Podcast S2 Ep.11 – Penny Townsend – Part 1

Season 2, Ep 11 with Penny Townsend, Partner and Global Lead for #Salesforce at IBM has just dropped.

I really really loved our conversation.

We talked about her journey in the ecosystem, from The Carbon Trust through to being MD at Conga, and COO at Pracedo before ending up where she is today.

Being a parent is difficult.Being a single parent is so much more challenging, especially when you have to juggle your day job of helping to run a company! 💪🏻

Comfort zone?
Let’s have that for breakfast!

Penny’s the embodiment of what it means to be a strong, resilient woman in a man’s world. She’s constantly learning, and has been doing night school since forever, and is currently doing an MA in Film and cinema! 😍

Actually, it was so fun talking to her that it’s only part 1 (so stay tuned for next week!)

You can find the spotify links here



Pei Mun Lim 0:05
Hello, welcome to another episode of OnThePeiroll, my podcast where I talk to my guests about things like consulting, project delivery, Salesforce, project management, leadership skills, and topics like these that I cover with my guest today. Her name is Penny Thompson. And I really enjoyed the conversation, not least because of the journey that she took to get to where she is today. She is a partner with IBM, but she started from an end user organization moving into consulting with a nice V partner, conga. And then with to proceed, and then to IBM. And she did all of this also will being a single mum, I cannot imagine doing the job alone. And not only did she do that job alone, but she also did so well, professionally. Plus, doing night school at the moment, she’s doing a Master of Arts in film. I’ll let you listen to her story in this podcast. So I really hope you enjoy it. I enjoy all my conversation so much. But this in particular, because it’s only part one is part two coming. I hope you enjoyed this little penny. Hi, thank you, and welcome to OnThePeiroll , which is my podcast. How are you today?

Penny Townsend 1:50
I’m great. Thanks, pay. I’m really flattered that you’d invite me and I’m really looking forward to having a chat with you today.

Pei Mun Lim 1:56
As mentioned, I’ve been falling for a bit and I’m quite impressed little things that you’ve done. So why don’t we get started by you just telling us your story. You can start anywhere. Actually, I’d like to start quite way back because I see on your profile. What you what you studied at university, and I’m quite curious about the path you’ve taken. So why don’t you tell us?

