The Wise Why

Episode #35

Episode #035

#35 Sharon Smits – The Power of Building Human Connections

by | 21 Oct,2022

About This Episode

Sharon Smits, helps to build the human connection, discusses her business highs and lows, life story, and more with Kirsty van den Bulk. It takes a community and village to bring up children.

I met Sharon at an Oxfordshire Women in Business Networking Event run by Howard Feather my first one as KVDB. I have attended networking events in the past, this one was different as I was representing me and not the company I worked for.

Arriving at the event, feeling nervous, slightly intimidated, and hiding an unhealthy dose of imposter syndrome in my handbag. I went straight to the coffee area where Sharon said hello. Seeing how out of place I felt Sharon invited me to sit with her.

Sharon has been part of the HR Partner team at SYLO | Beyond HR. for the last eight years. She has an interesting background which includes international Office Management for KBR, an Oil and Gas Construction Company, working in the UK as well as Norway, Belgium, Egypt, and Nigeria and has worked for the Metropolitan Police Civil Service in a support role.

Sharon has a post-graduate degree in HR Management and CIPD qualified. Whilst taking a break to have her two children Sharon met Sarah & Sally and began working to support both them and their clients. Sharon is SYLO | Beyond HR. Guru on HR Software Breathe as well as HR Partner to several clients and HR Administration support for the team.

Episode #35 : Full Transcription

During this interview Sharon Smits talks about the mum’s network, the impact of Covid and the dreaded unspoken menopause, Life in Norway and why bringing people together makes her happy.

Kirsty van den Bulk: Hello and, uh, welcome to the Wise Wire. This morning I am joined by Sharon Smith, who grabbed my hand when I was feeling overwhelmed, nervous and at a networking event and out of my depth. And I do mean out of my depth because when I’ve gone to networking in the past, I’ve gone with my company head on. And, um, this time I was going as Kirsty Van den bulk and Sharon saved me. She grabbed me at the coffee, she ate coffee table. She walked me beautifully over to a table of what I would call powerful women. And, well, the rest of the story has just been the most amazing journey of meeting more and more women in networking and men in Oxfordshire. So, thank you, Sharon, for grabbing my hand. And as usual, the show is not about me, it is about you. So please introduce yourself.

Sharon Smits: Good morning, Kirsty. Lovely m to be here. Thank you very much for inviting me. I’m sharon Smith. I live in Oxfordshire. Obviously, because we are Oxfordshire women in business. And, uh, I work for a company called Saliva on Peach Rubber, uh, uh, which is run by two of my very good friends, Sarah Battalion. Sarah and we enjoy what we do, and we enjoy networking. I enjoy networking because I love talking to people, which is obviously why I’m here today. Yeah, um, uh, I’m married, I have two wonderful children, and I get involved a lot with the community. I’m very community focused. I love living where we live, there’s a lovely community feel, and I get involved in all sorts of different things. I have lots of hats that I wear.

Kirsty van den Bulk: You do, don’t you? That is something that I find really fascinating about you because I met you at, ah, the event and, ah, you introduced to us as Sharon. You were very, um, under stated and I remember that because I remember thinking, oh, you’re lovely and actually you’re a really powerful woman. Not only do you do HR, but you ought also to run a networking group. Is that right?

Sharon Smits: You run it or you’re an ambassador for tables.

Kirsty van den Bulk: Yeah, you blow my mind because I literally had no idea, uh, who you were. Uh, and yet since then I look back to a year and a bit ago and I’m so grateful. The gratitude I have for what you did for me on that day will be with me forever. So, thank you.

Sharon Smits: That’s amazing to hear. Thank you so much, Kelsey. And actually, I didn’t do anything special. I don’t think I did anything special. I have to say that. I have my father’s gift to the Gab, and I will talk to anybody, basically. But, uh, everybody is special, and everybody has their own story. And, uh, it’s great just talking to people and finding out all about them and how either I can help them or people that I know can help them. Because I see myself as a networker, but I’m a bit of a connector. So, you talk to me and you tell me what you do. And I’ll say, oh actually you need to speak to. And so, they’re really good at this. Or if you want to get into that particular market, look at that particular Facebook or LinkedIn group. And I think it’s great just being able to um, connect the right people together and make that difference. Because when people are running businesses either on their own or a bigger, uh, larger, uh, business, we deal mainly with SMEs. Um, it’s great to see them grow and great to see that buzz when they see that their business is moving forward. And I love that. I think it’s great.

