10 Questions: Liz Mayes

October 3, 2016

What was your first break in business? 

I got a graduate job for TBR Economics in Newcastle; the interview was the week I graduated. I’d applied for jobs all over the country in my final year but knew I wanted to stay in the region if I could. After I got the job offer I cancelled another interview in London as I knew the North East was the place I wanted to be.

What did you want to be growing up? 

Various careers appealed to me – at one stage, inspired by my dad’s love of history, I thought I might be an archaeologist. We always visited historical sites on holiday and I loved it – and still do. Other than that, I fancied myself singing in West End musicals but a lack of talent put paid to that. Once I began to study economics at GCSE I knew that I wanted it to figure in my career plans.

What attracted you to your current role? 

Prior to EEF I worked at the CBI for 12 years. Getting to know the region’s business community was a real thrill, and then to get the chance to focus in on a sector which has been such a vital part of the North East’s history and identity and still punches above its weight on the world stage, was incredibly exciting.

What is your company’s mission? 

To champion manufacturers and manufacturing in the UK. I ensure that our industry is robustly represented in the political and policy arena, while also providing manufacturers with essential business support and services designed to help them compete, innovate and grow.

How do you get the best out of your team? 

I think honesty and openness are key. Because of the nature of the support we provide to manufacturers, the team in Gateshead range from health and safety consultants, to solicitors and senior HR advisers. At the same time, EEF’s organisational structure is a matrix which means I have influence but not direct management over much of the team. Ultimately, we all work for the same member base and have the same mission so ensuring we have good communication across the team is vital for our success as a business.

What has been your career highlight? 

I would include many of the factory visits I’ve done in my list of highlights, from the almost musical rhythm of the Nissan plant through to the calm of the SCA plant in Prudhoe and the awe-inspiring enormity of the trucks at Cat in Peterlee. In terms of my own achievements, I would say that reinvigorating the North East Manufacturing Skills Group and fostering some vital links across the region to forward this agenda are right up there.

What has been your biggest challenge? 

Trying to forge a balance between the demands of work and home. Returning to work after the birth of my first child tested me physically and mentally, and six years on, and having had a second child, we’re still on a learning curve. What’s interesting to me is that doing right by my employer, and my members, is relatively straight forward. Sure, it’s hard work and there are many and varying balls to juggle but it’s not what keeps me awake at night; doing right by my family – that’s a whole different challenge.

Who or what inspires you? 

I’m inspired every day by people that I know: close friends carving out careers in the arts, education and science; women who have helped me succeed in my career by supporting me in my role as a mother; MDs and CEOs I meet who possess real integrity and show authentic leadership to their teams. And my husband for supporting my career ambitions without question.

What are your company’s short and long-term goals?

We want to continue to grow the membership base which will enable us to better champion our sector. We are confident we have the best network of manufacturers in the UK. We also want to see the Government commit to a fully fledged, long-term industrial strategy and, of course, we want it to negotiate a Brexit deal that supports and protects industry as this will be critical to ensuring post-Brexit Britain is a great success.

How do you achieve a good work/life balance? 

EEF has recently supported me to go down to four days a week. I had that working pattern in my previous job and have seen more senior colleagues also make it work. The key is prioritisation and delegation.