SPOTLIGHT: Gemma Leigh Roberts, (Organisational Psychology, 2008)

Our alumni are really amazing and we want to share their achievements with the world! In the SPOTLIGHT this month is Gemma Leigh Roberts, (Organisational Psychology, 2008).

Tell me about your time at City!

I absolutely loved my time at City. I did an MSc in Organisational Psychology and it was a brilliant Masters. I almost accepted a place at Surrey University, but when I came to the interview I knew without a doubt I was going to City if I got an offer.

The MSc was a really good mix of teaching and real life professional studies. Lots of practicing occupational psychologists came in to talk to us about how the theories and practices we were learning about apply in the real consulting world. I really enjoyed it.

Without that year at City, I don’t think I’d be doing what I’m doing now. It probably was the moment where I realized what areas I wanted to work in. What’s quite amusing is I remember reading about the coaching and positive psychology modules before they started and I was really skeptical, but now I’m basically a coaching psychologist and use positive psychology in my work all the time!

But before that, you were a consultant?

After I graduated I went to work for an insurance broker doing more of the strategy stuff – helping to find the right solution for the business by understanding what it was they wanted to develop and then bringing in practitioners with the right skills. I left there and started doing lots of leadership and development work and that’s where the consultancy work started. I did a big leadership project for BP and then a leadership and career development project for HSBC after that. I enjoyed what I was doing but eventually felt like I’d gotten to where I want to be in my career but it wasn’t really feeling right. I realized I still wanted to work in different organisations but in a specific way – helping people become more resilient and happier in the workplace. I wanted to give people a new way of thinking or a new perspective.

Tell me about the ‘Resilience Edge’?

So first I started to consider what is resilience. I did lots of research. Lots and lots of research. What became clear is resilience is about high performance and it’s a mindset, it’s really about dealing with challenges and using these challenges as a catalyst to thrive in the future. It’s all a learning experience, a growing experience, you can change the way you think about things, you can change your perspective and use it to get further ahead.

Then I had to think about how I get this out to people – how do I create something where people think the framework or program makes total sense for them? That’s how the Resilience Edge program came about. The final step was creating something commercial – something that people can apply and actually see results with. We want people to use this framework to see a tangible difference in their lives.

So what have you learned from starting your own business?

Networking: I clearly remember one of the professors on our course talking about how you find work in the real world. She told us to ‘look around the room now because this is your network. This is how you’re going to find most of your work’. And now fast forward 8 years and we do hear about work and jobs. For example, one of my alumni friends put me in contact with a company that’s looking to run some resilience for executives. You don’t realise at the time that you’re actually building a network without knowing it, and in some ways that’s quite nice because you’re not going out seeking people to build that network, to get something out of them, you’re naturally building a network that will help you in your career in the future. And vice versa, you get to help other people.

People to partner with: Try and find people and associations that align with what you’re doing. It might be that they have a group of people that would benefit from what you’re doing – then offer them a free webinar to further expand your network. I think partnering is really important.

Creating new material: You have to keep creating webinars, keep creating guides or ebooks or blogs, you’ve got to keep creating content that is interesting for people. And to do that you’ve also got to know who your target audience are.

Find your niche: Think about your audience, find your niche and just get as deep into it as you can, learn about it as much as you can, develop it, and then talk about it as much you can.

But don’t speak unless you have something to say: It’s so hard when you start because you know you need to get your name out there and build a brand, but you don’t really know what to say. What tends to happen is you either end up not telling people about what you’re up to, or your end up saying something (anything!) that actually isn’t that interesting and people don’t want to hear. Either way, people are turned off. When you’re creating materials and content it’s very important to think about who you’re speaking to, and what they’d want to hear. If you don’t know what to say yet, hold off until you do – it will help you to build a strong brand in the future.

Read other people’s blogs:  Read articles on LinkedIn and collect things you like. It will help you figure out your style as well. You can’t write for everyone, you can’t create programs for everyone. So it’s got to sound like you, it’s got to be you. So if you collect things you like, then you’ll start to use some of those same techniques as well and you’ll attract the right audience for you.

And last thing, patience – you have to have so much patience.

So what has been the biggest challenge?

Getting it out there and getting the business going. It’s never going to be harder than it is at the start. You’re constantly striving to get somewhere and people will say no all the time or they’ll ignore you. It gets easier, but I still experience it. Even now.

At the same time you’ve got that little doubt in the back of your mind – should I be doing this? How long should I try this for? When is the right time to give up? How long do I give myself? If you’re ever going to start a business you’re going to have to learn to be resilient. There are days, where it’s absolutely amazing, you’re on top of the world, something fabulous has come through and the next day there’s a massive crash because something has fallen through. And more so than anything else I’ve ever done, the highs and lows are insane. When it’s high and things are going well, it’s all because of you. You’ve created something, you’ve achieved something and it’s an amazing feeling, but when it’s low and things aren’t going well and you’re struggling to get the business where it needs to be – which happens for all entrepreneurs when they start – that’s on you as well.

So I 100% have to practice what I preach otherwise I wouldn’t still be here.

Has it been worth it?

Yes, helping people and them saying ‘that’s great, I can actually apply what you’re teaching me and it’s made a difference to my life’ is fantastic. Actually making a difference and helping people achieve more – that’s the highlight for me.

What’s next?

We’re creating a career coaching network that will apply to people that want to achieve more in their careers, or make a career or lifestyle change – at each and every stage of their career journey. It’s going to be practical (think tools, tips, advice and guidance) and personal – relevant to each individual and their unique career journey. It’ll be launching soon.

So do check out the website or get in contact with me because there’s lots of stuff we do around resilience and career development, not just for organisations but for individuals as well. And there’s some really cool stuff still to come…

To find out more about the Resilience Edge visit: