Coffee With

  • CWN Admin posted an article
    Coffee With Alex Downs see more

    Coffee With Alex Downs

    Alex Downs is a senior consultant at Milltown Partners and an active member of City Women Network for over 4 years; making significant contributions to its Communications team. Milltown are a global advisory firm working with organisations and individuals on the communications and public policy challenges that define their reputations.


    Tell us what you do and what do you love about your job?
    I’m a strategic communications consultant. I work with clients, mostly large or mid-size companies, on issues related to their reputation.

    I love the diversity of the work - no one day is ever the same. And I’ve been lucky enough to work with (and learn from) a very diverse group of clients over the years and some wonderful colleagues.


    You’re 31 years old now – what did you want to be when you ‘grew up’?

    When I was really little, I loved the idea of being an actress or a singer. Then I decided I wanted to be film director – I think part of me secretly still wants to be one... I was always fascinated by all the behind the scenes work that goes into film projects. 

    You’ve been working over 10 years now – what has been most fulfilling in your career so far?

    The strong working relationships I’ve built with my clients and colleagues over the years. I really enjoy working with people, so consulting has been a great fit in that respect, and I love the amount of teamwork involved in the day-to-day work.

    I also enjoy when I’m able to help connect people from different facets of my life – whether its connecting friends to CWN, the Junior League of London (a charity I’m involved with) or through work. I was actually introduced to CWN in 2015 by a friend who was on the Board at the time and I’ve been really thankful to have the opportunity to work with such impressive women. It definitely proves the value of networks.

    What is the best decision you have made for your career?

    This might be a bit of an unusual answer, but when I look back, one of the best decisions I made was to start learning German when I was in high school. I had an incredible German teacher, who encouraged me to continue studying the language through university, which I did. The time I spent after my studies living and working in Germany and with German clients has had a big impact on my personal and professional development, especially in the first few years of my career. And it was a bit of a differentiator when I first started applying for jobs. So it’s a decision I’m very thankful for.


    . … and the worst decision you have made?

    Probably not having progressed my UK citizenship earlier… I am eligible as I have lived here for so long (my family moved here from the US when I was 9), but it’s one of those things that I’ve always put off until ‘later’. Reminds me that I really need to put that back on the top of my to-do list…


    You are involved in the CWN’s own ‘Rising Star Program’ – what advice would you give them and your younger self?

    Listen to your instincts and be as proactive as possible. Be thoughtful about what elements of your job you particularly enjoy – then find opportunities to do more of that type of work. Look for opportunities to give back – either through mentoring, charity work, or by volunteering with organisations that can benefit from your time and experience. Some of my most valuable professional experiences have actually been through working with CWN and charities.

    I also think it’s really important to invest time in networking. It’s sometimes hard to prioritise when life gets busy, but I think it’s increasingly important not only for your career, but also for your own personal development.


     What do you think women can do to help other women in their careers?

    Always be advocates for each other… continue to put forward female colleagues, friends (and even ourselves) for roles, panels, awards, committees – and actively encourage development and promotion of female peers when you have the opportunity.


    What would be your favourite place to have a coffee in London and with whom? 

    Favourite place to have coffee in London would probably be at one of my local cafés, Local Hero or Megan’s in Fulham.

    And with whom – that’s easy – Michelle Obama. I’m a huge admirer of her, as well as her husband. I’m hoping she runs for president in 2020 – maybe instead it could be coffee in situ in the White House.

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    Coffee With Alisa Grafton see more

    Coffee With Alisa Grafton


    Partner at Cheeswrights; City Women Network - Board Member and Communications Chair


    1. How has the incessant digitalisation of everything changed the way you lead your business?

    The legal industry in general is going through some big changes – which while improving efficiency, also pose challenges. I am learning to see technology as a friend and always learning. My motto is “be not afraid of going slowly, be afraid only of standing still”!


    2. Brexit is a volatile issue for many businesses in the UK and those operating in the City - how do you lead with confidence when there is so much uncertainty?

    You have to focus on opportunities. It is easy to be drawn into the current debate of no deal vs bad deal but in reality there are a lot of lateral solutions to the Brexit conundrum when it comes to business operations in the City. It is crucial to look for opportunities and find innovative solutions – rather than regret what we may have been. 