Penny Townsend 2:19
Oh, gosh, okay, so going way back, I’ll try and be fairly quick. So I’m not too boring. But I was one of those kids who never knew what they wanted to do. And I was quite bright, but not very happy at school and not particularly successful at school. And so I left school, just as I was finishing the sixth form, I kind of gave up and didn’t really bother finishing. And the first job I got was working for a kind of a youth advocacy program that was funded by the local county council. Because I was very political, when I was in my teenage years, as many people was kind of quite radical, and wanted to change the world. And my particular interest was around the human rights of children. So at that time, it wasn’t long after the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child had first been published. And there was quite a lot of attention, particularly on the child’s right to have a say in decision making. So I worked for a year at this kind of nonprofits. And that was great, because although I was 17, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I had a chance to work with lots of really senior people and make many, many mistakes, which I learned a lot from. And actually one of my big learnings about project so I learned through that. We can talk about that later. And by the end of my year there, I was quite committed to the idea that it should be a young person doing that job. So it was important to me to leave and have somebody else come and take that job over and that that’s cycled through each year. And so then I had to decide what to do. By that point, I decided I was going to go to night school and get some more A levels. But I also needed a job so that I could pay my very small bills, but they still needed paying. And I struggled to find a job. And actually I ended up doing a multitude of part time jobs. And there were a really, really big range. I think at the most I was doing seven at once and to a levels at night school. So it was pretty busy. And I was doing everything from working in the press office in County Hall. And back then that involved lots of photocopying of news articles and clipping them out and you know, sending education articles to the education department and that kind of thing. Then I also worked for the National lotteries, charities board as an assessor of projects. Having done so many projects myself, I was a good choice for an assessor. I worked for a couple of charities helping them with projects did Various things but also I’ve worked on an IT help desk at the VA II systems office in Filton in Bristol. And so that was kind of crazy because I had this really ridiculous little old car that tended to break down every time I had to drive between Bristol and Exeter, which is where I was living studying. So I did that for a while and passed my A Levels got really good grades, and then decided to move closer to London because my boyfriend at the time had got a new job in Surrey, and I wanted to be with him even though I don’t think he particularly wanted me to be there. He was super light to say no. So I transferred my job with BA from Filton to Farnborough and had a job working in the HR department there. But it was a long commute from where we were living, like a different job in an insurance company. And that was kind of the start of having a real career rather than just doing odd jobs. It was a startup company, it was maybe 80 people when I joined, and it was growing super fast. And I was working in the premiums department. And I think one of the important things to me about that job was other than my first year in the youth program, it was the first time where I felt I was valuable and successful. So all of that stuff that I hadn’t ever really felt before I did feel like there, everybody else was my kind of age. And they all thought I was smart. And I was able to contribute, make a difference and and really kind of grow quite quickly in my career, which was fab. But my plan was to leave there and go to university full time, I still had this passion for children’s human rights. And one of the many jobs I’ve been doing was as an editorial assistant for a professor who’s an expert in children’s human rights, and she wrote a series of books called children in charge, and I helped her was her editorial assistant from those. So I wanted to go to university, do my law degree, and then go on and become a barrister working initially in crime but then eventually in human rights. So I quit my job in London went back to Exeter because only had like a couple of a levels and not brilliant grades, I could only get on a law and Sociology course. So I started doing that. And within two or three weeks, I like was like right now I’m going to change things up. Because I was young and ambitious and full of energy. So I, I went to see the dean, and I persuaded him to let me move from law and sociology to pure law. But I was also bored, because, you know, back then at least university didn’t have very many hours, it was like nine hours a week of lectures. So I started looking for part time jobs, the best job I had was working in the court as a like a stenographer. So although I didn’t have any skills, I had to record all the courts, which was fantastic. But then I went back to my old job at Christmas, and they asked me to stay. And so I kind of white lied to everybody. So I told my employer, yes, I’ve spoken to the university, and they’re fine with me going part time, if you can give me an extra 20 days off a year to do my uni stuff. I can do both. And I didn’t say anything at all to the university. I didn’t mention it. I just relied on the kind of conspiracy of silence that young people have that nobody was going to adopt me in if they noticed, I wasn’t turning up to anything. And I just figured I could manage the both on my own, which I did. So nobody ever found out and I passed my degree. And by the time I’d done that my job had gone up a couple of levels. And so yeah, I finished my law degree, and had been promoted a few times in my job and, and then myself and a colleague were approached to set up our own company providing services to insurance companies, which is kind of what I’d begun to work in for a little while. And so I was only, you know, 25 or something starting my own business and had no idea what I was doing and wasn’t very good at it. But gave it quite a lot of energy and then also started doing above vocational course part time at night school. And so yeah, that that was an the plan was build up the business, sell it, use the money from that to do my pupilage. So that’s the 12 months training contracts you have to do as a barrister. It’s kind of unpaid or at least used to be unpaid. And then have my career at the bar. That was the idea except then I got pregnant. That kind of went out the window. So yeah, I’ve finished my bar vocational course. And I passed. So I qualified as a barrister. And we did sell the business. But by then my daughter was getting on to. So I use the money to take a career break, because I was exhausted. I went back to work because it was a small business couldn’t really take any maternity leave. So I went back after three months, that was all I could afford, and all the business could afford. And so by the time she got to I was just exhausted, you know, it’s so hard working, I was breastfeeding still, I was still breastfeeding, like until she was two. So I was just completely exhausted. And so took some time out, and then had to start all over again. So that’s going way back pay, which might be way too far back. But hopefully that answers that.

Pei Mun Lim 10:50
No, I love that. I love that. Sorry. So that paints me a picture of who you are. And it’s just, I’m just listening to all the roles you’ve had. And I’m sure I was I was getting exhaust this like, Oh, my goodness night school, I can’t believe it. I did. I did my MBA, so I quit. I quit my job to do my MBA full time, because I really wanted to do and I thought, how can anyone do this part time? How can anyone study part time focus, and have a full time, you know, career and what you’ve just told me is yes, people can do that. And for you to have more than one and realize what you want and going to get it and may end having opportunities presented to you. And even though you didn’t have the skills or experience, you just went, Hey, yes, let’s go and start a business. Even though I’m only 25. And I haven’t got the experience to back me up there just yet, but paint such a great picture of who you are. So thank you for that for just fleshing that out. I will now let you carry on from there. After your little goal was to sorry, frozen, can you hear me?

Sorry, just resuming the recording, thank you very much for providing the background that tells me the kind of person you are and how you’ve got to that point, you now have a little girl and you took a break. And what did you do from there.