Kirsty van den Bulk: So, I love the fact that I met you at this event and then I joined Oxlep and I did an uplift course, which was absolutely invaluable. And I was speaking to Oxlep on Tuesday at one of their events because they’ve given me so much. And then I walk into an Oxlep because I’ve got Paul Holmes coming onto the podcast the next day. And there you are at, uh, just the right moment in my life where I need to ask about HR. And I’d m like to expand about how you help people like me with HR problems. Because I was floundering. I realized that I’m looking at getting some freelancers on. I didn’t want to take on somebody full time. I didn’t know where to go. And again, magically, your company was there. Uh, so can you explain what you do?

Sharon Smits: My time is brilliant, obviously. Okay, so uh, silo beyond HR, which is the company I work for and have done for the past nine years now, um, we are HR consultancy. So basically, what we do is small businesses, um, who are growing and want to move on to the next step, or individuals who are just starting up their own business, like yourself, who are thinking about starting, taking on more people because they’re getting busier, their business is expanding, and we do the HR functions for them. Because when you’re on your own, you’re not going to take on the HR person. That’s the last person you need to take on. You need to take on people who are going to move your business forward. And either that’s sales or individuals who help you in front of your clients. And we have a whole raft of um, experience, and knowledge that we share with our clients. And it’s very affordable. We love what we do. We’ve got a great team. We’ve got a team of almost 20 consultants and employees and we are ourselves an SME. So, we’ve been on that journey. Sarah and Sally started the business 13 years ago. It was just the two of them going out and seeing clients. When I joined them, they had a couple of consultants and a trainer, but they were out and they needed somebody in the office who knew what they were talking about when they answered the phone, and also was apparently really well organized, which at the time, uh, uh, it was really funny. Sarah interviewed me on a park bench. Okay, that sounds a bit daunting, but our children were actually playing in the park at the time. And we knew each other, um, our children are the same age, so we knew each other from school. And she knew that I was PTA chair because I wasn’t working at the time, because I’d been in the fortunate position that I could take a couple of years off while the kids were younger. And, um, she said, hey, you’re really organized, aren’t you? You’re PTA chair. I’ve heard you’ve got a HR background. Are you looking to do some hours? Are you looking to get back in the marketplace? And I said, Actually, yeah, I am. I’m sort of looking to see what’s around there. And she said, we need some help.

Kirsty van den Bulk: Can you come and do a couple.

Sharon Smits: Of hours a day in the office, answer the phone, that sort of thing? And I said, actually yeah, that’d be really good because it gets me back, um, in the workplace. Little did I know that it was going to be a huge learning curve for me. So, I took it on their website, I took on their social media because nobody’s been doing it. And literally, it was a very steep learning curve. And, um, yeah, my skillset has grown exponentially. It really has. And then obviously, uh no, no, I.

Kirsty van den Bulk: Was just going to say I love the way that you actually have been on that learning curve. Because people forget that when you set up a business, it’s not about website and it’s not about social media, it’s not about HR. It’s about the whole wrap around. And that coupled with the loneliness and overwhelm and all the other bits and trying to find somebody who understands where you are. And that is incredible that you’ve done all of that.

Sharon Smits: And it embodies what we are as a company. So, we, uh, are, um, very much into partnership with a client, very much into the partnership with a client. And we find out about how they run their business, what their business is all about, where they want their business to go, and then put in steps to help them get there. Um, and, um, beyond, because we do the whole package, everything from I call them the Rs. So, it’s everything from recruitment through to retirement, uh, redundancy and resignation. So, it’s like that whole employee, um, uh, journey, I suppose, and everything in between. So, training and strategy. And it’s brilliant. I love working with clients, I really do. It’s great building that relationship. And, uh, I get out and about and talk to people, especially now, face to face. Wow, what’s that about?

Kirsty van den Bulk: What is it like? There is this big thing about suddenly going from being a stay-at-home mum because you’re in a privileged position. I could have done that. Um, I got really bored and I found I lost my identity and actually I need to work. Something I discovered when I was, um, out of work whilst my daughter was really young. I found that I needed to work for my own identity. What was it like going back to work?

