Did you say thank you today? Which five books, one music CD and movie would you like to have on a deserted island? What does success mean to you and how do you define it? Read Gina’s responses in Part Two of her interview. Use this information because we are on this journey together. Let’s learn from the wisdom and experiences of others.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I’m a wife and mother who runs her own strategic marketing and communications consultancy in London, with a portfolio of very exciting clients.
All the people I work with, both clients and associates, are smart, ambitious and great at what they do. It’s a great fun being a Director of a famous restaurant and food company like Cafe Spice Namaste in London; we’ve just launched a new product in a very fashionable department store, and our Chef Patron, Cyrus Todiwala, has just been awarded an OBE by the Queen. Editing Leader, an e-zine for the global luxury hospitality market (http://www.profile-recruitment.com) is fantastic too, giving me the excuse to visit and meet some incredible places and people around the world. I also work with a brilliant communications expert who happens to handle PR in the UK for the world’s largest hotel brand. Everything I do is very stimulating and over the years, my work has been extremely diverse.
The fact that I work with people with similar values to mine helps. After the ‘me-first’ culture of the last decade, a sense of community and collaboration is important. Being part of peer networks, such as the Worshipful Company of Marketors, the City livery company for marketing professionals, is excellent because it has a civic and charity focus as well. I’m also very keen to help raise the profile and economic empowerment of women, through organisations like the 50,000-strong The International Alliance for Women (TIAW), of which I’m a Board member. They do wonderful things like promote micro-credit, mentoring and entrepreneurship.
As an Invisible Mentor, what is one piece of advice that you would give to readers?
Nurture the people who give to you, always give back. Also, someone I spoke to recently said that one of his mottos was ‘you can’t have two faces’. Treat everyone with equal respect. That is so true.
How do you integrate your personal and professional life?
In my heart, my family – including my extended family – takes precedence, which is probably owing to my Asian roots. They know this, so their behaviours enable me to give my work precedence if that makes sense.
What’s a major regret that you’ve had in life?
That I didn’t spend enough time with my two younger sisters when I was growing up. I was too busy wanting to be ‘one of the boys’ as I’m the middle child with two older brothers!
What are five life lessons that you have learned so far?
Respect yourself and all people; b) never give up and that’s different from cutting your losses c) know that you can’t know everything, d) trust in Someone or something higher; e) never forget to say thank you.
When you have some down time, how do you spend it?
A good book, French choral music or a Bach cantata. I also enjoy listening to Beethoven’s piano concertos, particularly when rendered by Mitsuko Uchida.
What process do you use to generate great ideas?
Reading almost everything I can get hold of, including adverts in the tube. Walking around London. Talking to people.
What’s your favourite quotation and why?
In dreams begin responsibilities – Yeats. It shows that imagination and desire aren’t enough; we have to take action to make things come true.
How do you define success?
Being content with what you have, but knowing you have journeyed from here to there and not stood still.
In your opinion what’s the formula for success?
The same as luck – the marriage of preparation and opportunity.
What are the steps you took to succeed in your field?
Generally, I was never afraid to try something new and see where it would lead. I didn’t have fixed ideas and notions about myself. When I did, I knocked on the right doors. But I was lucky always to have an orbit of good and wise people around me for support.
If trusted friends could introduce you to five people that you’ve always wanted to meet, who would you choose? And what would you say to them?
Audrey Hepburn – ‘How did you do it?’ – Her elegance and style are almost cliche, but she is after all an icon. She was apparently a very decent person, and she took her UN charity work extremely seriously. She had an aura of quiet dignity.
Virginia Woolf – ‘Why did you do it?’ – She was the subject of my Masters dissertation years back at Newcastle University, and I focused on her voluminous diaries. Her death was abrupt and premature, although not surprising given her history of illness, and it deprived literature of a razor sharp pen. I like the way she to an extent turned her back on stifling upper-class Victorian tradition and was unashamed to use her brains, talent and art to make a living. To me, she’s part of the tradition of great women adventurers and innovators — she introduced us to a whole new landscape of writing.
Siri Hustvedt – ‘How did you learn to think and write like that?’ – Her books, specifically What I Loved and The Sorrows of An American are deep and unusual character studies and she offers not so much plots as enquiries. They’re quite unnerving, and always beautifully written.
Hillary Clinton – ‘What keeps you going?’ – She is a marvel to watch, because she never stops pushing boundaries. I was trying to choose between her and Nancy Pelosi, but running for President, being a Senator and now Secretary of State nudges her a couple of feet forward. Few make the mistake now of referencing her as the wife of Bill Clinton.
