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News > Alumni Career Profiles > Rebecca Ganz (Class of 1986)

Rebecca Ganz (Class of 1986)

Meet Rebecca: a trusted Business advisor and strategic leader with an extensive, global career across a wide range of sectors, learn more about her fascinating career here...
6 Feb 2024
United Kingdom | New Zealand
Alumni Career Profiles

It has been wonderful to speak to and congratulate former Head Girl, Rebecca Ganz (Class of 1986) on her recent nomination for The Power List in the 2024 Northern Power Women Awards. As a Portfolio Non-Executive Director across the private and public health and education sectors, Business & Exec Coach and Northern Lead for Women on Boards, we asked Rebecca about her fascinating career journey post BGS and any advice that she would give to our younger alumni hoping to follow a similar path. 

Please describe your career journey since leaving BGS and how you progressed to your current position? 

I’m very lucky – I love what I do. 

I am a portfolio Non-Executive Director & Trustee across the public & private education and health sectors – in other words I sit on a bunch of Boards.  

I’m also a Business & Exec Coach; this includes working with clients on the other side of the planet (OZ and NZ – more on that later).  

Lastly, I’m regional lead for Women on Boards, a social enterprise, with the goal of growing a pipeline of diverse senior talent to populate boards in the North. 

One of the best aspects of being a Non-Exec / Trustee is I get to use a broad skill set I’ve picked up along the way… 

Absorbing & analysing daft amounts of info and articulating an opinion at pace 

I went to Oxford Uni and did English Literature where I read, analysed and ‘opined’ so much, I couldn’t read anything for fun for 2 years after my degree!  

Curiosity 

Travelling around the world for a year took my natural curiosity to a whole new level – a trait that has served me very well all through my career. I continue to be full of questions… 

Starting my business career by understanding the story the numbers are telling 

I became a Chartered Accountant, which was SO much harder than getting my English Lit degree as I worked full time while doing the qualification. It was seriously intense but very much worth it, as now the numbers make sense… 

Learning how to sell, raise money and get negotiation savvy 

I applied, was accepted and then thrown into the deep end at KPMG Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) in London and later emigrated to work in M&A Auckland, New Zealand. 

I am utterly fascinated by pitching and negotiations and my English Lit degree helped ‘big time’ in this context, as written and verbal communications skills were important to succeed. Also, being in M&A meant learning on the job, which suited me well. 

Going self-employed – Business Strategy Adviser in New Zealand 

After 6.5 years in M&A I found my metier –> business / corporate strategy. My sweet spot turned out to be working in founder led organisations - both early stage and SMEs - providing coaching, advice and consultancy.  

It’s a roller coaster ride working with entrepreneurs, which I enjoy so much. I also worked with big corporate clients where I’d design and deliver game changing strategy sessions. I found my training in KPMG equipped me for the nuances involved in navigating large organisations.  

Emigrating back to the UK 

After 18 years in Australasia, I returned to live in Bury in 2016 – the year of Brexit. The first couple of years were really all about Dad, who wasn’t well and then I kickstarted a new career – being a Non-Exec / Trustee. 

I didn’t realise how competitive it was (!) and the scale of rejection I received was simply mind boggling. To be frank, I was used to pitching for work and usually winning it. However, happily, persistence and focus paid off with the support of some amazing people in the region such that today I feel very lucky to be able to love what I do in sectors I care passionately about. 

What does your role involve, what is an average day like for you? 

The best part is there is no average day, which suits my innate need to learn. Having said that, there are regular Committee and Board meetings each month, so there is consistency from a diary perspective though agendas can often be fluid depending on what’s happening in the relevant landscape.  

My job as a Non-Exec / Trustee is to ask well informed questions and seek evidence that we are on track with agreed strategy and if not, what we need to prioritise or refocus alongside managing current and emerging risks and pursuing upcoming opportunities. 

Who or what helped to shape your career choice, how did BGS help to shape your career choice? 

BGS always pushed me to excel. The desire to continually learn and rise to each challenge has played a key role in my career development.  

Also, a member of BGS staff changed my life fundamentally. I can remember it as if it happened yesterday.  

Judith Skinner and I were walking down the corridor leading into the Roger Kay Hall main entrance and she simply asked, ‘are you applying for Oxbridge?’ 

I was totally taken aback as I hadn’t even thought of it.  

That one conversation led me to apply for the Oxford entrance exams in the 4th term of the Sixth Form and the experience of securing a place there had a radical and positive impact on my life for which I’m eternally grateful. The value of great teachers is incalculable in my view and Judith Skinner was superb. 

What is the biggest challenge that you have encountered professionally, and how did you overcome it? 

I have to say that’s kickstarting a whole new career at 48 years old as a Non-Exec / Trustee based in the North of England, where I had zero work network because I’d worked in London when I lived in the UK in my 20s. 

Fortunately, I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve -> a portfolio of board roles across the education and health public and private sectors. So, I started networking to make it happen. Added to that I applied for many, many roles and as mentioned above, was rejected many, many times. The generosity of people to support me was both astounding and humbling. Asking for help in a very specific way made all the difference. As a result, I’ve a very rewarding career I’m immensely grateful for daily. 

What do you consider to be your greatest professional achievement? 

I hope it’s still to come 😊 

What career advice would you give to our younger alumni and current pupils? 

Explore what you want, make a plan and then be persistent, flexible, focused and generous.  

Once you succeed always ‘pay it forward’ to help others along their journey.  

Lastly, have fun!! 

When you look back at your time at BGS, what are some of your fondest memories? 

Disastrous cookery class creations that my family bravely suffered through (having already suffered through my sister, Debi doing the same 9 years before me). I remember bringing home Italian Cobbler and my Dad saying, ‘not again!’ - so funny. 

Going on a school trip to Sankt Goarshausen, which was my first time in Germany speaking my very broken schoolgirl German. It was such a great laugh and part of the reason I went on to do German A Level and also au pair near Dusseldorf before starting uni. 

Loads of sport all year round – netball, swimming, tennis and rounders and learning that a bunch of talented individuals does not necessarily make a successful team…. such a valuable lesson!  

To find out more about Rebecca's work, please click here.


 

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