Gemma Dunford

gemma dunford

Fantastic speaking with you Gemma. A career dedicated to helping others, 8 of which at UrbanLeaf and now at Alzheimer’s Society, you’re an inspiration to all those around you. Kind, considerate and always looking to put the fun into work you epitomise what it means to be a team player. With your infectious positive energy and steadfast loyalty we couldn’t be happier to see you flourish and continue to make a positive difference in the world.


If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it —metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why?

“It’s not about the destination, but the journey that counts.”

I love that quote and have said it to friends and to the different teams I’ve led over the years. I think people are too focused on the result and it’s important to value the journey.

My own quote I came up with when a good friend of mine broke up with her partner and still resonates strongly with me is “Maintain your strength and inner grace”.


What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made?

I took a Personal Training and Fitness part-time course when I was on furlough. It really helped me mentally cope with this challenging time. I also rediscovered exercise and fitness, which was hugely positive. I now walk 10-15 thousand steps per day and I do three or four workouts per week. 


In the last five years, what new belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your life?

I got into daily walking during the pandemic and I’m still doing it. I have the same routes and know how long it takes me to get my steps in. It clears my head, I feel really different after 5 or 10 minutes walking. I don’t meditate but this really works for me. It’s really important to me to connect with nature.


In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to (distractions, invitations, etc.)?

Lockdown helped me to say no to social opportunities, especially if I don’t think I’ll have a good time. Before I would say yes to nearly everything for fear of upsetting people. People have always understood (although sometimes I still feel guilty).


What advice would you give to a smart, driven student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?”

Trust in yourself. Don’t do things you think you shouldn’t do. There can be a culture of working all the time, taking lunch at the desk, working into the evenings. You don’t have to buy into that to be successful. Take breaks. It’s okay. They’re good for you. Find balance in life, you’ll be better at your job.


What frustrates you the most about your industry and the way companies are run in it?

The charity sector and working in-house is fantastic (a dream come true) however there are a lot more processes and things can take a lot longer to implement in terms of actioning change. Working at UrbanLeaf – a small business where change was often weekly caused a lot of tension as I am a creature of habit in a lot of ways, however it has made me realise I am a lot more adaptable than I realised and am often the one suggesting changes in my new role.


What does leadership mean to you?

Getting stuck in and leading by example.


Which people have most inspired you in your life and why?

My Dad. He left school at 14. He was poor and worked his way up the ladder. He got a degree in his 40s and masters in his 50s. He’s a very worldly and wise person. He broke free of his working class background and against all the odds he’s done really well. 


To donate to Alzheimer’s Society click here.

Topic: 50 in 50