F Scott Fitzgerald – ‘Who was Jay Gatsby?’ – Another writer, I’m afraid, but the truth of The Great Gatsby and the fascinating circus that was the jazz age revisited us in the last three decades, imploding less than two years ago. So much been written about them, but I don’t think we’ll ever unlock the mysteries lurking behind our modern day Jay Gatsbys.
Which one book had a profound impact on your life? What was it about this book that impacted you so deeply? Did you have an emotional or intellectual attachment to this book? Why?
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I read it every year for four consecutive years in my teens. It was about honouring land, tradition and a way of life, but also about rebuilding things that had been destroyed and accepting change.
The noblest characters weren’t always the main ones, which has some universal truth about it.
If you were stranded on a deserted island, what are five books that you would like to have with you and why? Summarize the book in two sentences.
The Bible – Timeless wisdom and, depending on the edition, arguably the best written novel in history – and every word rings true.
Gone with the Wind –Margaret Mitchell. The American Civil War signals the end of an era. One woman decides she must not only survive the change, but thrive in it.
A Summons to Memphis – Peter Taylor – Pulitzer Prize novel about a son who discovers the meaning of forgiveness when summoned home to help his sisters keep an elderly father from remarrying.
New Hart’s Rules – The handbook of Style for Writers and Editors – All the guidance you need to get the technicalities right.
Letters Between Six Sisters – edited by Charlotte Moseley – the glamorous and scandalous Mitford girls, in their own words
Have you read any books that inspired you to start a business, service or invent “something”? If yes, which book?
No book in particular, but I have always read business journals and magazines – Fortune, Business Week, the Economist. As it happens, as much for the style as the content.
What one music CD and movie would you like to have with you (on the deserted island) and why?
French Choral Music by the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge directed by Timothy Brown.
Shoot the Moon, a film directed by Alan Parker. Ostensibly sad, but ultimately life affirming…especially for women with ‘Faith’
What excites you about life?
People, and the endless possibilities for innovation and reinvention.
How do you nurture your soul?
Good music and good books. The Zoroastrians – and I have met many to admire — have a good mantra: good thoughts, good words, good deeds, which seems to be a recipe for peace of mind.
If you had a personal genie and she gave you one wish, what would you wish for? Or, if I gave you a magic wand, what would you use it for?
That my son grows up to be decent and successful, in that order.
Complete the following, I am happy when…
I am working, and when surrounded by family and friends.
What aspects of Gina’s story can you apply to your situation? What would be your five great ideas and takeaways from this interview? Let’s keep the conversation flowing, please comment. Many readers read this blog from other sites, so why don’t you pop over to The Invisible Mentor and subscribe (top on the right side) by email or RSS Feed. I created a Mini Learning Toolkit and you can grab a copy by clicking here.
About Gina McAdam
Before founding Stratemarco, a successful London-based marketing and communications consultancy, in 2003, Gina was Head of Marketing and later Head of Policy Development & Public Affairs for the National Training Organisation for the UK hospitality and tourism sector. Today, she is a highly-regarded communications expert whose work brings her into regular contact with leaders of some of the best known brands in the UK and global hospitality and tourism industry. Highly versatile, she also undertakes assignments for key public,private and voluntary organisations beyond the sector.
Gina was raised near Washington DC and Manila. Moving away from the family traditions of law, banking, agriculture and medicine, she started her career in advertising for Ace-Compton/Saatchi & Saatchi in Manila where she handled various Proctor & Gamble accounts, and at J Walter Thompson Advertising Company, handling the Anne Klein, Cacharel and SC Johnson brands. After that, she travelled extensively, writing and teaching in Madrid and working in publishing in New York. Today, she is regularly invited to contribute pieces to publications in the Far East – it is her way of keeping in touch with her Asian roots.
Highly committed to diversity in the workplace, Gina has been on the board of City Women’s Network (CWN) and is now on the board of The International Alliance of Women (TIAW). She is a member of the European Professional Women’s Network and a Changemaker for the UK charity Working Families.
Gina is a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Marketors, and a member of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), for whom she was a guest speaker at the 2008 IABC Eurocomm Conference in Barcelona. She is a member of the Institute of Director, and holds an MA in English & American Literature from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and is an alumnus of De La Salle University, Manila and Henley Management College, Windsor.
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