Stop! You, want to make a difference to the oil and gas industry and gender diversity? Who do you think you are – JR Ewing from the TV series Dallas?
People like you who come from a small town in Yorkshire do what they have always done, work at the sweetie factory Rowntree Mackintosh, make raincoats at the Gannex Mill or carpets for Axminster.
You left school with O levels in English, Domestic Science and Religious Education. Where in that does it say Computer Science Degree and Diploma in Management?
Now, I know you have a great amount of passion and determination for something you believe in but really, the oil and gas sector?
Don’t you think you are well out of your depth, and studying for a degree at night school with a full-time job and two young children will be challenging? Are you sure you want that extra stress?
Not to mention the fast-track Diploma in Management 12 months later because you have identified a “hunger for education” that will almost push you over the edge. Why put yourself through all that?
Can you remember the disagreements with your family as they wanted to see you more at home, so you would set the alarm clock and go into work at 04:00hrs to complete your modules to try to keep everyone happy?
You will have to thank the night watchman many times for the cuppa he brought you to keep you going whilst you studied at work through the night as the family slept. Little did he know that underneath that track suit were your pyjamas!
You won’t know this yet but when you were leaving the office at 06:30hrs, greeting your CEO as he was coming in to start his day, as you were going home to get the children to school before starting back at the office for 08:30hrs, that this along with helping when you were 12 years old at your grandparents’ business, will set the baseline for your work ethic when you start a company called PCL Group.
In 1999 you will be made redundant for the second time, a cutting blow again to your confidence and you will feel worthless, on the scrapheap, but you are resilient and you will bounce back when you have licked your wounded pride.
With the last of your redundancy, just £100, you will begin your entrepreneurial journey and incorporate PCL Group. Working from the dining room table will be challenging to say the least. You will not have the courage to tell your parents that you have started your own company in Aberdeen as they always wished you would return to your roots in Yorkshire.
Instead you will share this news with your daughter and tell her to keep it a secret until the time is right to tell everyone else. Suppressing the excitement is going to be a real test but that excitement will be tinged with guilt as you don’t want to upset your family. Remember what your grandfather used to say: “In business you only get out what you put in.”
Back then, sitting on the wall outside their bungalow waiting for them to leave for the fish market at 04:00hrs was a great adventure. Perhaps that is where you obtained the ability to get up and work so early, being productive from when your feet touched the floor!
You had some great grounding. The responsibility of getting the tea and the bacon sandwiches for the men filleting the fish showed you early in life that you must be responsible and deliver what is expected.
Your company will encounter a bad debt within two years of being in business for the sum of £179,000. This will be one of the most challenging times of your life. You will have to fight for every penny and the legal costs will be considerable for a SME to find.
This period will teach you many things about business resilience but most of all it will teach you about yourself and what determination, confidence and inner strength can provide when you still have belief, even when the stuffing has been knocked out of you!
Your husband and your children will be the focus during the early days in business. Sadly, you will have to adapt to being mum and dad and no matter how lonely you may feel at times, you will always count your blessings for being “one of the lucky ones”.
Although not easy, you will watch your offspring grow into mature young individuals wishing that your late husband was here to share in that pride.
The opportunities will ebb and flow as you build your empire. Who would believe that you would help to build the fastest flight route algorithm in the world for the airline industry? Then be given another opportunity to develop a digital solution for oil and gas to identify “ice plugs” caused by changes in temperature and pressure in pipelines. Remember when you were inspired by reading Scott of the Antarctic three times? Well now you know why that book was so significant.
Mentoring will become the norm for you. Giving some of that experience back is hugely gratifying to you. Being a WES ambassador is high on your priority list as you want to help women, especially women who want to work in diverse sectors, where only men usually succeed!
The awards for technology and business acumen will come at pace and you will always wonder “why me” because you really don’t think that you are doing anything different other than getting on with the day job! Start now and look back on your career and see what you have achieved and be proud that some of the top oil and gas women see you, yes you, as a role model. You will receive an OBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours and that shall be a huge turning point for you.
Still unsure and suffering from “imposter syndrome” there will be days you physically pinch yourself till it hurts to make sure that you are still alive and breathing!
You never wanted to waste your life and constantly told others to make something of themselves if they could. “We are here for such a short time, make the most of everything you do” is now becoming the mantra you share with others.
“Life is a journey, look out of every window” is the small phrase you will keep by your bed to remind you about the importance of life and not only about being Jeanette Forbes the Entrepreneur.
Your business journey will be a rollercoaster as you enter your 20th year in business. Fasten up that seatbelt because you will take it up a notch in a new decade and whilst you might not meet JR Ewing from Dallas and Southfork Ranch is out of your budget, go buy that Stetson, because you always loved hats!
Love, Jeanette x
This letter was published in the March 2020 edition of Inside. Read the full article here.