Sharon Smits: That period of my life was a bit different to other people. So, I had my daughter and went back to work when she was six months old. My mother-in-law looked after her for about, uh, a year, so she was about 18 months. And me and my husband knew that we were going to go back to Norway. We’ll come to that in a second. Yeah, I want to go back to Norway. So, I knew, uh, that was both myself and my husband working for the same company. That’s why, um, and then we went to Norway. We planned to come back with two children, but we hoped we were going to come back with two children. This is all did I know that I fell pregnant the first week we were there? Um, Norwegian television is really awful, believe me. And then because I was working out there, I needed to complete my contract, which was about two and a half years long. So, uh, when Luke was seven months old, I went back to work. So I was in Norway that entire time. My daughter was a Norwegian nursery, which was amazing. Um, when my son joined the nursery, he was the youngest child in the nursery because their maternity was amazing. They get full pay for ten months or 80% for twelve months. So, they’ve never had a child that was under ten months old. So not only had they seen him every day when I dropped my daughter off, but also, they had him, they got to look after him full time at seven months old, which was brilliant. I knew that they were, uh, enjoying themselves in a safe space and um, the nursery was amazing. I’m still in touch with some of the girls who work there. Ah, and um, I went back to work to finish the project. So, they were there. Um, my son was in the nursery for about a year. So, the first word was broad, which is Norwegian for bread. Not mum or dad or anything like that. He needed his food. Um, so when we came back from Norway, um, where the head offices of our company, it’s like an hour’s drive away and um, they were doing a four-and-a-half-day week. So it was, um, difficult for me to get childcare from 07:00 in the morning till 06:00. And I and so we already plan that I would take a couple of years off. So, at this point, my daughter just started full time nursery at the, um, primary school and ah, my son was still at home. So, until he went to nursery, I was at home with them. Because we planned it that way. We were fortunate that we were able to do that. I know a lot of people can’t, but going back to you keeping your brain in gear, um, that’s the reason why I got involved with the PTA. That’s the reason why I then, um, got more involved in what was going on in the community. I was part of the NCT. Um, I’ve got a really good group of friends. We were talking about It takes the Village, didn’t we? And for us moms to be able to work or do what we do, and for the children to be able to do the activities they were doing when they were little. And basically, there were five of us who had 13 children between us. Eleven children between us, eleven children between us. And they were off doing different things. So, it worked really well. And it’s village.

Kirsty van den Bulk: You’ve got a really because it does say Village, and most people know that we’ve just had a huge, crazy period for the last kind of two months, and it wasn’t for my network and mum, I wouldn’t be even functioning right now. So, to all the muscles I know that have supported me and carried me through since I entered into my cookie for a at all calf muscle. Thank you. Really, thank you. But you’ve got a lovely story that, uh before we go back to why you were sitting on a rock when pregnant in Norway, I want to talk about you told me the other day about this beautiful story about the community and how you were celebrating birthdays on a school field during lockdown. And that talks off to me what community is.

Sharon Smits: Um, one of my really good friends who we met, uh, when I came back from Norway. She just moved to Tame and three beautiful children, her daughter, her son are the same as my ten years. She got a younger one who is my godson. Unfortunately, she lost her battle with cancer, uh, right at the beginning of Lockdown, like a week into lockdown. It was absolutely horrendous for the family and all of her friends because she was a very much-loved person. And that was in the March, wasn’t it? We went to lockdown in the May. It was her Tucson’s birthday. So literally, they were a week apart. So, we celebrate. We couldn’t do anything normally if that would have happened. One, it was really shocked. It wasn’t supposed to happen at that point, but normally we would have all been around to the house, we would have been taking the kids to school. We would have been doing everything to try and keep things normal. But it wasn’t a normal time, and we couldn’t physically be with the family. So, we had to do, um, a virtual hug, basically. We, um, um, embraced the family virtually and made sure that they were okay. And the kids, we did zoom calls. We walked past because we couldn’t see anybody distance and all that kind of stuff on a half an hour walk. But the birthdays, uh, they have a massive school field at the back of the house. And, um, because of the group of us, we were able to stay in our family unit distanced and, um, celebrate both boys’ birthday. So, one week after another, there was cake and there were bottles. So, each family had their own tray of muffins because we did it separately, so there wasn’t any cooking cake and, um, bottle of fizz. It was outrageous. But, um, we did that. And then two weeks after the second birthday, it was also my friend’s birthday, so we celebrated that as well. And it was just really good to be able to be in that group while still maintaining the rules that we had to. It was difficult. All we wanted to do was talk each other. But all the older girls, because there’s five, uh, or six of them, they were all sat in a big circle on the field, um, all 2 meters apart. But they were sat round, and they could actually have a whole conversation because they hadn’t seen each other, because the skills were all shut. And, um, it’s just, I mean, our children are now like, they’re teens and almost teens, so they’re all quiet, um, independent. So, they can, um, get themselves to school, they can cook. Uh, most of the, um, activities they do now, they can get themselves to it if they need to. So, I know that that’s okay if anything does happen to either me or my husband. But it’s always good to know that that support system is there even when they’re getting older. I know that there’s other mums around, but if my daughter or my son doesn’t talk to me, they might go to one of my friends.

