Sundays with Alice & Phanella
In a light filled living room dotted with plush velvet sofa’s and cowhide seats, sit two widely smiling brunettes. Alice Olins and Phanella Mayall Fine, the new voices in the women’s career conversation, are nibbling on croissants and berries chatting away as they watch our photographer set up for today’s shoot.
While neither of these women set out to be a voice for women in the workplace, their own impressive balancing act of motherhood, writing, executive coaching and fashion feature directing means their experience fits the bill.
These modern day wonder-women sit down with us to share their story and give us proof of why more time in bed should be your only 2017 resolution.
NOW, FIRST THINGS FIRST PHANELLA, AND WE WANT THE TRUTH... IS THE HOUSE ALWAYS THIS TIDY AND PRISTINE?
Phanella: Ha ha; we try but with three kids running around it can sometimes be difficult to maintain.
WTIH FIVE CHILDREN BETWEEN YOU THOUGH, DEMANDING CAREERS AND THE GENERAL DAY TO DAY LIVING IN LONDON, WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO LAUNCH STEP UP CLUB AND WRITE A BOOK?
Phanella: I had just re-trained as an executive coach and had received an email from a female client following a leadership program I hosted in South America. She was looking for recommendations for similar programmes and in researching for something for her realised that I couldn’t find anything out there that was quite right. That’s when I spoke to Alice and we launched Step Up.
Alice: We started with the events for all women, concentrating on their careers and issues in the workplace. Our first event was about SUCCESS and we invited 70 women to use our 10 minute career workouts and expert panel to help evaluate what success meant for them – before you can get ahead at work you have to know where you’re headed, what your goals are and what success actually looks like to you.
It all grew from there…being a journalist I had always wanted to write a book, so we decided to put all of our advice and the coaching we were doing through our events into our Step Up book.
Alice: We literally googled ‘how to write a book proposal’. It was like the blind leading the blind….but we did it, after many evening meetings over wine!
Phanella: It was amazing, we managed to get picked up by United Agents and got a book deal with Penguin / Random House….it is completely surreal looking back on it now.
Alice: It was definitely the turning point which made us realise the potential of Step Up and that people really believed in what we are doing.
You guys sit AT EITHER END OF THE 'typical' CREATIVE / CORPORATE SPECTRUM, ALICE AS FASHION FEATURES DIRECTor-AT-LARGE for RED MAGAZINE AND PHANELLA PREVIOUSLY of JP MORGAN and now an executive coach – WE’RE CURIOUS HOW YOU BOTH MET?
Phanella: We met through my husband; Alice and him have been family friends for years. Despite coming from hugely different workplace environments, we were aligned in our passion for empowering women and encouraging them in their own careers.
EXCUSE OUR ASSUMPTIONS HERE, BUT PHANELLA WE IMAGINE IN YOUR CAREER YOU HAVE BEEN SURROUNDED BY MOSTLY MEN WHILE ALICE AT RED, WE IMAGINE YOU SPEND FAR MORE OF YOUR DAY WITH WOMEN. DO YOU SEE THE SAME ISSUES AND OPPORTUNITIES IN THE WORK PACE OR HOW DO THEY VARY?
Alice: I think there is a lot of change happening in the creative industries with more women taking senior positions. There are more female publishers than ever before, where historically this was a role dominated by men. Strong women are coming through but it is only really happening now.
Phanella: I think the corporate world still has a long way to go. As a woman you really have to prove yourself and be exceptional to stand out, which I don’t believe the same applies for men.
YOU'RE THE ULTIMATE 'POWER COUPLE' WITH THE PERFECT BALANCE OF CREATIVITY AND ACADEMIA BEHIND YOU. WHAT HAS MOST SUPRISED YOU ABOUT ONE ANOTHER, AND WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNT FROM EACH OTHER?
Alice: I am constantly surprised and in awe of Phanella's knowledge and the kindness with which she shares it. This whole Step Up career move occurred as a result of Phanella's generosity with her advice: friends kept asking her for work tips, and after a while, she realised that there was a whole wave of women out there craving practical and easy to digest career advice. The Step Up Club was born.
What I've learnt, well that's easy: everything I know about careers is down to Phanella. On a more personal level, I've watched and learnt how she fairly divides her time between work and family. Previously I prided myself on being able to multitask everything all at the same time. But having burnt myself into the ground, I decided to do a Phanella, and divide and conquer. Now I don't work on my Mummy days and I feel so much more relaxed - and less guilty! Thanks Phan!
Phanella: I always knew Alice was a brilliant writer but I've been surprised by how naturally and effortlessly she's able to express even the most complex ideas. She's so clever (generally as well as with words) that I only have to explain something once in my slightly academic and cumbersome way for her to immediately turn it into a paragraph of engaging, entertaining prose.
I have learnt a huge amount from Alice – aside from the obvious - how to write better, work more effectively with a partner, rock a Mom jean - one of the most valuable is to enjoy the present and not leap ahead. I think big - I can't help it and am always onto next year's project before we've even completed stage one. Alice is very grounded. She enjoys the moment and often reminds me to savour our present success just when I most need to take a deep breath. Thanks Al!
For us, January is the universe's way of giving you a fresh start. A new year, new opportunities and a new outlook on life in general. Our struggle begins in February, when we have forgotten our resolutions! We recently read your column on the importance of sleep, while we need no excuse to spend more time in bed – we are very excited that research BACKS IT UP. Can you please share the MAIN REASON why you think sleep is so important?
Phanella: There is plenty of research that tells us sleep should be at the top of your balance agenda. And balance is a key facet of happiness at work. When we're well rested our hormones are more stable and brain function is in check feeding our resilience, lowering anxiety and generally boosting our happiness.
You can read Alice and Phanella’s top 5 tips on getting more shut eye and an energised career on The Step Up Club Blog here