Jackie Smithen

You are more than enough - The Woman Alchemist: Jackie Smithen

Laura Mariani

Women Inspiring Women: Smash That Ceiling!

The obstacle to achieving greatness — or anything that you want — isn’t any external factor, but a person’s own fears and attitude. In this series of interviews #Smashthatceiling #womeninspiringwomen, I want to provide examples of women in business and visible leadership shows that it is possible, that it is indeed happening out there, right now., #TheWomanAlchemist as I call them. This interview is an extract from the book "STOP IT! It is all in your head" available now.


Jackie Smithen is a Senior HR Director at GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK), a science-led global healthcare company – with three world-leading businesses – that researches, develops, and manufactures innovative pharmaceutical medicines, vaccines, and consumer healthcare products. I met Jackie Smithen when I worked at GSK on a project. For me, she represents a quiet type of leadership, similar to Jackie Kennedy ( click here to read Jackie Kennedy: quiet leadership); subtle, understated, unbelievably competent but totally not to be messed with. I observed her leading her team with trust, respect, nurturing her talent, and dealing with her client groups with great professionalism. She is respected, loved and I was impressed, a definite role model. Here are some insights from Jackie (Smithen not Kennedy ;-))


1. When you were a child what was your dream job and why? As a small child, I wanted to be a teacher but I think that was largely because it was the job I came into contact with most. As a teenager, I wanted to be a translator as I had found a love of language and thought it was really cool to be able to connect two parties who couldn’t communicate. 2. Can you tell me the time that you started to consider yourself successful? Probably about 8 years into my career. I had started on a graduate training program and for the early part of my career, I didn’t recognise the potential that others saw in me. It was only when I found myself in a role where I was leading a team and influencing others in the Business that I started to recognise the impact I was having which made me feel successful. 3. I’m sure like every business/business person you have faced adversity: how do you motivate yourself and force through the worst times? You’ve got to enjoy what you are doing day to day otherwise no amount of motivation really helps! I look for small successes and little triumphs on a daily basis – not every day is full of monumental achievements and sometimes it’s the small things and short conversations that help you to nudge things in the right direction. 4. What are the best things about your job? Flexibility – that works both ways for me and the Company Variety – I love spinning plates even if it means that sometimes I end up picking up the pieces! Autonomy – the freedom to choose what I work on next and how I approach things is energizing.


5. As Tony Robbins says, “Success leaves clues”: what are your daily/weekly habits? I try to work one day a week away from the office and use that time to work on different tasks (usually things which need me to really concentrate). I am an extrovert so love the interactions that being in the office offers, but recognize that sometimes I need to step away from the hubbub and just allow myself time to think! 6. What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership? Self-doubt. Personally, I often think about whether I am the right person for a task or whether someone else might be better suited and it has taken me a while to accept good coaching advice that “I am more than enough as I am”.


7. What women inspire you and why? It may be clichéd but my mum was definitely a big inspiration for me. She worked hard all her life but managed to put her family first. She also had a great ability to connect with people from all walks of life and was comfortable in her own skin. 8. What advice would you give to your 16year old self? Worry less about what you will be and where you will end up. I didn’t appreciate at 16 what it meant to be opportunistic and thought everything needed to be planned and mapped out. My working life has shown me the opposite is true! 9. Your instant mindfulness fix… If you find yourself writing reams of notes when you are with someone – stop! Chances are you are not really present in the conversation. 10. And finally something frivolous: the best thing about being a woman… The shopping gene – luckily for me my daughter has also inherited it J

Top Take-Aways from Jackie:

  • You are more than enough as you are
  • Enjoy what you are doing day by day
  • Look for small successes and little triumphs daily - celebrate
  • Allow yourself time to think
  • Be present in the moment
#TheWomanAlchemist #smashthatceiling #womeninspiringwomen #rolemodel #hustle See you next week for the next inspirational interview x
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Laura Mariani Best Selling Author, Content Creator and Change & Transformation Expert

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