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In our ongoing series celebrating the extraordinary women within our business, we celebrate Anna Matthews.

From navigating various roles within design and client services to ultimately finding her niche in project management, Anna highlights the challenges and sacrifices she encountered along the way, emphasising the importance of embracing change and advocating for oneself in the workplace.

Anna also navigates the intricacies of managing her health while excelling in her role. Her openness about her journey with Multiple Sclerosis shows the power of transparency and support in fostering an inclusive and compassionate work environment.

Anna Mathews profile

Can you tell us your name and what you do?

I’m Anna Matthews, and I’m a Project Manager.

Can you share the path you took to arrive at your current role? What steps did you take along the way?

My journey has been a roller coaster, that’s for sure! I really struggled at school knowing what it was I wanted to do as a career. I enjoyed anything photography/design related, but I didn’t want to go to university, as I just didn’t feel this was the right path for me. I started my journey as a Design Administrator Apprentice within the design department of a rather large company. It was here I started dealing with all the briefs that came through from marketing, assigning them to the designers and managing the workload for the team. Fast forward a few years, and I became a full-time designer with the same team. I then progressed from here to an Account Manager once a client services team was integrated into the design department. I then moved from this role into a Team Lead role within the Creative Artwork Team. This was a very similar role with more focus on team members and their progression. I know it seems like I changed roles a lot, but I was at this company for 8.5 years, and I wanted to find my niche. 

I then moved from this company into a Project Management role. This was a great achievement for me as I had no qualifications in this specific role,  just experience within similar roles. It was amazing to be given the opportunity to pursue a career in the field I had been wanting to work in. 

What motivated you to pursue a career in your field?

With each of the roles I had worked in, I found there was a common denominator, and that was the ability to organise the workflow and projects, therefore, Project Management felt like the perfect role to naturally progress into, and it was also something I enjoyed doing! Seeing everyone’s hard work come to life at the end of a project is very satisfying.

What skills or experiences do you believe have been most crucial to your success in your current role?

I think it goes without saying that organisation, decision making and planning are all key skills to have as a Project Manager. However, a skill that I don’t think is often spoken about is empathy. As a Project Manager, you deal with different people on a daily basis, whether that be clients or internal teams and it’s your responsibility to make sure everyone is working together in order for the project to run smoothly. I have had times when clients and internal team members have struggled or been struggling due to personal reasons, and I think as a Project Manager, it’s important to take situations like this into account when running a Project and see how you can tailor your approach to make sure everyone is supported where needed. 

What advice would you give someone starting out in your field or considering a similar career path?

I’d say experience is a huge part of this, and take every opportunity thrown at you. 

Have there been any moments in your career where you had to make sacrifices? If so, how did you navigate those decisions?

Against my better judgment, I took on a role that involved a lot more responsibility (including managing people) but did not get a pay rise for this. I came to this decision because I wanted as much experience under my belt as possible in order to pursue the career in Project Management that I wanted. I believe everyone should always be compensated for additional responsibilities and be paid accordingly for their skills and hard work, so I would definitely not say this is something people should do, however, at the time in my career, experience meant a lot to me. 

How do you prioritise self-care and well-being amidst the demands of your career?

I have Multiple Sclerosis and Epilepsy, and I have made sure that I’m open and honest with my employers about this in case there are times when I’m not feeling 100% and need support from my managers. I think it’s so important to highlight these things as unfortunately, they can have an impact on your day-to-day, occasionally. Prioritising is also a big part of making sure I’m taking care of myself, there are only so many hours in a day to get things done and knowing what is urgent and what isn’t is the difference between working ridiculous hours and having a good work-life balance. 

Have there been any unexpected detours or surprises in your career journey? If so, how did you adapt?

I have worked in companies that constantly undergo major changes, and I have always tried to adapt to them as best I could. I’d put a positive outlook on it, saying that change can often be for the better. Sometimes, it’s been difficult to do that, but I have gotten better at voicing when I feel uncomfortable or unsure about something. 

How do you think celebrating International Women's Day contributes to advancing gender equality in society?

I think this day is so important, as I think it encourages conversations that on any other day may not happen. I think it highlights the struggles women have gone through/still go through on a daily basis with the hope that changes can be made. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share? 

I started my role here at CTI straight off the back of my 11 months maternity leave, and I don’t mind admitting that I found this really difficult. I had twin boys and had spent those 11 months solely focussed on my boys, so starting a new job straight away and trying to get back into the mindset of a Project Manager and learning all new processes has been a challenge. I also struggled with my Multiple Sclerosis after my boys came along, and this caused me a lot of cognitive issues (which is a common symptom for people with Multiple Sclerosis), so this definitely made things more difficult. I have received such amazing support with all of this though, from my manager and colleagues here at CTI. 

 I wanted to share these two things for the following reasons;

A. As I’m sure it’s the same with many other women coming back after a long period of maternity, it can be a real struggle to integrate back into the working world, and a lot of support and understanding is needed.

B. Multiple Sclerosis is more common in women than in men, and as each person with Multiple Sclerosis presents differently with regards to their symptoms, I think it’s so important that employers are made aware if you’re struggling with this and that the knowledge is shared with them so they know how to help and assist you going forward (this is the same with any invisible disability).

I have shared a couple of links to resources below that I have found interesting/useful with regard to Multiple Sclerosis, and I hope they can help inform others of the condition:

MS Society - Women and MS

MS Trust - Thinking and memory problems 

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