10 Minutes of Inspiration with Maggie Semple OBE

Inspire interviews Maggie Semple OBE on her career journey and the experiences that have shaped her as a leader and influenced her decision to create a fashion label for professional women.

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Tell us a little about what you do.

My career is incredibly varied and covers a range of industries and disciplines. Firstly I run a consultancy firm which deals with FTSE 100 companies looking at leadership in the workplace. Secondly I am a non-executive director on a range of boards, predominantly in the criminal justice space and last but by no means least I run my own fashion label, the Semple Collection, creating bespoke clothing for professional women.

How did you get to where you are today? 

Certainly not in a straight line! Throughout my career I have embarked upon a variety of things which in all their shapes and forms have led me to where I am today. I believe in remaining true to my values and being honest and trustworthy which links directly to my ongoing work with the criminal justice system and my consultancy firm. How can we get organisations to be better at what they are supposed to be good at? How do we ensure they become excellent?

I am also a great supporter of women's empowerment and equality within the workplace which led to the creation of the Semple Collection, as I believe that what a woman wears has an incredible influence on her confidence.

In my eyes there is no limit to learning and growing so no matter who you are, where you are or whatever age you are it is always imperative to continue to educate yourself on matters that are dear to you. 

How has your life experience shaped you as a leader?

Throughout my life I have travelled a lot and been lucky enough to meet an incredible range of individuals from all walks of life. I believe that it is these chance interactions with others that have moulded me into the person I am today. On the whole they have been very positive, very encouraging and whenever I can I like to encourage others and be generous with my thoughts and actions.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your career? 

One quite specific highlight for me was being spotted very early on in my teaching career by a senior leader. She believed in my abilities and in turn presented me with many wonderful opportunities to further my career. I believe that if every single one of us could give opportunities to others we would all excel and the world would be a better place. 

I believe that unsuccessful experiences where things haven't always gone to plan are also offer an incredible learning opportunity. Realising that not everything will work to your advantage is a great way to build strength of character and resilience.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry? 

So I'm going to call my 'industry' the creative industry as not only do we make clothes we have a fantastic online presence including a blog and digital magazine which is fast becoming a go-to platform for intelligent thought. I would say to anyone wanting to move into that area that you don't have to see yourself as a creative person to work in it successfully. You may not be the kind of person that generates the ideas but you may be fantastic at executing and delivering it, so never believe that anything is impossible. You also need to be flexible in your thinking and what you do and also very adaptable.

What do you think is the most important lesson you've learnt in your career to date?

To be humble. As you excel in your career, it is imperative to take a moment to reflect and be thankful and never to let successes go to your head. Being humble is a very admirable quality and one which endears other like-minded people to you. 

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace? 

I think that one of the biggest issues for women in the workplace is that we are still not 100 percent convinced that we can do the job that we are employed to do. Even now I still question my ability on whether I can do something when approached by clients. But the positive I take from this dilemma is that the more that, as women, we talk about and acknowledge this ridiculous notion the better. Because there was a time, not long ago, that women in the workplace internalised all worries for fear of judgement. 

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

One person comes to mind and it is actually Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird. For me her spirit, character and moral compass are a great inspiration. As she's a child, in today's corporate language we would call this reverse mentoring So despite being a fictitious character, Scout is a perfect example of someone that I admire greatly.

What's on your reading/viewing list right now?

I read a lot while away on holiday and I like to indulge in books by authors from the region that I am in. For example on my annual summer break to Crete I like to read detective novels by Anne Zouroudi and when in Italy I enjoy the works of Andrea Camilleri. And viewing would have to be the newly released Whitney Houston documentary Can I Be Me directed by Nick Broomfield and Rudi Dolezal as she was such a phenomenal performer and one of the greatest voices of our generation. 

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I'm not very good at celebrating my own successes, so to my younger self I would say, really savour the moment you're in because my natural inclination is to achieve and move on without any true reflection or acknowledgment.