Susanne Given has had a hugely successful executive career at the likes of Superdry, where she was COO, TK Maxx where she was Managing Director for UK and Ireland and John Lewis where she worked as a Buying Director for Fashion. Susanne is now enjoying a burgeoning portfolio that includes Chairing the boards at designer furniture and homeware retailer Made.com and Menswear Personal Shopping Service Outfittery.com with a series of Non – Executive Directorships that include Deloitte and Eurostar.
1. Best piece of advice you’ve been given
I worked for a wonderful female MD many years ago now, who said to me “you simply don’t know your own power – own it, be comfortable in it”. I had been so busy constantly delivering more than the brief required during an era where as a female executive, you inevitably felt you had to do better than you male peers in order to pass. I also had the other typical female executive attribute of not wanting to say out loud anything which might make me seem overly confident or assertive. She gave me the cover to grow into my own “power” and is still a great mentor for me today.
2. Worst piece of advice you’ve been given
Don’t aim too high, you’ll only be disappointed. This was advice given to me by a very well-meaning friend, and I totally refute it. Aim high, never mind about not getting all the way there, but manage your expectations carefully. That way you won’t become disappointed. There are no limits for how far you can go, nothing is pre-ordained, and it is never too late to start again, or change your aim. When I look back, it is the times at which I have pivoted away from the more obvious path that I have made most progress.
3. What would you tell your younger self?
Make choices based on your passion. I ended up as a single parent in my thirties, with little financial buffer, and therefore had to make professional choices based on meeting my financial commitments and being able to provide a good environment for my children. I have loved my various roles and the businesses I have worked for, but I do often ask myself what it might have looked like, had I had the ability to make professional choices based on my passions.
In today’s society, with the enormous horizon and scope from which you can make choices, I would urge my younger self to be relentless in my pursuit of choosing a career and professional roles which match my passions and values in life. That clearly requires you to be clear about what motivates you, as well as have courage and commitment to see it through, and can best be achieved if you make sure your financial circumstances fit the bill. But if you can achieve that balance, you’re set for flying high!
4. What excites you most about the future of your industry?
Shopping as a service, which is where I believe we are all moving. Smart data capture, which monitors my digital footprint and my digital consumption, overlays both with current market trends and available products and services, and prompts me intelligently and effectively. Less noise, more relevancy, making my consumer choices more unique and well tailored to my life and personal values.
5. Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
Right now, all those working on the front line of COVID-19. Be that supermarket operatives or NHS workers, they deserve our deepest gratitude. They have families and take risks every day to help hold this new challenging world of ours together.