where all communication is virtual.
Andrew Grill 44:47
Sounds like a book I should be reading. I’ll put the link in the show notes, final quickfire round question. How do you want to be remembered?
Sue Walter 44:54
I think as someone who always left things better than the way she found them. I really believe whether you’re a person or a corporation, I think in whatever small way that you can, you should always aspire to make things better. So yeah, that’s how I’d like to be remembered.
Andrew Grill 45:09
I always ask my guests to provide some practical and pragmatic advice to our listeners, what three pieces of advice would you like to leave with us today?
Sue Walter 45:17
I think in a world where people have two personas, their virtual persona and their own personal kind of private persona, I think it’s really important to be authentic. Because you know, we’re hearing so much fake, this fake that, and I think authenticity, authenticity always cuts through and I think don’t play a role. It’s not sustainable. Because you can never be your best self. If you’re just trying to be an imitation of something. I think take the time, invest the time to figure out who you are, figure out the things that are important to you, and then spend your life getting to know and like that person. One of my favourite quotes is Judy Garland, she said, Be yourself, everyone else is taken. And I think my second piece of advice is, it’s okay not to have a plan or a roadmap for your life. I never had one I genuinely didn’t know what I wanted to do. And actually, the interesting thing, it’s a bit like going exploring without a map, because you sometimes surprised yourself with where you end up and you find places that you never realised, and the lack of a map for me has led me to some amazing experiences. I’ve met some incredible people, because I didn’t have an end goal. And I was open, I was just open to whatever came along. And, you know, without being open to the opportunities, I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you, Andrew. So I think being open and not kind of being restricted in your view of yourself. And last bit of advice would be Don’t be afraid of failure. I spent, I held myself back up so many times in my life because I was afraid of failure. And it took me a long time to discover that failure needn’t be the end of something. And I’ve learned so much more from my failures than I have from my successes. So in my experience, failure is often the beginning of something, not the end,
Andrew Grill 47:01
three good points. Going back to point number two, which I would classify as serendipity. I’ve lived my life through serendipity I wouldn’t be here talking to you. Had I not taken chances and let serendipity take its hold. So thank you for that. How can people find out more about you and your work?
Sue Walter 47:15
You can find me on LinkedIn, I’m always happy to connect with people. I’m also on Instagram under Sue Walter 13. And Maggie and Rose, please do look us up at Maggie rose.com. Our digital platform is Maggie and Rose life. And we are also on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Andrew Grill 47:31
So thank you so much. It’s always so lovely to speak with you. You’ve given all of us some amazing nuggets of wisdom and inspiration today, and I thank you so much.
Sue Walter 47:40
Thank you so much for having me.
Thank you for listening to the podcast. You can find all of our previous shows at Futurist stock, London, and if you like what you’ve heard on this show, please consider subscribing via your favourite podcast app so you never miss an episode. You can find out more about Andrew and how he helps corporates navigate a disruptive digital world with keynote speeches and C suite workshops at Futurist.London.