At the start of the year, Jo Barnes stepped into a new role as MD of Sewell Estates, the estates collection of businesses under the wider Sewell Group. As a woman in a traditionally male-dominated industry, this appointment signals a new era for the Yorkshire-based company which is growing from strength to strength.
Tell us a bit about your background.
Originally from Lancashire, I came to East Yorkshire 20 years ago after time in Newcastle, Dundee and the North West. My first career in economic development taught me how valuable investing in people and places can be in making a positive difference to people’s lives. The step I took to join the Sewell Group in 2008 gave me the opportunity to take these skills into our core markets of education and health and it’s been the most rewarding part of my career so far.
What you think the key ingredients have been to your success?
I’d say my success is down to a tolerant husband and supportive sons, a lot of hard work, a substantial pinch of optimism and humour, having fantastic people around me and not getting bogged down in the day to day – it’s important to maintain a bigger picture mentality and look at the wider impact of the work we’re doing. Seeing our team grow in confidence and achieve great things gives me huge job satisfaction; I count myself as very lucky to love what I do.
What would you say to other women who aspire to become leaders?
You can be a leader in any role that you’re in – leadership is about much more than a job title. Leaders are people that set the tone and create environments where exciting things can happen. I believe that taking the time to listen to your team and your customers is the most important thing you can do; success is built on people, and having the right people in your team. I’m always on the lookout for new talent and encourage my team to bring new perspectives and new ideas to any of the projects we’re working on.
Watch out for those guardian angels who act as an ambassador for you when you’re not in the room. They will add that special something to your career and I can’t begin to thank the people who have backed me.
Finally, make sure you invest in your female friendships outside of the workplace. My friends are invaluable at giving me a good listening to, providing sage advice and perspective when it all gets a bit too much and a good laugh when I most need it. Invest in these women and provide the same support to them; you will never regret it.