Kirsty van den Bulk: Yeah, that’s so important, isn’t it? So, we’ve got our, uh, daughter’s got a good mom who is in her twenty s. And the reason for it is she’s an amazing, amazing, beautiful I wonder if she listens to this. You’re amazing. Emma absolutely stunning. Um, the most together woman I know and just adore her. But my whole theory was she’ll come and speak to you if there’s a problem. She won’t speak to me. And I want that. I mean, he’s being collected from school today, my friends helping her because I’m still not quite active enough and my husband’s got to go out. But it’s that community that I know. Although my daughter has told me that she wants to be like my friend Belinda and teach like Belinda, she wants not to be like me because I am mummy.

Sharon Smits: Yeah.

Kirsty van den Bulk: I don’t really know what you do, but Belinda’s a teacher and she’s really cool.

Sharon Smits: Teachers do an amazing job. I love teachers.

Kirsty van den Bulk: They really do. So, before we move on to hearing what has inspired you, I’d love you to share your story about being pregnant and sitting on a rock in Stavanger.

Sharon Smits: Okay, so there’s this rock that is basically like that over a fjord. So, it doesn’t have any guide rails or anything. And to get up to the top of this rock, well, it took us about 2 hours to get up there and its over boulders and uh, sleep inclines and everything. So, my husband was carrying my daughter in one of those backpack things because she was being just under two. And I was about four months pregnant and none of the guys who we were working with knew that I was pregnant. So, they’re all like jumping off and running up the hill and everything because they didn’t have families with them. And I’m going, oh my God, this is really difficult because I am fit but I’m not like ultra-fit. I don’t go running or anything like that. And it was a really hot day for Norway. Really hot. So, he was carrying the daughter, but I was carrying backpack with the picnic and the water because it was hot day, extra water. But it was all worth it because when we got to the top, this thing ah, it’s called Pulpit Rock. You should google it. Pulpit Rock or Pricker stolen in Norwegian obviously because I do speak of it in Norwegian. And um, it’s just stunning. And um, you see all these little fanny people on this rock because it’s massive. It’s like this great big tabletop and one of the things that you can do is sit on the edge. Like literally sit on the edge and look down. So yeah, that’s what I did when I was four months pregnant. And then we had to walk all the way back down again, which was almost as bad walking away.

Kirsty van den Bulk: I forget. Did you not feel busy?

Sharon Smits: Uh, no. It’s stunning.

Kirsty van den Bulk: The scenery.

Sharon Smits: Norway is stunning. So that was the third time I’ve been working in Norway, and I’d never managed to get there. So we sort of planned it ahead. And then I found out I was pregnant, and we said, shall we go? Shall we not go? I said, we’re never going to do it again because we’ll be gone before my son or the baby at the time was um, old enough to actually walk there on his own steam. Um, so we just bit the bullet and decided to go. One of our friends has actually been on a business trip to Norway since and he went up there. So probably you did that when you were pregnant.

Kirsty van den Bulk: So, I don’t think my hub has been up there because he’s gone to Norway a lot and I mean a huge amount of work and he’s never mentioned it. So, I’m going to go off here and ask him and when I am fit, maybe we can go and do it. I just need to get a little bit fitter. So that’s going to come. Um, I’m not going to dwell on that. I’m going to think positively. Um, who’s inspired you?

Sharon Smits: I was thinking about this earlier, and there isn’t one person that’s inspired me. Um, I think I’ve been, um well, anybody who’s a woman of my age.

Kirsty van den Bulk: We’ve been very, very our age. Uh, I’m a 71, baby. I don’t think there’s a huge difference.

Sharon Smits: Okay. A couple of years. All right. Um, you’re looking so wonderful.