    3. What do you believe your role is as an influential female in the City in helping other women within the work environment?

    Believing that you can and giving things a go is my modus operandi. I don’t always get things right – in fact I fail more often than I succeed – but a healthy degree of gumption is often powerful enough to move you in the right direction and, hopefully, inspire others along the way. Let your light shine and watch others do the same.


    4. What would most of your colleagues be surprised to know about you?

    I love doing art projects with my young daughter. It is me, not her, who is usually covered in glue and up to my elbows in paint – nothing glamorous, in short. I also love dabbling in most sports, being master of none!


    5. The inclusion journey has seen some key milestones e.g. reporting of gender pay gap and the increased enrolment of CEOs committing to a 30% target. What do you see as the role of women leaders in the City in furthering progress?

    We need to lead not by emulating male colleagues but by using the skills that come naturally to us, as women. Whether you are outspoken or shy, it needs to be a given that women’s voice is as powerful as that of men. Role models from a range of confident women with different leadership styles set inspiring examples for all.


    6. What would be your favourite place to have a coffee in London and with whom? 

    Nothing beats an unhurried coffee at the weekends – so I would say anywhere quiet chewing the cud with my husband

  • CWN Admin posted an article
    Coffee With Roz Morris see more

    Coffee With Roz Morris

    1. How do you think the digital revolution will change the way your business works?

    Following a career as a journalist and broadcaster, I run a business specialising in communications in business - media training, presentation training and public relations.  These are all contact sports, and I think there will always need to be contact between real people to improve their performance in practical ways.

    However, we are already providing more training for clients abroad via Skype and other forms of video conferencing. Plus the demands of being able to use Facebook Live like a professional broadcaster are also growing.

    So yes the digital revolution will bring changes in skills required for businesspeople to use the media – both in its traditional and digital forms. Social media and digital communications in general have already changed all concepts of privacy and built up the need for creating personalities and exposing the lives of celebrities as drivers of sales. So I think we are deep into the cult of human personalities and a long way from Max Headroom and AI interviewers interviewing AI interviewees.


    2. Brexit will have a big impact on jobs in the City - how do you lead with confidence when there are so many unanswered questions?

    I believe Brexit will change the landscape of where the City sits in the global financial world to some extent, but, as we have already seen, the City of London has a very strong place as a global financial centre and evidence is growing that it will maintain that. I am also confident that, whatever the shape of Brexit, the City will invent new ways of making a lot of money. It always does.


    3. What do you believe your role is as an influential  female in the City in helping other women within the work environment?

    As I am now in my sixties, I feel very strongly that we are now finally at a point of historic change where women are revealing the extent of sexual harassment and are determined to change the culture permanently.  We all thought we were doing our bit on this decades ago but it now seems that, despite lots of real practical progress in defeating sexism,  like being taxed in our own right even when married, gaining access to jobs previously closed to us, and no longer getting letters addressed to Dear Sir etc.. sexual harassment has just gone on and on.  So, we must make sure that women are ready now always to tell men to back off and to own and use the power now being offered to them of being able to name and shame.


    4. What would most of your colleagues be surprised to know about you?

    I’ve been a vegetarian for forty years and I think meat eaters now have a duty to  cut back on animal protein and therefore cut down the huge methane emissions from cows and pigs which are adding to global warming. The reckless consumption of intelligent animals is causing huge problems in terms of global warming, the cutting down of rainforests, cruelty to animals and the health links between stomach cancer and eating large amounts of red meat.  So the sooner people give up or cut down on eating what I call primitive protein the better it will be for all of us.  


    5. What would be your favourite place to have a coffee in London and with who?

    My favourite place to have a coffee is at the Institute of Directors in Pall Mall.  It’s great for informal business meetings as there’s always lots of positive energy and an optimistic buzz of business being created all around you.  I always find it an inspiring place to be.  

    I’d love to have a coffee there with James Dyson and hear his views on his new university for engineers, his new electric car, and on the huge opportunities for international trade after Brexit.  As he’s a billionaire expert on global trade, I think, in our current circumstances, we should all be listening to him.


    Roz Morris is Managing Director of TV News London Ltd and was Vice President of CWN from 2008-2010.