Penny Townsend 12:43
So that was quite a tough time in life actually, because we moved house during that time to be closer to my partner’s work. But then we split up. And so that was I was in a new area where I didn’t know anybody and I didn’t have any connections. And I had to start over again with finding a job. So because I had enough money to take like 18 months off work, but not for forever. And and with the history I just gave you, you can imagine how that looks on a CV is not fantastic. Let’s be honest, I might have done lots of cool things. But that doesn’t really tell a story. It doesn’t tell a hiring manager or recruiter like what is it this person does, it just doesn’t make any sense. And so I started trying to get a job with my CV as it was and I just was getting nothing, it was just a complete dead zone. And so I decided to rewrite my CV making it almost as if I’d looked at each job I’d done and I imagined that I’d been like a secretary or an administrator working for that person or in that department and I wrote a much more cohesive CV, but with me doing admin or secretarial work and suddenly paying I’ve started to get loads of opportunities. So I took on initially a job as a secretary at a university that was a maternity leave cover and then I got offered a permanent job so I went for that instead which was at the National Energy Foundation working on a contract for the Carbon Trust and that was as an administrator for the carbon will became eventually the Carbon Trust standard. But I think the job was called Marketing Manager or something like that but really it meant doing everything so it running running the whole program which suited me and suited my skill set very much but it was tough because was hard to go back to work that point in my daughter would have been coming up for force are too young to go to school, but She was at nursery. And we hadn’t done that whole thing before, you know, when she was a baby, it was very different. And it was on a third of the salary that had been on before as well. So I added that is a huge drop in less than two years to lose two thirds of your income. And, and it was tough. And it was scary, especially as I was on my own, you know, I lived in a place where I didn’t know anybody and I, luckily, I had some really nice neighbors who helped me out. But basically, it was just me and Lottie. And fortunately, as well, the government at the time, I think not long brought in the working families tax credit. And actually, I wouldn’t be in this job I’m in now if it wasn’t for working families tax credit, because that paid about 70% of my nursery fees during that time. And without that coming in, I could not have afforded to keep going to work. So yeah, so that’s, that’s what I did. And it’s through that job that I first encountered Salesforce. So that would have been about 2007, I guess, maybe 2006 When I started there. And so I made the scheme really successful. So it got taken more notice of by Carbon Trust, it got rebranded as the Carbon Trust standard, a lot more investment came into the scheme. And along with that, we at the time, we were using an act date database, I don’t know if you remember that, like the disks come in the post. And you know, and it was fine for, you know, just a list of people, but there was no sophistication to it. And so we got Salesforce for the Carbon Trust standard. And myself and my team because by then I’d hired a small team who were working with me, we were the SMEs really to help build that Salesforce org with an independent contractor that came in. And he is very talented and very ambitious. So rather than just doing Sales Cloud, this was before there was Salesforce sites before I think there was even communities. We had we used Salesforce for our web page. We had the ability for SMEs to enter all their details to through the web page that went straight into Salesforce. We were doing some really cool stuff with Salesforce even way back then. So yeah, that was my first meeting of Salesforce.

Pei Mun Lim 17:32
AP. And from there, how did you you went to BSI or did you go to Open University? First, tell me about how those changes happen?

Penny Townsend 17:45
Yeah, so it’s, you know, I think a lot of people go through this, especially in the technology space, when you go through acquisitions and mergers and changes to your organization. And that’s something that I’ve been through many times. So that’s an Andrews, we’ve done that we were a subsidiary of Bank of Scotland. And as time went on, we got more pulled into the bank. Similarly, at the Carbon Trust standard, we’d started out where I was kind of the boss able to do what I wanted, and it was quite independent. And then it got pulled more and more into Carbon Trust and their politics. And it wasn’t completely my scene. And so I decided to look for something else, I’d seen other jobs at the Open University. And I thought that would be a good place for me. But it just wasn’t really a good cultural fit. For me. It’s very public sector like and that’s not really who I am. So I very quickly went from there to BSI, which was a much better fit, but quite a dramatic change of jobs. So, when I landed at BSI, my job was national sales manager. So I was responsible for 12 territories, with a field sales and tele sales person on each territory, we had collectively a target to hit of a million pounds a month with an average order value of only about seven and a half 1000 pounds. So that’s an awful lot of orders you need to do every month, and it’s so but I kind of loved it. I felt like I was working on a newspaper or something, you know, when you have that end of the month deadline, and you’re rushing, rushing, rushing to see if you can hit the number by the end of the month. And then of course, you know, the calendar turns over and it’s the next month and you have to start all over again. And I quite liked that adrenaline rush of doing that. But one of the things that was very obvious to me straight away was that the way that they were using Salesforce lacked so much of the sophistication that I’d seen at the Carbon Trust and I thought these guys don’t realize what they’re missing here. They could have a much, much more exciting, more useful, more relevant version of of Salesforce. And I made this argument internally Ah, and that got heard, and an outcome of me saying that was them to turn around and say, Okay, well, if you think you can do it better, here you go, here’s some budget Off you go, go and build us a new sales force and put your money where your mouth is kind of thing.

