A mix of cultures:
Scottish Highlands & French Gardens
Being born to a Scottish mother and a French father allowed me to explore both cultures and to navigate between the beautiful, rough wilderness of one country and the enticing sophistication of the other.
growing up between cultures
Although I grew up in a quiet suburb of Paris, in the historical town of Saint Germain-en-Laye, I was always used to being in a multicultural environment. I attended an international school with children of nine other nationalities, which broadened my perspectives of the world, made me familiar with different cultural norms and feel at ease with diversity. I have often wondered whether my infinite curiosity to understand others and, especially, what sets us apart began in those early years.
I was a quiet, reserved and easy-going child, according to my parents, always willing to take on new challenges and to venture into the unknown.
I always loved being in the water, despite the cold temperatures and although I could swim below the surface of the water I was terrified of coming back up if I couldn’t see the edge. Despite all the swimming classes I took, my fear of being above water level would not leave me. One day, age 9, I was sitting on the edge of Lake Wolfgang in Austria, when I decided I was ready to take the plunge. With my little red swimsuit on, I got in the water and started swimming, without a hint of hesitation. I understood that day that the only thing holding me back from my dreams and desires was me. I could do whatever I set my mind to when I was ready for it.
“I must be a mermaid, Rango. I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.” Anais Nim
Standing proud & strong:
Theatre des Amandiers
I was very fortunate to discover theatre through a professional actor, Bertrand Bossard, from Le Theatre des Amandiers de Nanterre. He pushed me out of my comfort zone, at an age when I felt very vulnerable exposing myself to others, and taught me how to show up and stand proud and strong on a stage. He took the class on an extraordinary field trip to Sibenik in Croatia, shortly after the war had ended. We spent a week there with young people, who were healing from the atrocities of the war they had witnessed. They barely spoke English, but through acting and by using our bodies and gestures to communicate, rather than our words, we shared an unparalleled experience, filled with joy, laughter, and tears. For a week, our separate worlds collided.
From that moment, I felt drawn to explore the world, step into unfamiliar terrains, and understand other cultures, witness people’s lives and find human connection in unexpected places.
BA in Business Management & Sociology
I was fascinated by sociology, which looks at social behaviour, society, patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and culture that surrounds everyday life. If it was only up to me, and if the school’s career counsellor hadn’t put me off, by saying I would end up as a social worker, I would have made it my major.
Being in university and sitting in an auditorium was a privilege I was well aware of, but it felt too theoretical to me. I was longing to get out into the world and learn through experience.
10,000km from Home:
Volunteering in the Philippines
When I was offered the chance to pack up my life and jump on a plane to the Philippines, for a one-year volunteer assignment, I was, of course, a little nervous, but I said “YES.
I was assigned to teach English and to live in a school, run by nuns, in the shantytowns of Manila. This meant that I moved into a convent and had to adjust to a lifestyle that was very different from the one I was accustomed to. I was the only white woman walking the streets of this neighbourhood, which meant I couldn’t lose myself in a crowd or take a step outside without someone shouting, in a gentle but mocking way, “Hi American” from across the road.
Despite the incredible warmth and kindness of the Filipino people, I experienced a huge culture shock that left me feeling very vulnerable and lost. I went through an episode of acute loneliness and experienced the devastating impacts it has on one’s physical, emotional and mental well-being.
I was fortunate that I found my way out of the darkness through a process of self-discovery and the intervention of a few extraordinary souls who crossed my path.
The experience in the Philippines helped me understand that wealth is not about what we possess, but the quality of our relationships and the strength of our communities. I also learnt that it takes courage and perseverance to see beyond our differences and to find a path to meaningful connections. But it was worth it.
Volunteering in Spanish Harlem, NYC:
Facing Poverty in a wealthy nation
After my experience in the Philippines, I wanted to understand the poverty that riddled our so-called modern developed world. I signed up for another volunteer assignment, which took me this time to East Harlem in New York City.
I worked there as a client advocate at the Little Sisters of the Assumption (LSA) Family Health Service. We helped families meet their immediate need for food and address the longer-term issues of living in poverty. As a client advocate, we educated families about their rights and empowered them to access the services and resources they needed.
This was another incredible experience where I discovered the poverty that lies in the shadow of wealthy nations. This experience brought to light the contrast between those who are disadvantaged and struggle to get through each day and those living in abundance, a few streets away, in some of the most expensive penthouses. The injustices of this world were blatant and I could only imagine what it was like for those families in East Harlem to be reminded of the contrast on a daily basis.
I knew, from that moment onwards, that my life calling lay in understanding and bridging the gaps in our human society.
Returning to France:
Saving the world or going Corporate?
Once back in France after such deep explorations of other worlds, I found myself having to take an important decision: should I continue to work in the charity business or give the corporate world a try?
There were no career prospects if I chose to venture into the world of charities in France. And because I was also longing to fit in with my friends, settle down, have my own apartment, and therefore adopt a more conventional life, I chose the corporate world and landed my first job as a personal assistant in a notorious HR consulting firm. After 12 months, I was bored in my role and so, with courage and determination, I stepped into the office of a very senior consultant and asked if I could be promoted to a consultant role. It took some convincing but, after a few months, they offered me a position. The role wasn’t what I expected and brought little meaning to my life.
