An interview with Wendy Kent, Chief Operations Officer, Matrix.
Wendy Kent is the Chief Operations Officer here at Matrix and in honour of International Women’s day, we wanted to give you a bit of an insight into Wendy’s background and her journey to a Senior Management role…..
What is your career background?
I grew up in Wisconsin and from an early age had big dreams for my career. I was lucky to have parents who always supported me and encouraged me to pursue a career, wherever in the world that took me!
My work background is very varied, with my first step into retail working in a jewellery shop while studying for my Business Degree at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. After I’d graduated, I moved from the shop floor to the office to work as a buyer. My career as a buyer took me to Hong Kong where I worked for 2 years before moving to Paris. While in Paris, I set up a small trading company with some friends that I met there – completely different to anything I’d done before and a great experience.
I moved to England and my career took a different path into the airline industry, working for a product development market-leader. It was during my time here that I met Charlie and worked as his client for 5 years before making my move across to Matrix, where I’ve been working as COO for the last 6 years.
Over your career, what are the main challenges you’ve faced and how did you overcome them?
I’ve seen a lot of change over my career and faced a number of challenges, mostly to do with the rate of changing technology and systems – especially in the operational world. When I started out the office environment was all paper-based, not a computer in sight, which is hard to imagine now! The technological advances within the supply chain have developed at an extraordinary rate and keeping up with, and ahead of those changes to ensure efficiency has been an ongoing challenge and also offers an exciting opportunity to take advantage of these innovations.
What’s your main piece of advice to those trying to reach senior management level?
Work hard, always look out for opportunities and don’t be afraid to take them.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learnt in your career to date?
I’m going to recycle my answer to the previous question, as it’s definitely the best lesson I’ve learnt!
Which female leaders do you admire and why?
Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook, founder of lean-in.org and the author of ‘Lean-in’ and ‘Option B’, is a truly inspirational woman. The challenges Sheryl has overcome in her work and personal life to achieve the success she has is admirable and both books really resonated with me. I see her as a role model, especially for career-driven women who also want a fulfilling personal and social life.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I really enjoy how fast-paced the role is, the decision making involved, the fact that I’m always spinning lots of plates and that I get the opportunity to negotiate; everyone knows this is something I love doing! I think that the skills needed to succeed in an operational role, namely multi-tasking and the ability to make decisions are really suited to my personality and women’s characters in general. It’s not perceived as a sexy role but it’s perfect for my skill set and I would really advise women to consider a career in operations.
Gender equality in the workplace is a hot topic at the moment because of the ‘Time’s Up’ campaign. Do you think we’ll see complete gender equality in our lifetime?
The workplace is completely different to when I started out. You didn’t see women in senior positions – it just wasn’t as possible as it is today. I’ve already seen so many changes in my career and so many more women filling the senior positions. I can’t believe how far we’ve come in my working life and am very hopeful for this pace of change to continue and lead to complete workplace gender equality.