Kirsty van den Bulk: Makeup.

Sharon Smits: Thank you. Yeah. So, what was I saying? I can’t remember m women of our age. We’ve been really, fortunate with the women, uh, that have been in focal points during our lives. So, lover or hater, we were there when the first female prime minister was in office. We just lost the second female prime minister, which is a bit topical, but hey, um, I need to find out all that. My daughter came home and went, oh, my God, the prime minister resigned. I love the relationship. Apparently, David Blaine was trending yesterday because apparently, she’s been in office as long as he was in his bus box. Really?

Kirsty van den Bulk: I love that.

Sharon Smits: Apparently that I heard on the radio yesterday that he was trending. I’m thinking, why is he trending? And they said, oh, he was in the box for 44 days at the same time as the prime minister was in office. I know. I was like was in office because I’ve been in meetings all day yesterday. I didn’t hear anything about it. So yeah, that was a bit weird. It’s all about social media, isn’t it? It’s all about that. So, yes, the market. Thatcher, love her or hate her? Very, very influential woman. And the Queen, obviously amazing, working as well as raised a fat. I know she had a lot of help. Don’t get me wrong. It takes a village.

Kirsty van den Bulk: She still did it.

Sharon Smits: She’s running the country. It’s a bit bigger than me going out to work every day. Um, and also my grandmother’s. I, um, was quite young when my dad’s mom died, but they both lost their husbands really, really early on. They had very, very maternal grandmother, had three children, and her husband died when my mom was three. And my paternal grandmother, there was just my dad, and his dad died when he was four. So, they bought their children up singlehanded and went out to work. So, I knew that they’d done that. So, I think it sort of instills in you, a work ethic. And, um um, along with my parents, my mom left school because she had to go out to work to help with, uh, my grandma, but she went back to school. So, when I was doing my O levels, my mom had gone back to high school, uh, in the evening to do, uh, her English level and computing, because she wanted to actually prove to herself that she could do it. She was doing a really good job. She was in charge of all of the domestics in the whole of the File coast, in all the hospitals when they used to have cleaners in house and the hospitals were sticking span. She was in charge of all that. So, I mean she’s quite um, an amazing woman. Well, she’s amazing. She’s, my mom. She’s amazing. But lots um, and lots of influential um, women. Very strong women. I’ve been surrounded by and always known that whatever I wanted to do, I would have the backup. If I wanted to do it, I would know that the support was there. My husband is amazing. He makes me do things that I don’t think I can do. And it’s really good because he pushes my boundaries. Which means that I push my daughter’s boundaries because sometimes she has confidence issues when it comes to physical stuff, sports, and stuff, she’s amazing. But physical stuff like riding a bike and doing sport and things like that, she’s not really, she takes up to me, whereas my son and my husband are really, really uh, sporty and athletic. So, if she sees me pushing my boundaries, then she pushes her boundaries too. And I understand m where she’s coming from. So um, yeah, he influenced me. He inspires me to actually go out and make the best of me.

Kirsty van den Bulk: I love that. It’s interesting what you just talking about, because people forget because we are women of a certain age, was it National Menopause Day this week? And we can’t hide away from that because it does change the way we think. It does impact, it doesn’t just impact on us, it has an impact on the family and the husband and everything. Don’t talk about it. I’m not going to go down a rant on it. But menopause isn’t just about us women. It is also about the fallout because it’s our hormones.

Sharon Smits: Yeah. Very uh, topically. We have done a whole range of policies with regards to menopause and not HRT. Well yeah, hidden, um, uh, PNT and all that kind of stuff. We’ve got a whole raft of policies that we’ve actually written because we know we’re actually living the dream. Uh, we do forget our words. I’m m surprised I’ve actually not forgotten a few words during this because normally I’m like, I can’t remember words. It really annoys me. They fall out of my head.

Kirsty van den Bulk: Seriously. I did that in a meeting this week. I know my clients name and I’m sitting in a meeting, and I literally went, Whoa. And I had to look at this young guy who’s in his twenty s and go, I’m sorry. And that was total menopause. Thankfully. He was really supportive. But it was, this is actually embarrassing.

