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Q&A with Briony

Updated: Apr 1, 2021

Someone told me a while ago that my "about me" section of my website was a little sterile, and that I hadn't really done much to tell anyone who I am. Given that I write so many blogs and am constantly on social media, that was somewhat of a wake up call as I just assumed that I was making myself known through these platforms.

But I have taken the feedback and decided to write a blog all about me. Uggghhhh not easy. I would far rather be asking others about themselves. So in the spirit of asking questions, it occurred to me that a Q&A format would be easiest. Here goes!

What did you want to be when you were 5 years old?

I haven’t the foggiest idea. I found some of my Grade 1 “Daily news” books a few months back, and I wrote in there that I played “work-work” with my dolls, so I suspect I imagined myself working in an office of some sorts. I remember also teaching my dolls how to write (in my imagination of course) so perhaps I thought I would be a teacher.

What career are you in now

At the end of 2016 I moved into career development and leadership coaching after 18 years working in environmental and social risk management in the mining industry. I realised some time ago that what really made me tick, was mentoring and coaching the young professionals that I worked with, and decided to change directions into full-time coaching.

I find that many business coaches work at an executive level. My interest is predominantly on the earlier stages of ones career journey and so what makes me different is that I primarily focus on people who are in the phase of managing themselves and/or starting to manage others. These are critical transition points, that if managed carefully can result in confidence and competence for the duration of ones career and have positive impacts not just on the individual but also those around them, or the flip-side, if not managed with care and self-awareness.

By and large my focus is graduate professionals in STEM professions (I have a background in the natural sciences in the mining industry) between the ages of 23 and 50 working in small to mid-size companies. These are people who are generally technically competent and are about to be or have been promoted into management and are now experiencing a loss of confidence because their technical competencies are not the same competencies required for management and leadership. However if you are invested in managing your career as a business, then you are my ideal client no matter who you are or what you do!

What motivated you to choose the career that you’re in?

I believe there is such massive potential in South Africa, but so much of it is lost through lack of confidence and self-doubt, poor management and leadership skills, and impatience with people who need some hand holding to "make it”.

I am motivated by the opportunity to make my contribution to the development of our current and future leadership by coaching and working with young professionals that are in transition.

I burnt myself out and made a lot of mistakes towards the end of my first career. What I know now, could have fundamentally changed the way I managed myself back. But I struggled to find people at work that I felt I could talk to about the mistakes I was making, or to get constructive feedback. I think it is the same for a lot of people in the workplace – especially in mid-size companies, where managers are too busy, or not invested enough to want to have those conversations.

So my WHY is about providing a safe place for my clients to talk, to think, to develop their awareness and to learn, so that they can be better leaders and better managers, and be awake and curious about their lives, their careers and the world around them.

What steps did you / are you taking to realise your dreams?

18 years into my career, I resigned and signed up to do a business coaching course. Since then I have done a massive amount of reading, several on-line courses and a certificate in assessing thinking preferences. I set up my own business to give me the freedom to work with the people that I choose and in the way that I choose. It's been a tremendous financial risk for me, but is balanced out by the daily sense of accomplishment that I have and the ongoing process of learning that I am on.

What kind of challenges have you encountered along the way?

In reinventing myself in a new way of working, I have had to deal with my own personal loss of identity which was very much tied into my previous position where I had a fancy title, a lovely car, a good salary, a team that reported to me, a name in the industry and a never ending load of work on my desk. I went from being competent, credible, and well-recognised to being a complete newbie in the profession of coaching. So I have had to overcome that by building a profile and credibility and that I am doing by networking, writing blogs, contributing content to various publications, talking at forums as often as I possibly can, volunteering on various committees and building relationships.

There is something incredibly challenging and humbling about suddenly stripping oneself of all the traditional trappings of success, and starting out in a new career at the age of 42.

Name any 3 attributes that you think are important in your line of work

Curiosity, vulnerability and listening skills.

Have you ever failed in your career and if yes what did you learn from that experience?

Goodness - a 100 times over. In almost every instance it was as a result of my failure to ask for help. I think I am still learning to ask for help - I really struggle with it. But little by little I am realising that there is great strength in vulnerability and that those who ask for help tend to get help. While those who don’t, tend to get a much tougher journey.

What’s the most bizarre or funniest thing that's ever happened (to you) in your career

I did a lot of travelling in my line of work in the mining industry. Probably the most bizarre incident was spending 10 days on site in Zambia and getting to the point in conversations where people start to feel comfortable enough to ask questions like “How many children do you have?”.

I don't have any children, by choice. But this was quite clearly a completely inappropriate answer to the Zambian man who had asked the question.

I knew this because firstly he looked appalled and grilled me with more questions on what I would do when I have no children to look after me. But it was his intense gaze at my uterus during the entire conversation, that gave me the sense he was trying to will at least one or two children out of me there and then.

What is the most embarrassing mistake you have ever made in your career - and how did you bounce back from this?

Probably sending a relatively derogatory email to contractor who was working on a project with me. He was being a bit stubborn and difficult. But the email was intended for my colleague and said something along the lines of what an idiot this person was. It was embarrassing enough sending the e-mail to the wrong person. It was even more embarrassing when he phoned, made light of the email faux pas and then asked me out for drinks.

I never went for the drinks, but I did learn two things:

  • people can be incredibly gracious and forgiving, and

  • I should not only not put my feelings into e-mails but should also be far more careful in reading my emails before pressing “send.

What is the most rewarding part of your line of work?

Knowing that I have contributed towards empowering someone to be intentional and purposeful in their own life and career.

How would you advise someone who’s having a hard time achieving their goals?

Ask for help. Get someone to help you look at the situation from various perspectives. Pick yourself up when you fall and try again. Keep persevering and always always believe in yourself.

What did you have to sacrifice in order for your career to grow?

I have sacrificed a lot of family time and been pretty negligent in my relationships. I always felt more competent at work than I did in my personal life. Thankfully my family and friends are very forgiving and have encouraged me to find my way.

Any specific career advice you would like to share?

We get so caught up in doing what others think we should do, and only find out later in life who we really are. Sometimes we never figure out what we want to do, but that shouldn't stop us from experimenting and trying many things along the way.

There is nothing that says you have to do one thing for the rest of your life. So rather than fixating on what society says is right, invest in getting to know yourself. When you know who you are, how you think, what your strengths are, where you need help - then you can lead others. But most importantly, that’s when you can lead yourself.

Take a leap of faith in yourself and don’t be afraid to fail – failure is an opportunity to learn and grow. Ask for help, build your networks, hang out with people who inspire you and push you to be better than you already are, communicate about what you are doing, make no assumptions and take feedback on the chin. Oh and get a coach

How do you define success?

I think success is about living a life that I can be proud of in retrospect, a life where I know I have made a positive contribution to others, and done more than just earn a living.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Play more!! Definitely, play more! I think I took myself way too seriously as a young adult - even as a child really! I think the benefit of playing is in taking risks, trying things out, doing new stuff, failing, getting back up and trying things a different way. In play, we learn so much, without learning becoming hard work.


I love conversations and would love to engage with you on your career and how you are managing yourself and your career like a business.

I believe "managing your career like a business" means having insight on where you want to go in your career, the agility and resilience to change track when necessary, competence to navigate transition points, and self-awareness to manage yourself.

I help you do that through one-on-one coaching, CV and LinkedIn profile writing, topic-specific workshops and a suite of blogs and other materials available on my website. Want more information? Drop me a message and I will get back to you asap.

Want to receive my career musings direct to your inbox?

Subscribe to my mailing list. I promise I don't spam anyone (because that's just bad karma... and bad business!)


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