Amanda Rowe

amanda rowe

Tom has known Amanda since their University days. She was one of those people it was hard not to be envious of, because not only was she an exceptional academic; very intelligent, hard working and highly organised, but she was also a real people person and managed to get a great balance between her work and her social life (you hate her already right?). After she completed her PhD in the sciences, she changed her career path and started in fast moving consumer goods at Procter & Gamble. She now is a Senior Sales Account Manager at Duracell which she switched to when it was taken over by Berkshire Hathaway (overseen since 1965 by its chairman and CEO Warren Buffett and (since 1978) vice chairman Charlie Munger, who are known for their advocacy of value investing principles). It was a pleasure to hear about her career and her perspective on leadership and life’s challenges.


What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life? 

The book I have given out most often is Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. It’s  a novel based on the life of the author, in which a convicted Australian bank robber and heroin addict escapes from prison and flees to India. The novel is commended by many for its vivid portrayal of life in Bombay in the early to late 1980s.

It’s an epic journey and a tale of resilience and values, that remind you that life is a journey. If you’re at the precipice of making major decisions in your life, this will help put them in perspective. 


What purchase of £100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)? (Brand and model, where you found it?) 

My Google Nest for about £50.  We’re not quick to take up technology in our family, but this has brought added joy into my life. 

Between being a mum and a full time job, time is a scarce resource and the barrier most systems have to putting music on (although it isn’t a large one really – but it doesn’t take much sometimes) has meant I only ever listen to it when in the car.

Now it just takes saying one instruction. It’s so easy just to ask for a song that I like when I get the urge. And my 4 year old son can use it too.


How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favourite failure” of yours?

As a child, I was a very driven student. I got straight As all the way through school, and when it came to university applications, the course I applied for at Nottingham (life sciences) required 3 Bs at A-level. My results in the end were two As and a C, which I thought would be ok, but it wasn’t and I didn’t get on the course. I had never failed at anything up until that point and I was gutted. 

However, they did offer me a different course (applied biology) away from the main campus at Nottingham, which was much smaller and more rural. At first I was disappointed, but in the end the size of the campus meant I developed much stronger, lifelong friendships and more confidence socially than a lot of people did being diluted as one amongst very large numbers of people on a big campus. When people I know now talk about their experiences at university, I feel very lucky.

My second failure that led to success was in my relationship with the father of my (now middle) child. I was brought up in a traditional way, you know, you get married, you have kids, you get a mortgage etc and you make it work no matter what.

But, two years after the birth of our son, we separated. In my mind I thought there would be a lot of stigma. I thought at the time that I had failed, but the reality was actually so different. 

His father and I managed to maintain a strong relationship and now, we’ve managed to meet new people and are both very happy. We share looking after our son, and he’s very happy too.


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 could be a few words or a paragraph. (If helpful, it can be someone else’s quote: Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?)

All you can ever do is your best. 

I’m prone to being a perfectionist and very ambitious, so I can be tough on myself. I’ve learned (and continue to learn) the importance of recognising this and the balance and calm it brings.


What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)

Having children. The joy of watching life through a child’s eyes. It’s hands down the most significant and best investment I’ve made. I now have a stepson (who’s the eldest) and two sons and giving them roots, and helping them grow wings brings meaning and joy to my life.  


What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love? 

I like my tea, really, really milky. I dip my tea bag in, quickly remove it and then pour in lots of milk. People (my husband) think it’s weird.


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

Not everything has to be done today and it doesn’t need to be perfect. As priorities become broader, I’ve realised that I’ve become more relaxed and able to say, it doesn’t matter.

I’m still ambitious but not at all costs 


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

Do what you love. Do what makes you happy and do your best and don’t worry about the grand plans of your career. There are so many ways to achieve in life, you don’t need to know so early.


What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise? 

Not a recommendation as such, but there’s still too much focus on short-term decision making, driven by short term targets.

It also often happens when people move from role to role quickly, everyone feels they have to earn their stripes and make an impact, but was the strategy broken in the first place? You rarely get someone that comes in and says, I’ll carry on with what was already happening as it was good.


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

The biggest thing is the churn of staff in buyer roles, often more than once a year. I appreciate people who are ambitious and want to be promoted, but I think we would learn more and do better work if we stayed a bit longer in each role. It would help with building relationships and long-term success. 


In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to (distractions, invitations, etc.)? What new realisations and/or approaches helped? Any other tips? 

Things that interfere with my personal work-life balance. I’ve learnt not to be a people pleaser anymore (or at least less). My definition of success has changed from when I started in my career. Everything I did was always with the intention of getting on to the next stage, aiming for high levels of management, but now, success is about my family and work facilitating that and fitting into my life. I value time more than anything.


What does a balanced life look like to you? Has a work or a project you have been focused on caused you to neglect other areas of your life?

Not letting work penetrate my whole life.


When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? (If helpful: What questions do you ask yourself?)

Get outside and have a good walk. Have a glass of wine with friends, talk to my family.

Having a good chat helps me get perspective.


What does leadership mean to you? 

Getting people to a point, travelling in the same direction.

I think leaders become leaders because people choose to follow them, not because they have been given the label. They need to listen well, be emotionally intelligent, have experience, have learnt from mistakes, and have battle scars.


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

My parents.

They left school with no qualifications., but have always had an amazing work ethic and a can-do-attitude. I think those attributes are more important than any knowledge. When I hire people, I look for those that I believe are going to be hardworking. Have that work ethic. 

Success to my father was passing on to the next generation more than he had and that has happened. 


What do the words principles and values mean to you?

They mean different things. Principles are a set of rules in life. Values are deeper – integrity, respect. 

If your core values don’t align with the role that you’re doing, you’ll never be successful at it.


If you had a forum to speak to 50 leaders, what question would you pose to them, to get them thinking about and being better leaders? 

Does everyone in your team know your core values and principles?

What does leadership mean to you?

What makes a bad leader?

Do you believe you are a good leader and why?


What one thing could you do that you aren’t doing now, that if you did on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your personal life?  What one thing in your business or professional life would bring similar results? 

My work life balance is pretty good, but I would like a renewed focus on this in January. So I’m not spending time in the evening on my laptop or doing any work on the weekend.


Have you ever engaged with self-help, mentoring or coaching? If so, how?

Yes, twice. After my relationship with my first child’s father broke down I looked for a life coach and I saw them every week for 10 months. It really helped with my personal leadership, who I was, my values and what my next steps were in my life. 

I’ve also had many work mentor and mentee relationships through programs at Procter and Gamble. I’ve been fortunate to have fantastic mentors in my life.

I would recommend that people seek mentors, but not for their CV. Seek ones that they think they will benefit from learning from in regards to the specific challenges they face.

Topic: 50 in 50