Pei Mun Lim 20:17
Amazing. That’s, I think that’s what a lot of people would like to hear. Make the dream happen. So tell me what, what did you do? And how did you get started then.

Penny Townsend 20:27
So there was quite a lot to juggle at that time, from my own job, I had quite a clear vision of what I wanted. I also thought that Salesforce could be expanded to include more functional areas to add a lot more value to the business. And so also, I guess, I knew that I knew the contractor that I’d worked with a Carbon Trust really, really well, actually. And he at that point had just started to Keeler. And so I reached out to him, he met with all the leadership at BSI. And so in the end, that project became one of the very first big projects that tequila won. And that was really instrumental actually in their rapid growth, because that was a big project with kind of quite a big brand as well. And that meant that I had some really innovative and talented consultants to work with me on the build. So we started kind of designing how the awkward be. And then I also started to work with the leadership around how we were going to tackle this work. And one of the things that the leadership did was asked all the different geographies, kind of who wanted to be the test case, you wanted to go first and the Americas wanted to be first, which was fantastic. They were really enthusiastic really knew their business very well. So we worked with them. And that meant that I was going back and forth to the States a lot working on the project. But it managed to achieve a lot of the things that I was looking to do about being more expansive in terms of what we covered, as in terms of the technology. One of the things that was interesting about it is we were using five or six different ISVs. So we it was quite a complex technical landscape. So we’re using Informatica, we were also using a CPQ product called blueprint. So this massively predated Salesforce CPQ. You know, it was years before steel brick was even a thing. And so Blueprint was a great British company, there’s still going now, but less so on the Salesforce platform that we brought in as a CPQ. We use postcode anywhere back then to do address finding, we used conga and echo sign, you were only just recently taken over by Adobe at that point in time. And then think there must have been somebody else that I’ve forgotten. But we were working with all of these apps in New York, which was also quite an interesting thing to do. And as that project went along, through getting to know a few people in the Salesforce world, somebody suggested I think, somebody suggested to the founders of conga, that they hire me to lead their UK business. So conga, had a couple of people working in the UK, who were doing support tickets, but reporting into somebody in the states and Congre, headquartered in Colorado. So it’s a huge time difference. And it meant they weren’t really able to get get a lot of traction in growing the business, particularly over here. And I think those people felt a bit unsupported. So the founders of Congress decided that they wanted to find somebody to lead the business and build more of a team in the UK. But one of the things about conga is that they had a very unique philosophy about running their business. And it was very moral, if that’s not too cheesy a word to use their morals where they wore their hearts on their sleeve, and those were critically important to them. So they were very concerned about hiring anybody who might not fit with their culture and values. And particularly, because that’s about treating people really decently and not being a kind of bossy boss. That’s not what they were into. And that so they were very sweet. They paid for me and my daughter to go over to Colorado for a week. So we can meet everybody. And Mark, the COO his wife, she looked after Lottie for me every day and she took her out, did all these fun things with her took it everywhere. And I think partly maybe why they recruited me is because in knowing Laci, they kind of knew who I was as a person Some you know how you are, as a parent says an awful lot about how you are to work with. And so I spent a week with them, and they decided they would like me to do to do the roll. So I came back to the UK and then I got kind of shipped my computer and started and one of the things about combat is, it was a completely flat structure. So Mark, he loved taking a support ticket as much as anybody he used clap on Sundays. He was in there doing support tickets or saying, calling someone up I see you’ve just installed conga Can I help you and they’re like, Oh, my God, you’ve called me on a Sunday afternoon, you weirdo. And, um, but he loved that. And so for me, I having not been particularly hands on with Salesforce, suddenly, you know, we had massive demand, we have more tickets than we could handle. So I really had to kind of roll my sleeves up and learn on the fly and start solving tickets, and helping people install and get going with conga. And it was terrifying. I can ascribe it. But I was lucky because my colleagues, especially my colleague, Ross was so kind and so patient and such brilliant teachers, that it helped make that better. And then I very quickly started recruiting. And because we’re such a small team, I only recruited people in batches, because I wanted people to be able to mutually support each other through the learning. And then also to help us build a bit of a community because going from two to 10. You know, how do you make your community so the first group of three I hired included the man who is now Salesforce Ben, who has just been then just about started Salesforce been around that, but it wasn’t the big deal it is now. So yeah, Salesforce, Ben, it was in that same first group and Michelle, who is still at conga, now it was in that first group. And and then we just expanded and expanded, my colleague, Bobby came over from the states on secondment to us for a few months. And we just began to build a team and add more and more people. So then I started hiring people who could speak French people who could speak German, because our tickets were all across Europe. And we grew and grew and grew, which was a really fun time. Brilliant, very, very happy there.