Sharon Smits: Yeah. And if they don’t understand where you’re coming from, it’s really difficult. I’m I’m really lucky. When I first started, my um, husband turned around to me and went can you go and make an appointment at the doctors? I promptly burst into tears and went; I’ve got an appointment tomorrow. Ran out of the room. And then he followed me and went, I’m really sorry, but we really need to do something. You keep shouting at me, you keep shouting at the kids. And, um, obviously it’s not you. I want my wife back. Which is really, really sweet and great that he could actually say that to me and know that I would take action. I hadn’t told him I got a point, but I was obviously feeling the same. Um um they suggested exercise and diet. I went and I said, no, just give me the drugs, it’s fine. Wow.

Kirsty van den Bulk: Mine was I was rocking my daughter to bed because she was only nine months old, my gift to motherhood, and I was rocking her to bed, and I was actually stripping my clothes off to try and get her to bed. And coming up, my husband was going, didn’t you go in wearing clothes? Yeah, kind of. Um thank you for sharing that. What I was going to just quickly touch on was that my dad and we don’t talk about it very often because we are women of a certain age. My dad stopped school at 14, he went out to work at 14 years old. And for some reason, it’s become normal that obviously, people go to university, they stay at college, they get vacation, training, whatever they want to do. The government changed the rules. You stay in school, tier 18 or 19. And so it goes on. But actually, our parents’ generation, a lot of them stopped working at 14. And I just think, yeah, really incredible. We’ve had some lovely comments. Um, so Luke Steel is one of my best friends. I love him. He said, he’s told us to get a room. Well, you know.

Sharon Smits: It’s all about the love, Luke.

Kirsty van den Bulk: I would turn that back to Luke and say, what does it say about you? Luke said, I always like when people find inspiration with people around them. So many look at influences. Oh, yes, so many look at influences, etc. But the truth is, your biggest inspiration being right under your nose. I totally and utterly my granny, she packed parachutes in the wall. Wow. My other granny worked, um, her finger to bone, making clothes in, uh, her living room for people to bring extra money into support. Family. Yes, 100%.

Sharon Smits: Um, my mom rolled Blackpool Rock when I was in school. I used to sit on the end of the bench, and you could take me to school, so I was like, three or four, and sit on the end of the bench while my mum was rolling Blackpool Rock. I grew up in Blackpool.

Kirsty van den Bulk: We were just talking about Blackpool before we came on air, because 31 years ago, I started rehearsing 42nd street at, um, the Winter Garden. So we were just hoping. That was really important. Of course, that’s where you’re from, is that right?

Sharon Smits: That’s correct. Yes.

Kirsty van den Bulk: I love it. Right? So, um, Jenny, thank you for joining us. Dr. Jenny, and love you, I really do. She’s just that she agrees with me. Loving this conversation. Paris packing granny yet, seriously. Um, there’s a whole conversation on there about my grandparents. I absolutely inspirational parents to six kids, lost one in their 20 when he was in his 20s. Still kept the family together. And my granny was a matriarch. If she said, we all did. Um, this is where you get to turn the conversation around, because I’ve been throwing questions at you, and you get throw something at me, and I get to hope I don’t make a fool of myself when I answer it.

Sharon Smits: Uh, what can I ask you? Okay, so, uh, how did you get into acting?

Kirsty van den Bulk: Oh, that’s actually geo no one’s ever asked that. Because I was born mute. Yeah, no one’s ever asked that. Uh, so I was born mute. Uh, well, not mute, that’s the wrong phrase. I was born with a massive speech impediment, so I had a hole at the base of the nasal pharynx. And they had to do an operation when I was about four and a half. And I hated speech therapy. I absolutely hated it. And my mom was looking for another route, what can we do? And, um, Lorna McGrath, who, again, amazing woman, inspirational. Spoken to her about her before. She, um, ran the grow school of dancing drama. And she said to my mom, well, she’s too young for drama, but I’ll take her on. And I’ve been going to dance classes anyway, because I could feel the beats and I could feel that rhythm, and I could communicate through music and, um, drama, wow. It just opened up a completely new world for me. I was performing in the local dance show that Lorna had choreographed, along with Miss Gwen, and an agent came along, and I was six, I think I was six. Picked me up and then I started auditioning. I got my first advert when I was about eight. Uh, I was seven, but it came out when I was eight. And, um, that was hindsight beans. And yes, you can still see it. Uh, it was shown in the Daily Mail recently, which made me giggle. Um, and then through there, I just did more and more. And then I got to arts, so arts educational, and had to stop all acting because we were serious performers. And the reason I’m a little bit not moving as well as I should is because of the amount of dance training I did. And then I graduated at 19 and got my first professional adult gig, which was 42nd street at the age of 20. And that started today. So, it’s this whole thing. And then I put up my dancing shoes because I didn’t want to be crippled by the time, I was 50, I wanted to be acting. And I loved it. I absolutely loved it. Uh, to me, my biggest love would always be acting. But and I do put a button there, and I know that negates everything. I wasn’t making enough money to survive. I couldn’t buy a house. And one day I just looked and went, I don’t want to be in the Actress Benevolent Fund. And that’s why I do what I do today. Because I decided I don’t want to be reliant on XY, paying for my retirement. I want to bloody do it myself. I want to do it myself. So, there you go. That’s my story.

