Today we’re excited to bring you our interview with Tracy Basu, Chief Executive of Bramley Baths.
Tell us a bit about your career journey to date
It has been unusual!
By profession I am a Chartered Accountant and, after qualifying, worked at the National Audit Office in the museum and galleries department and followed this with several years in the head office finance teams of national leisure organisations.
Since starting a family, I set up my own accountancy business so I could work more flexibly around the demands of my family life. That then led to working more locally in the community as a director/trustee on the boards of local charities and social enterprises.
When the position of Chief Executive at Bramley Baths came up two years ago, I knew I had to go for it. It gives me the opportunity to combine everything I love in one role - health, fitness and culture within an ambitious and innovative social enterprise.
What are the top 2 challenges you’ve faced as a leader and how have you overcome them?
Being an introvert
The biggest one is that I’m an introvert - I’m certainly someone that prefers being behind the scenes and struggles with large groups or public speaking. Reading Susan Cain’s “Quiet – The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking” was enlightening and refreshing and allows me now to focus on the positives of my natural personality. Being able to listen, taking time to understand people, influencing slowly over time, and not being afraid to make difficult decisions are key components in my leadership.
Having a different background from the norm
The second challenge I faced in my current role is that I do not have an operational leisure background and I needed to gain the confidence and respect of a team that do. As soon as I joined, I took the decision to take pool plant qualifications and do my lifeguard training which helped bridge this gap and means I can cover the operational duty management role when required. I understand what the team has to do and this helps me with decision making. I also like to lead by example and step out of my comfort zone and encourage the team to do the same. It’s never too late to learn new skills. If I can learn to be a lifeguard at the grand old age of 40, anyone can!
How do you bounce back from rejection and the challenges
When things don’t go as planned, I think it’s important to be able to reflect and learn. That’s how we grow and are better equipped to face challenges the next time around.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
It’s possible to do anything (well, almost)!
Although it is hugely beneficial to have a professional background, it shouldn’t automatically define a career path. I am very grateful for the structure, discipline and analytical approach that being a Chartered Accountant has given me and the way in which it informs my thinking. However, to be able to work in a creative, hands on, energetic environment gives me joy – far more than I ever would have had if I’d been confined to an office based finance role.
Although a cliché, it’s important to do what makes us happy in life and I would add to that, financial reward should never be the primary motivator for career choices.
What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
Leisure is such a vast industry that it’s difficult to give tailored advice. A career could follow many paths and whatever that path, we should not be restricted by our gender. It could be as a strategic manager, a pool plant engineer, an operations manager or a swimming instructor – women can excel, and do excel, in all of them.
The key is understanding what motivates you and what you want further down the line.
Do you like working with people, having lots of variety and direct contact with the public? If so, operational site management would suit you. Or do you prefer a quieter, more analytical, strategic role looking at the bigger picture? If so, a head office environment within a larger leisure operator may be preferable.
You should also think about what you want further down the line in terms of work/life balance. There are many opportunities for flexible/freelance working within leisure which can suit family life – swim teaching and personal training spring to mind – where you can make a significant impact on the lives of others and which offer the opportunity to set up your own business later on.
Would you like your business and hard work to be recognised? Then apply for one of our prestigious Forward Ladies National Awards 2017, so we can celebrate your success and inspire other women to do the same. There’s nothing we love more than promoting incredible women in business!