Pei Mun Lim 27:18
I was just thinking as you were talking about the people around you, who means so much to you. And that tells me the kind of leader that you are just very pretty. Jumping from BSI to conga, in terms of the role must be must have been quite different. How did you feel and what was the decision making process in your head to it feels like that step change is quite big and different. And it didn’t feel like a natural path. That would sit in anyone’s comfort zone. Although having listened to your story from the beginning, I think comfort zone is something that you eat for breakfast.

Penny Townsend 28:06
You have a comfort zone, which is fortunate because you never know. But that is actually a really good question pay. And it’s something that I haven’t talked about very much before, but I think is important for us to talk about and for women to hear. Because that step. And then and actually what that led on to in in terms of growing my career was very much influenced by a man. So by that point in my life, I had a new relationship with somebody who was in Salesforce, very aggressive, very driven individual. Right. And, and he wanted me to be in Salesforce. And he was pushing me to be in Salesforce, because an end with a whole bunch of really good reasons and a whole bunch of really terrible reasons, right. And I think as often is the case with relationships, they’re neither wholly good or wholly bad. There’s somewhere in between, right? So the good reasons are that he felt I had more value than I realized I had, he felt I could be more successful, earn more money, have a better career than I had any sense that I could do. And he felt like I could be successful in the Salesforce world. Whereas I thought, Oh, I’m not very technical. I don’t think I can do that. That negative reasons were that he thought this would give him a great opportunity to really control me, because he’s a very controlling person. And he had a good friend whose girlfriend has a job where she was really out of her depth and always having to ask the boyfriend for help. And, and I think he imagined it would be like that with us. And that then he’d always know where I was. He’d always know what I was doing. He’d always know more about my job than I would know. And that that he’d always know the people better than I knew them and That would give him a great deal of control over me. And that’s not healthy, right. But you have to take the good with the bad. You know, there were also all these good reasons, you know, it would have reflected badly on him if I’d been rubbish. So he has confidence in me was genuine. But it was an an interesting dynamic, because I think without him pushing me to do it, I never would have done it without him pushing me both in that job at conga and in the subsequent couple of jobs to ask for the money that I asked for. I just never would have done it. And I think that’s those are challenges that we have as women. And I’ve learned from that experience to do that for myself. Now, now I can really do this stuff for myself. But I, young, younger women, that is really hard to do. And I feel like as much as my situation was really not ideal at that time. Actually, having a man pushed me into it and forced me to do that was the only way that was ever gonna happen. And I think that that really does speak to our diversity problem that we have, you know, and lack of women coming forward, women not being paid as much is because I would have taken a lot less, I would have had a lower grade and lower pay lower everything, if I hadn’t had him pushing me. So where it will be great to kind of take the credit for that and say I did it for myself. The truth is it wasn’t it was a man forcing me into it. And there is some Yeah, which isn’t great. Like we don’t want to relationships and not there. They’re not the model. But they’re not entirely bad either, I guess is where I’m coming from. So and, and it was interesting, because that level of control that I think he thought he was going to have never happened, because he’d underestimated my stubbornness, and my desire to do it for myself, and not ever asked for help. And so I I did, I did do everything, I never asked him for help for anything. But you know, troubled relationships or trouble for reasons like he was then controlling in other ways that kept me very busy. So I guess that’s one of the challenges that women have, you know, I was busy raising my child doing this very demanding job, and managing a very challenging relationship that consumed an awful lot of time and energy. And I think as women, we don’t very difficult to talk about that stuff sometimes. And yeah, I’ve kind of think that we should be, you know, because it does have a big impact on our ability to do our jobs and how we go about our jobs. So yeah, he kind of put me on that path. And, and then I’ve really kept going, because then also, I was excited when the acquisition of Congo went through, I had been very concerned about it, because knowing the culture was so important to Congo, I knew that we weren’t going to be able to maintain that post acquisition, but for me, was a really fascinating learning experience. Because Congo was so beautifully democratic, that we had a kind of beauty parade of potential purchasers. So I got to go out to dinner with all of these different VCs and different companies that wanted to buy us and get to know those people and see that pitches and be involved in that. And in the whole process of getting bought by the VC. So that was fascinating. And the first kind of year or so post acquisition was really right up my street, because we were adding a big kind of commercial aspects to what we were doing, building a sales team, getting more clear about our metrics, and so on, without compromising the culture so much. So that for me was very interesting. And then I guess, next evolution of that leadership transformation, I felt like we were going in the wrong direction. And that’s where I think my strength of personality came in. And this has been definitely advice I would give to anybody who finds themselves in that situation. I called up my boss and I said, I, I’m not buying into this. So I don’t think it’s going to be successful. So we need to plan for my exit. You know, rather, I think sometimes people just wait until they can’t bear it anymore, or they come up with other reasons. Whereas I just decided to be really transparent and honest. And that was the best way to deal with that, I think. And then I went contracting for a couple of years, which was interesting. So sorry, pay, I’m just firing loads of stuff that you I’m sorry, I hope this is going to be interesting for people. Oh, I can’t hear you. Sorry,

