Book Review: Strong Woman: The Truth About Getting To The Top by Karren Brady

Karren Brady - Strong Woman

I’ve always liked Karren Brady (despite the fact that I’m a Villa fan!) and remember on more than one occasion, back in the day when I had a ‘corporate’ job, we were the only females on  the train from London Euston to Birmingham International.  A sea of dark suited men  – and me and Ms Brady.

I’ve followed her professional career from when she arrived at Birmingham City – despite them being my football team’s bitterest rivals.

Karren is 5 years older than me – but seemed so much more glamourous and grown up than me when I was doing my A levels.  A real aspirational role model – a successful businesswoman who wasn’t prepared to hide the fact that she was most definitely female!

I’m also incredibly nosy – and so have enjoyed following her personal life – marriage to a footballer (Paul Peschisolido), 2 kids, serious health concern – so I knew the headlines – but was interested to know more.

My 2017 Reading Challenge means I’ve been picking a more varied set of books than normal – so when I needed ‘A book with career advice’ – this seemed an apt choice.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“Karren Brady is an inspiration to women everywhere, and her incredible success is borne of her passion, impressive business instinct, ambition, and her very genuine, honest, down-to-earth outlook.

This is Karren’s story… before being Alan Sugar’s aide on The Apprentice and VC of West Ham United, how she started out as a sparky 18 year old at Saatchi & Saatchi and at 23, went on to persuade David Sullivan to buy Birmingham City football club – turning that business round to sell it for an incredible £82 million 12 years later.

Strong Woman tells how she balances her personal life with her professional, her priorities, her life as mother of two and wife. Karren reveals how she coped when doctors told her after a routine scan that she had a brain aneurysm, that she must have a complicated operation immediately and had a 30% chance of not surviving, and how it has since influenced her outlook and priorities.

An overwhelmingly inspiring and real look at work and life, Karren Brady defies convention as a directional business woman in a male industry. This is the truth about how she does it, and through her experience, her drive and her skills – it offers brilliant advice on how you can do it too.”

I have to say I really enjoyed the book – for many different reasons.

I was reading it on holiday in the Caribbean – but whilst there, juggling family life with still working – as we have our own business – and so could empathise with a lot of  the content – about not taking days off, and being permanently ‘on call’.  People often say how ‘lucky’ we are to have the lifestyle that we do – and travel all round the world – but there’s not much luck to it – most is damn hard work, day in and day out, which is just what Karren says.

I liked the fact that Karren’s family is also, clearly, really important to her.  Like her, I juggle the kids and work – and sometimes feel torn in two, but wouldn’t be without either part of my life.  We have also been lucky with our childcare, like the Peschisolido kids were, having had one nanny for the last 7 years in our case.  It really is the simplest option when you don’t have a 9-5 job (and in our case, LOADS of kids!)  I’ve blogged about this before – and how people somehow seem to think having a nanny means you’re spoilt! The chapter looking back at Karren’s early years was also really interesting (I am just naturally nosy!)

As I said at the outset – historically on the train sometimes the male / female ratio was not very even!  Having been the only girl at my school wanting to do further maths A level, I had to do it at the boys school next door.  Then I did a maths degree at University – and the trained as an accountant with one of the ‘Big 6’ firms (that’s showing my age as there aren’t 6 any more!).  Finally, I’ve ended up running a construction company!  None of it is QUITE as male dominated as working in football – but I can definitely appreciate working in a male environment.  However, to paraphrase Karren slightly, I’m all for people getting a role because they are the best person for the job, not just because they need to fill a quota based on the shape of their genitalia.

The section about TV work – specifically The Apprentice – was also great, really feeling like you were getting a behind the scenes view.  It’s daft – but I’d never thought before about the long hours that the advisers would work as well as the competitors.  Having to fit the ‘day job’ in after filming hours must also be crazy busy.

I found the chapter on Karren’s aneurysm really moving.  It wasn’t written in an over hyped way – but very matter of fact with all of the issues that happened and how they were dealt with.  But still – it makes you think ‘what if?’  Having had a close friend go  through breast cancer over recent months – she said just the same as Karren did – the worst thing was having to tell her children that she was ill. But as with my friend sharing her breast cancer story,  Karren sharing her ‘journey’ with her aneurysm may help someone else going through the same situation – and definitely makes you grateful for your own health.

The photos at the end were fabulous – lovely seeing all the people that have been important to Karren over the years – and obviously the variety of clothes and hair styles! #priorities

This has turned into a bit of a fan girl blog about Ms Brady – having totally empathised with an awful lot of what she said.  I also think this would be a GREAT book for girls and young women thinking about what they want to do with their futures – lots of food for thought and inspiration to be had.

 

 

 

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