I was a pretty shy child. I'm still never one that walks into a room loudly. I'm much more likely to initially observe a situation. In a meeting, I'll take time to appreciate what's going on first, I'll try to allow a lot of people to participate.

When you’re a bit quieter as a younger person, I think that people assume you’re a little introverted. But that taught me that you don't have to occupy all the space. If your contribution is relevant, to the point and takes an idea to a different level or space then that's the bit people actually appreciate.

Then you start to get more validation: you see that other people find time with you valuable because they ask you to contribute your thoughts or opinion to something they're writing or working on. You become a voice that people want as part of a discussion and debate.

In my twenties, I spent a lot of time working in a business development role, where the requirements are well outlined. You know what good looks like, you know what a compliant and compelling final draft looks like and you either win the opportunity or you don't win the opportunity.

My strength was building relationships, gaining trust and being able to articulate an offer, a proposition and a vision. So I was pretty successful in the role.

But I very deliberately left an organisation when I was 30. After nine years, despite the fact that I was lobbying and influencing at a reasonably senior level, I was still sometimes perceived as the 21-year old that I'd started as. I had to recreate myself, I had to find space.

I didn't change in the three weeks before starting a new job, but people's perception of me, their expectation of what I was capable of and how senior I was, did change. And that was a pivotal moment in my career. I was lucky enough to work for another mission-focused organisation that gave me a huge amount of licence to build an entire part of the company.

About five or six years later, I stepped out and co-founded a small social impact and design consultancy. I had the confidence in the value of my voice and my experience which you need when you have to demonstrate and prove your worth to clients every day because you’re trading your name and your reputation in new sectors and service areas.

If I could say anything to my younger self it would be to believe in myself. Believe in yourself. And take your time. In your early life, it’s easy to think somebody is better, quicker, brighter, more successful etc. At some level, we’ve all got some sense of inferiority, but as you get older you get more perspective and learn to build on what you’re good at.

I’ve reflected on this and I’ve learnt that I'm pretty good at most things I put my hand to, not because I'm an exceptional individual but because I’m competitive. If you give me a challenge, I’ll try my hardest to succeed and won’t give up.

Jen Byrne is Delivery Director at FutureGov and joined in August 2018.

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