Settling down, adopting a conventional life gave me a sense of belonging but for that, I paid a cost – I lost touch, for a while, with my sense of purpose.
Homeless People in Paris:
how the System fails
For a while, I volunteered for the Secours Catholique and La Croix Rouge, who assisted the homeless in the streets of Paris. We were handing out hot meals, blankets, and offering the warmth of human connection, even for just a short while.
I was drawn to understand how those human beings had landed in such dire situations and where the system had failed them. This is where I witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of loneliness and human disconnection leading almost always to addiction and mental illness. Many of those I came into contact with had faced the ordeals of life and, as a result, had broken souls.
Those encounters changed forever my perception and understanding of poverty, loneliness and suffering in the richest countries of the world, and how small attentions go a long way for those who don’t have much.
“The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.” Mother Theresa
Accor & the Art of Generosity:
my first steps as a Trainer
As I searched how to combine meaningful work with paid work, I came across the world of training.
First at Accor, as a training consultant, supporting organisations in developing people’s client service skills. And later, as programme manager, designing and implementing training programmes for the managers and employees of Novotel hotels worldwide.
I felt like I had found an environment that brought out my passion to support others. By helping professionals better relate to their clients, I was also helping them find more meaning in their own work.
When I was fortunate enough to be in the company of hoteliers, I discovered the meaning of generosity and what was required to delight a guest and create memorable experiences.
I realised that there is a place for the heart and the soul in the corporate world, although it is often ignored.
“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” Kahlil Gibran
Being a Wife, a Mum and following my purpose
My job as a training consultant led me to a man, who shared my passions for personal development, adventure and travel. After a few years we got married and soon after that I gave birth to our first son.
Like many first-time mums I went through a lot of the common challenges – understanding who I now was, working full days after only a few hours’ sleep, accepting the new shape of my body, making sense of my marriage, finding space, stillness, and joy while shifting frantically between my professional world and my personal world.
This phase of my life taught me that external circumstances can change fast but that our human systems and our relationships need more time to transition and embrace the change. I also learned that our deep-rooted passions and dreams do not disappear, even when our priorities in life have shifted.
Singapore, our new Home
I always knew that when I had a family, I wanted my children to experience different cultures.
After my eldest son celebrated his first birthday, I was ready to hit the road, embrace a sense of adventure, and leave our steady life behind. The desire to feel the thrill of the unknown was back.
An opportunity to work in Singapore arose and, with little consideration, we packed up our life and moved across the world with a 2-year-old and the promise of a low-paid job for me.
I had initiated this move because I wanted more out of life. The abrupt transition, combined with the toxic work environment I landed in, left me feeling very unsettled. It took me 18 months to settle down in Singapore, build new friendships, find a role that suited me and for us, as a family, to find financial stability. I never looked back.
I was reminded again of how important it is to follow your dreams and to persevere even when life feels like it’s working against you.
learning to observe my thoughts
Becoming a mum for the second time, in Singapore, was a much smoother ride than the first time around.
During my pregnancy, I was introduced to yoga and meditation. Little did I know then that those two powerful practices would become part of my daily routine.
The practice of mindfulness was a game-changer for me. Discovering that I could observe my thoughts and learn to detach from them, through some simple practices, made me realise that I could control my mental and emotional experience. Over time, and with regular practice, I felt more in control of my emotions, more relaxed, and found a greater sense of choice in how I respond to difficult situations.
From an accounting firm to a law firm: Deep dive into the world of over-achievers and its shadow
I plunged into the highly stressful and demanding environments of a renowned accounting firm followed by an international law firm.
Working in learning and development in both those organisations taught me a great deal about the importance of mental and emotional well-being in the workplace. I found it was difficult, but not impossible, to change the status quo including the attitudes, expectations and behaviours in those highly regarded professions.
Leadership, and the ability to engage and inspire others, are essential components of the much-needed change.
Discovering a fundamental part of my calling:
my Passion for Coaching
I was offered an opportunity to be trained and certified as a coach. As soon as the coaching programme started, and I experienced coaching first hand, my mind and eyes opened wide. I saw myself making a huge step closer to my life’s calling. I had found, in coaching, the foundations of my work.
Learning to be a coach taught me more about myself in a year than I had discovered in my lifetime. It quickly became clear to me that to coach a client effectively and help them make changes in their life, I needed to do my own inner work first. For me, that meant developing a high degree of self-awareness and emotional intelligence.
In 2017, I became an accredited ICF coach.
2017 - 2020
Landing fully in my Purpose:
Refining my Skills
Since my initial coaching training and certification, I have continued to refine my skills through hundreds of coaching hours.
Being an avid learner, I continuously engage in courses to deepen my self-awareness and develop my knowledge and understanding of the human mind, body and soul.
I have been very fortunate to have been trained by some of the world’s leading coaches, academics, researchers and thought leaders in the fields of neuroscience, adult learning and development theories, applied positive psychology, neuroscience, emotional intelligence, trauma, healing and mind/body intelligence. Details in my Credentials page.
A big step forward:
Setting up my own business
It was time to listen to that little voice inside me that has been telling me all along to follow my passion and my calling.
So here I am, age 40, after 19 years in the corporate world, leaving the safety of my full-time position, in the midst of a global recession and pandemic, ready to see if I can live up to my dreams and aspirations, spread my wings wide and fly to new horizons.