Grace Louisy, Head of Operations, HeadBox

Annie: Hello Grace! Wow, one year ago, you were in my shoes and about to graduate from the Fast Forward 15 programme! So, I’m keen to hear it, having completed the Fast Forward 15 programme and being one year on, what are the key lessons or insights, if any, you’ve gained that you regularly apply in your day-to-day now?

Grace: Hello Annie! I can’t believe it’s been a year, that is mad! The FF15 programme was career-defining for me, I wouldn’t have had the year that I’ve had without it. My first piece of advice is to enter the programme with an open mind – the goals I’ve achieved were beyond what I originally imagined and some of them are only coming to fruition now. So, how you think and act on the programme is laying a foundation, not just for the first year after graduation, but for the rest of your career.

A big lesson I learned, and now apply day-to-day, is to reframe your outlook on short-term and long-term goals. My mentor Morag called it “brushing your teeth”, simple daily tasks you do for long-term benefit. Whether it’s the small actions you’re taking, meetings you’re organising or connections you’re making, they are all building up to the bigger picture of where you want to take your career. I still think of this every day when I brush my teeth, even when I don’t want to, I do it anyway.

Annie: In a high-paced environment like HeadBox, how do you manage to strike a balance between achieving your professional goals and taking essential time for yourself? Could you share some strategies that you find effective?

Grace: It’s difficult to achieve balance in our industry and you can’t always get it right. HeadBox is the fastest-growing event technology company in the UK, there’s never a dull moment! I love my job, so “balance” still involves investing time in my work and relationships with my colleagues and clients. That said, in order to bring my best self to work, I’ve learned to apply clear boundaries.

Firstly, when I’m off, I’m off. I always joke to my teams that if I’m on holiday, only contact me if the office is burning down, and even then, don’t bother! Secondly, I always communicate my stresses, worries and needs before reaching a point of burnout. Most importantly, I understand how I work best and I’ve learned how to prioritise my work to work smarter. In a nutshell, I will always take the easy route to solve a problem. Things that keep me sane are a clear desk, a clear inbox (where possible) and clear blocks in my calendar. For consistent balance, I look at the month ahead and if I have lots of industry events in the evenings, I make sure my personal life is quiet and vice versa! It’s not perfect and it’s not always possible, but it works for me.

Annie: Now, you’ve just been on an amazing trip, travelling stunning parts of the world! Tell us more about what inspired you to take a 5-month adventure at this particular stage in your career, and how did this experience impact your perspective both personally and professionally?

Grace: I’m a naturally very curious (read: nosy) person, I want to meet everyone, see everywhere and experience everything. As such, I’ve always planned to travel the world and, while on the programme, it became clear that this was the most important goal in my life. The plan to travel was loose, distant and, honestly, wouldn’t have happened without asking the simple question: “What are you waiting for?”

Taking a career break will always feel risky, but I was confident in myself, in my employer and in our industry that I could take a break, return and thrive. The biggest impact on me personally was I remembered that I’m still young! It’s never too late to go after what you want. Professionally, the trip reaffirmed my love for my job and for events, which my boss will be happy to hear. It was a life-changing experience, but by the end, I was genuinely excited to come back home. I always say, if you take a break (big or small) and you’re excited to return to the mundanity of your day-to-day life, you are the luckiest person in the world.

Annie: Finally, what’s next for Grace? You’ve had the time of your life travelling, crushing one of your big goals. What does your next goal look like?

Grace: True to Fast Forward 15, I have two goals for this year. My personal goal is to have more fun – simple as that. Embrace everything that comes my way and enjoy every minute.

My professional goal is to become a mentor. I’ve gained some invaluable life experience and it’s reignited my passion for making people feel good, gain confidence and push themselves out of their comfort zone. I want to be a female leader in our industry and I hope to make strides toward that this year, once I recover from jet lag.