Sharon Smits: That’s amazing. I didn’t know that. I obviously hadn’t asked you. We were concentrating on the near past, were we?

Kirsty van den Bulk: Rather than yeah, I couldn’t do what I do now. So, I look at my life and I honestly, I am so grateful, because the years I spent at dealing, the years I spent at Samsung and Hanoi, the years I spent at retail profiling, the years I spent in town as a sales trainer, all of those things get me to do what I do today. So, I genuinely love my life journey. Um, and of course, the biggest thing for me was meeting my beautiful Dennis. And that’s me. I love Dennis. Anyone who’s met Dennis, he knows he’s a good guy. He’s the best guy.

Sharon Smits: Yeah, I’m completely with you. Uh, people say, oh, is there anything that you regret in your life? I’m like, no, I’ve got no regrets. Because if things hadn’t happened, and things have happened to me over the years, if things hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be.

Kirsty van den Bulk: Where I am now.

Sharon Smits: And I’ve taken on all the experience of all the different jobs I’ve got, because it took me a while to get actually full time into HR. And, um, it’s all about that journey, and all about taking little bits from different places and using them. Today I can use my degree sometimes. What’s it all about?

Kirsty van den Bulk: This is probably why and I’m going to wrap it up now, but this is probably why when we met, we are sorry, can-do spirit because I don’t get nervous very often.I’m that big old duck. I can handle anything. But, walking into a room full of women is my worst nightmare. Because I’m great, because I’ve always worked in male dominated environments. So, I was comfortable in a room full of men, but a, uh, room for a woman.

Sharon Smits: I was scared.

Kirsty van den Bulk: I was really like we’re not. It’s just I think we can put up our spikes and our protection because we must and we’ve learnt to, but, once we scratch the surface and we take that protection off, it’s the best in the world because we support each other. And when we can bring men to that as well wow.

Sharon Smits: There must be a term for a collection of women, wasn’t there? Uh, must be.

Kirsty van den Bulk: I’m going to give you that after this. So, there’s a place called the Witterings. And the Witterings is something about a witter. It’s named after wittering women or something. I probably got that wrong, but there’s something about a witter of women. Anyway, that note, thank you so much. I’ve thoroughly loved this conversation.

Sharon Smits: I loved it too. Thank you so much, Kirsty.

Kirsty van den Bulk: No problem.

Sharon Smits: Take care.

Kirsty van den Bulk: And you.

In this episode:

00:01 Kirsty van den Bulk Introduces Sharon Smith
00:06 How we met at a Networking event
00:53 Sharon Smits Talks about her life and Sylo Beyond
01:50 Powerful woman
02:09 Gratitude
02:52 Networking and Connecting People
03:37 Oxlep
03:58 Sylo Beyond HR Support small business
08:36 Why I am not a stay-at-home mum
09:19 Norway
11:41 PTA, NCT and the Mum’s network
12:23 It takes a village
12:58 Death of friend during Covid
14:10 Supporting the children left behind.
16:23 Friendship
17:01 Teachers
17:13 Sitting on the edge of a rock in Strovanga whilst pregnant
19:54 Who inspired you.
21:02 Liz Truss
21:47 Margaret Thatcher
22:18 Family
25:15 HRT, Menopause and Periods
27:22 Our parents’ generation
29:26 Parachute Packing your granny
29:53 Your turn to Ask Kirsty van den Bulk
30:05 How did you get into acting
30:18 Speech impediment so I had a
30:31 Speech therapy
31:21 Heinz baked beans TV Advert
31:53 42nd Street
33:04 Kirsty’s working life
35:07 The Witterings

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