Pei Mun Lim 34:47
I’m muted. Noise. It’s all really, really interesting. When we’re talking about the controlling relationship that I was in a very similar place in so that I could relate in at a level that I don’t say. Normally I would get triggered, because I think a lot of people who’ve been in that situation, so they get flashbacks, in terms of being in a controlling relationship where your life isn’t your own. How did you how did you exit that? And how did that change you as a person?

Penny Townsend 35:34
It’s really interesting, because I think I was really, really good at managing it. And I’m, I was very good at not taking it any of any of it personally. So the thing is, when somebody is troubled like that, it’s that they are troubled. And it’s not about you, it doesn’t matter who you are, or how you are or what you do or don’t do. It’s not about you, it’s about them. And, and I think that’s what sometimes people very flippantly don’t understand about those kind of difficult relationships. So why don’t you just break up with them while you’re with this person, because you really care about them. And you can see how troubled they are. And you don’t want to abandon them, you want to support them, and you want to try and enable them to overcome that, particularly, because if you do break up with somebody who’s troubled, or like that, it only plays into all the underpinning fears and beliefs that they have that make them behave like that in the first place. And that was very much how I saw it. So it’s strange, because I was quite unemotional about it always. And I think most women don’t have that luxury, I think a lot of women are so tangled up in their own feelings. And that, that that’s the challenge. But I think because I’ve been a kind of a senior leader already, I was using in my relationship, all the same stuff that I used at work, you know, all my same ways of, of knowing it’s not about you of keeping things separate. So I managed that really, really well. But, you know, things got very difficult at times. And there was a period where we broke up for a while. And then we got back together. And actually, I, when we broke up, what frustrated me about that was that I could see all the things that I hadn’t done as well as I wanted to in a relationship I could see all at he No, he’s very, very intelligent man. And all of his points, were all correct. All the things that I had sort of not done as well as I could have done, he was right. And I thought, Okay, I’m gonna give this another go, I’m going to work on all of those things. Let’s see if it makes any difference, like scientific experiment, I did all of those things, didn’t make any difference at all. And so then we ended up breaking up in a much more permanent way. And the thing is, he moved abroad. So I think my situation would have been very different had he not moved abroad, but him doing that meant that it drew a line under it in a way that made things much easier for me than had he stayed living, you know, half an hour away or something, I think that would have been much more difficult. So in a way, I was kind of lucky with all of that. But actually, the whole experience could have been significantly worse. Had I not managed it so well. Because there were times when it was not great. So yeah, and how did that affect me? I think that it has built tons of resilience, and it’s really helped me I know it’s enough American phrase, but double down on all that stuff about how it’s not about you. And it’s made me also have an almost mystical ability to manage difficult people because I doubt I will live my whole life and ever meet anybody as difficult as him. I would be amazed if I met anybody half as difficult. So difficult people difficult situations, people being highly emotional and erratic. So water off a duck’s back to me. And those are all things that I got from from that. It consolidated. All of that stuff inside me to feel I was good at that. And so it definitely was not something that’s damaged me. But I think like for me as a person, that wasn’t my first bad relationship, right? And so I have to reflect on that. And I’m that classic Electra complex child, you know, whose father died when she was very young and, you know, has dysfunctional relationships with men and I have to just understand that that is who I am. Um, and I think on a personal level, what I’ve taken away from that is to not have any kind of financial entanglements with anybody you know, I’ve never been married, I don’t think I’ll ever get married, I doubt I’d ever live with anybody again. And I certainly wouldn’t do any kind of joint money kind of stuff. No, I think what I came out of it with a sense on a need to sort myself out and become independent on my own, rather than go into a relationship and do things together, because that’s never succeeded for me. So, yeah, you know, buy my own house is probably my next big milestone in life. And if I can do that, in the next two or three years, that would be really great. And give me a big sense of security that I just don’t have renting. So that would be great. But yeah, it was very difficult and pretty unpleasant at times, but not really damaging. And, you know, what, he was an incredible stepdad, to my daughter, and all of those things that you’d put in the bucket of being negative, or those negative characteristics, all that aggression, and selfishness and all that stuff. Actually, if you like, shine a lens on that for your child, especially a girl, the, if she can take the good in that and not the bad, my daughter is so resilient, so strong, such a clear sense of herself, and just unwavering, unshakable self esteem. And a lot of that came from him, both in his own telling her how amazing and wonderful and superior she was. But also, through seeing how he could go through life going, I’m more important, I’m as important as anybody, there’s nobody more important than me, I I’m worth everything. And you know, and that attitude, as much as that can be really problematic really quickly, for if you just show them a bit of that can be incredibly grounding. And I think partly, she’s so strong because of that. And also, she’s had so much experience, she’s traveled the world. She’s had incredible experiences are all all part of that. So, yeah, it’s, it has bad stuff, but also loads of good stuff.

