Cressida, can you tell us a little about your memories of Oxford High?
Well, I made some wonderful friends, people I’m still very much in touch with now. I had great fun, I played lots of sports. I learned to love nature and I think, gained hugely in confidence. The school, and my family as well, always made me feel I could do almost anything I wanted, if I just applied myself and took it seriously and didn’t take no for an answer.
And I’m so grateful for that, because I know that even nowadays, lots of young women don’t have very much confidence, which really frustrates me. But I was very lucky and I think I also learnt quite a lot of resilience and, I hope, quite a bit of humility.
Along with an interest to learn all the time, which has stood me in good stead.
What tips would you give our GDST girls about managing your career and leadership?
Well, we’re all different. But I do think it’s worth trying to do something that you really love. I’ve been lucky enough to do that – I’ve loved every moment of my police service. Of course you'll have some harder times, so it’s important to try to build your own personal resilience.
I know that often, people are taught that you have to set out with very clear goals, and know where you want to be in future years. But my working life has been a series of accidents and opportunities and encouragement from other people.
I believe to some extent you get back what you give. If you as a leader look after your people, you’re interested in them as human beings and you are prepared to surround yourself with people who say “No, you’re wrong,” not “Of course you’re right,” which can happen particularly in senior positions, then you can learn to be a better leader all the time.
The last thing I would say is to look at leaders both in the school environment and outside world and see what they do. Every day I try and take something from somebody around me and think “If I could do a bit more of what they do” then I could get better.
So you’re constantly learning and constantly evolving?
Absolutely. For me, having a mentor or somebody who is outside my immediate work environment, who is there to tell me as it is and what they see in me, and to be quite objective about that, has always been very useful. I think that would be useful for people of any age – whether they’re setting out on their working life or they are in their 70s. To have a mentor or coach is really helpful.
That’s a really good tip. And lastly, I’m sure people would like to know something about you out of work. Tell us how you relax.
Well, policing, like a lot of jobs, is quite tough. So I take a lot of my inspiration from what I have seen in other people – the courage, the determination and the compassion.
But I also think in any job, even in a big and busy role where there’s a lot to do, working long hours and doing our very best to protect and support people, you have to be able to relax. You’re a much better leader if you have the energy to think clearly and critically.
So I do spend time in the countryside when I can. I like to exercise a lot, I enjoy myself with my friends, and I am very lucky to be a good sleeper. I find that when I am concentrating on my work, I’m very focused and when I’ve decided it’s time to relax, then I’ll relax very easily.
I always try to make sure I protect a reasonable amount of time off, and I insist that my people do too. I think if you’re grounded, you’re balanced and well supported at home and you know how to enjoy yourself and relax, you’ll be a much better leader.
Well we are very proud that you are a GDST girl. Thank you.
I’m very honoured and very surprised that I’ve become Alumna of the Year. I wish you and the GDST all the very best for the future. It’s a great organisation!