SMALL company, BIG difference

One young woman shares her leap from big to small business

Six months ago Elize Clark was one of 85,000 Partners within the John Lewis Partnership, working as an IT Project Manager for Waitrose.  Today she’s part of a small social impact organisation called ‘Moving Ahead and Women Ahead’.  It was a complete change, not just leaping from big to small business but also leaving IT behind to become a Client and Programme Manager. 

But what gives someone the courage to make such a bold career change and just how big is the adjustment?  Elize shares her early reflections…

“I’ve always been curious about people.  It started when I was at uni and I studied for a while at an international school in Spain.  I was just fascinated by how people of all different nationalities, languages and cultures could come together like that to work effectively. 

It wasn’t until I’d been at Waitrose for a while that I realised responsible businesses are embracing the entire diversity and inclusion agenda.  I got involved with it at Waitrose - but it was always in addition to my main Project Management role.  When I heard about the opportunity with Moving Ahead and Women Ahead, which is dedicated to increasing all aspects of diversity through a series of mentoring programmes, I just knew it would be the right place for me.  I wasn’t wrong. 

When I got the job I wasn’t really daunted by the scale of the change but the transition has certainly been interesting.  It has been completely liberating, in terms of the freedom you have to shape your work and impact change. 

I understand that for big businesses to operate effectively, they need to have layers of processes in place.  But the downside to that is it can take so long to do anything.  Here, you have an idea, you chat it through, you get the nod and you are off.  It’s much more fast-paced, much more agile.

And being part of a small organisation also gives you an opportunity to be involved in many different aspects of business.  Since I’ve arrived here I’ve given presentations, organised events, overseen filming – it’s as varied as it is interesting.  

But the thing I love most about my new role is that it’s all about people.  On a day-to-day basis I’m working with those in HR, diversity and talent development, across a variety of big businesses and industries.   I help them establish their company’s mentoring scheme(s) and can see first-hand how impactful my efforts are. 

My work helps people develop and grow but, at the same time, I’m learning loads by doing it.  I get to meet the mentors and mentees on our programmes.  I get to hear their personal stories, about the difference mentoring has made to their lives.  It’s a privilege to work here because I get to make a difference every day and meet so many inspiring people whilst doing it.”     

‘Moving Ahead and Women Ahead,’ is actively recruiting for another Client and Programme Manager.  They’re looking for someone with; a social entrepreneurial spirit; a passion for diversity and inclusion; and dedication to programme management, to join their growing team.  Elize Clark joined the organisation in February 2018.  She’s keen to encourage others not to be constrained by their current job title but to think about the skills, strengths and suitability they might have to offer this incredible mission-led business. Check out the role here