Pei Mun Lim 42:29
Can I just say the way that you describe your daughter, I’d say a lot of it came from you as well. Just like I said, just listening to your history and your story and how you how you were growing up and the choices you made and the stuff that you did. And you talked about resilience, juggling seven jobs, that a number of jobs that you had closed a levels at night, working in studying all of that, you know, she may not have seen you go through it, obviously, because she wasn’t alive. But all of that feeds through the way that you’re parenting. So I would say give yourself a lot more credit for how she is then giving it to him. I don’t doubt that the relationship has brought some key lessons for her that she’s brought to heart. But she’s also observed how you have been through the relationship plus, you know, before time how you are with her, and I think give us a bit more credit.

Penny Townsend 43:38
Yeah, there’s probably some truth in that. And certainly my parenting has always been purposeful, because really, I don’t want to sound naff, but it is without intention. It’s been mindful parenting. So everything from my decision to keep breastfeeding through to how I interact with her now is all mindful. So you know, for me, as much as it was tough to keep breastfeeding. While I was working full time, I did that. Because I thought if I’m not there with her for 10 hours a day, then the best way I can compensate for that is to have that intimacy that you have through the feeding. And also, it puts a physical constraint I when I came in from work in the evening, I had to sit down and feed her. There was no choice. I couldn’t Oh, just do some housework or get the dinner on or do this or that. I just had to sit down and feed and I think if I hadn’t had that control, my relationship would have had would have would have distanced and so as much as that took a toll on me it took a toll on the relationship with her dad. I think all in all, those were those were good calls and I’ve carried on trying to make you know when she was little, I always made it clear to her. I used to joke I hate work. I don’t really hate work that much and I definitely don’t hate it every day, but I’m really They wanted her to feel like work was a means to an end, I went to work so that I could spend time with her. Like that was the bargain was that work meant that then we could go swing on Sunday work meant that we could go to Gam Bardos work created these things. But it wasn’t I think a lot of moms feel that society pressures them into saying, oh, I need more than my child, I need to be fulfilled through work. Even if that’s true, your kid doesn’t need to know that, you know, because then they feel like, well, why am I not enough. And I always wanted Lottie to know, you’re completely enough, maybe you’re too much. But that the the to have the life that we want, I have to do these things. So that we live in this house so that we do this on this stuff. And that and then that meant that she never had any real sense that she was competing with work. And I tried always to take her into my workplaces as well for like the odd day here and there. And I assume you’re coloring pens that have her color and have have a meet my colleagues. And it was really healthy for her to have a sense of what that was, rather than it being this strange black hole that mummy disappears into. And I’m gonna guess that’s what people have all had to experience over the pandemic is that merger of work and home life that is tough. But yeah, that’s I guess, I have tried to be mindful, but equally, I’m very aware of my own weaknesses. And I think it’s been good that I haven’t really passed any of those on to her or at least appears I haven’t.

Pei Mun Lim 46:32
What are your weaknesses? Oh, gosh,

Penny Townsend 46:35
pe my biggest weakness. My is how I look. That’s always been my weakness. And there’s a whole myriad reasons for that. But I’ve always been okay with being brainy. Like I think I’m more a quick learner than actually intelligent. I don’t have that high in IQ, but I can learn and I could figure things out. But yeah, I’ve I’m that is my big weak spot is how I look. And that. Yeah, that’s not and if I’m ever going to be able to resolve that, you know, I’d never think I’m pretty I always think I’m overweight. And I’m that classic person who’s always, you know, really troubled with that. And that’s, that’s my big weak spot in life, for sure.

Pei Mun Lim 47:28
I think so just let me say that the way that you come across, and the way that you present yourself, just bring so much beauty and sunshine already, and the way that you talk about the people around you. And I know that it goes both ways, and they love you because of who you are. And this one is things that I probably won’t be able to change your mind. But I think beauty is something that shone through through our conversation. I really like the vibe and the energy that you put out. And the story that you tell just paints such a beautiful picture.

Penny Townsend 48:12
Oh, thanks. Hey, and I’m certainly very truthful and very transparent. Right? So I don’t off, didn’t talk about all of this stuff. Because not because I don’t want to but because it sounds a little bit almost narcissistic, you know, to go banging on about yourself to people or, you know, that’s not what somebody means necessarily when they ask you a probing question. But I thought this is a good opportunity for me to really be completely truthful and really open and honest about all of this stuff, because people don’t have to watch if they’re not interested. But I also think that sometimes particularly as a woman, seeing somebody like me that’s risen quite high in their career. You can think, How can I do that? Like, how, where do I even get the belief from that I could be a partner of one of those companies. And I wanted to talk about, like, how I got there through this controlling relationship, so that people just didn’t think I had some, like, secret sauce that I was special that I had something magical, that oh, that I believed I did that enabled me to get back because it’s just not that simple. You know, it really is tough. And and to get to the point where you can believe you can have that kind of career, let alone do the work, create the opportunities get there is incredibly tough. And I remember being younger in my career and looking at some of the women in senior roles and wondering how did they get there? And then maybe Google them and it’d be like, Oh, her father was ambassador to Russia and her mum’s the daughter of this famous billionaire or something. And I was like, oh, wish she was made from birth then those she couldn’t really screw that up. And if you if you don’t come then from that, then where do you get the belief to get there. And I guess that’s the main thing I want to do. And my job now is just to massively open that up so that other women from backgrounds like mine, and other people generally, but especially women have a route to get there. Because it isn’t about intellect skills, qualifications, a lot of it is about belief, knowing how to position your strengths and your achievements in a way that makes sense to your audience. When your audience is often largely male. It’s about how you how you get from A to B, and having that belief and the ability to ask for it. And I think the more women there are like me in these jobs, the more we open that channel up, that’s what I’m hoping anyway.

Pei Mun Lim 50:48
Again, I think you’re you’re not giving yourself enough credit, when you say things. Like, how did you get from, you know, where you were to where you are. Now, when I hear about what you did when you were younger, and I’m thinking, I don’t know, if I would have done all the stuff that you’ve done. But the two things that come out to me is the fact that you just had grit, that said, you had grit, you had resiliency, and you had seem to have a strong belief that no matter where you get to you find a way to push through. And that’s quite evident from the narrative that you’ve told me about your story and the decisions that you’ve made and the roles that you’ve had. And I’m still reeling about the number of roles you had with the charity and the Electoral Commission and project assessors and old charities you’ve been, um, looking back, I would I would even have thought with doing going out in getting those pants. I’m not even though you said that. On CV, it didn’t shine enough for you to get the kind of jobs that you wanted. But hey, I don’t know if I should have done it. So I’m, I’m really impressed with all the things that you’ve gone through. And perhaps if you’ll allow me to say that I think one of the weakness that you have is maybe not giving yourself enough credit for getting to where you are today you you’ve kind of said it’s not down to you but a big part is in it sounds like Lottie is so so lucky to have a mom let you know. Now this another mini you How old is she? Can I ask

Penny Townsend 52:43
you if she’s going to be 19? In May? Yep.

Pei Mun Lim 52:47
I think she’s she’s probably already starting to add value to people around her. She’s learned leadership from you. She’s learned how to manage people, a lot of the human soft skills that is a huge indicator of success, a lot more than IQ. And even though you know, you are brainy. And I’m sure she is as well, but the soft human skill kind of shines through. And this has been such a great conversation. Penny, I’m very mindful. I want to be respectful of your time. So I was not up. I have a feeling there’s a part two, there’s a lot more that I’d like to dig into. So thank you for sparing the time to talk to me today.

Penny Townsend 53:29
Oh, no, it’s been an absolute pleasure pay. And I really hope even if it just gives maybe one person who’s struggling a bit of a boost to think, yeah, it’s not all that other people just have it all perfect and have it all together. If somebody needs to hear that today or to see that from my example, then it’s so worth doing. You know, I mean, you know, that from your work with the Samaritans, you know, it’s just the more truthful and transparent people can be, the more other people don’t feel isolated and like they’re struggling alone, and that’s important to me, I think. Absolutely.

Pei Mun Lim 54:05
I think we’ve managed that today. Thank you so much Penny.

Penny Townsend 54:08
Thanks Pei.