Sloan Career Stories: In Conversation with Lee-Ann Perkins (Sloan2012)

Sloan Career Coach Annette Minihan spoke to Lee-Ann Perkins, Sloan2012, who transitioned from a military career into sustainability, following her Sloan. She tells us how to pivot and adapt to the unexpected in your career. You can watch the interview or read the transcript below.

So when did you do Sloan?

I was a Sloan in 2012, coming to London and business school after a 24-year military career.

That’s a big change. Why the decision to come to Sloan?

Well, it was certainly not something that I was looking to do originally, my first thought was, that I wanted to go back to school after my military career. I started looking around at opportunities for somebody like me who is a bit more mature than your average MBA student. Having said that, I did look at London Business School and other schools here in London because I wanted to live here. At the MBA programs, because I didn’t know that there were other things available to me. But once I got into the LBS ecosystem, if you will, then I was introduced to the opportunity to come to Sloan, which was a far better fit. In fact, once I started having conversations with Linden, who is the all time link to the Sloans, if you will. It became very clear that that was absolutely the program for me.

How did you find your year?

It was absolutely fantastic. I think the word transformational is probably overused, but it certainly fits in my experience of Sloan, both in getting to know myself again, because I think I lost a little bit of that during my lengthy career, as well as providing a foundation in some of the business tools and skills that I didn’t bring with me.

As you’re one of the people that we know has definitely transformed quite significantly since the program, what have you ended up doing since you left us?

When I left LBS, I actually pursued another master’s degree. LBS and the Sloan program solidified my interest in the sustainability in low carbon sector, and I wanted to get a bit more in-depth education and knowledge in that area. So I went to the School of Oriental and African Studies and I did a masters in global energy and climate policy. Once I finished with that, I started to work for a small company that focused on energy efficiency in the domestic housing market, as well as understanding where fuel poverty exists in the UK and how to mitigate and rectify that situation. So, that’s where I started. But I have since evolved into a larger role, where I run programs of business and innovation support, for startups and small companies in the sustainability sector.

Wow, quite a big transformation. So you moved countries and you moved sectors, and responsibilities as well, I suppose?

Yes, absolutely. I moved from an organisation that was very hierarchical and bureaucratic, with a lot of set rules, to a very flat entrepreneurial organisation, where business is done in quite a different way.

Okay, sounds good. I presume, that hasn’t been a smooth road; there’s been the occasional bump or things that didn’t go to plan?

The occasional bump might be putting it kind of mildly! In particular, I think the biggest hurdle that I overcame was the original role that I moved into, in helping improve the energy efficiency of the domestic housing market here in the UK. That sector actually took quite a big hit about a year or so after I moved into that role. It was very challenging to figure that out that, that it wasn’t going to lead me where I thought it was going to and that the market was not very solid. That is when I started looking at other areas of helping the sustainability and low energy sector here in the UK, but in a different way. That’s when I started evolving the role into what it is today, which is running these programs’ business support.

So you took what you had and you basically figured out a way to make that better for a longer term career.

Yes, I did. As many Sloans or business students might understand, it was kind of acknowledging that maybe this line of work wasn’t going to be what you thought it was, or wasn’t going to be the resounding success, and doing a pivot. Very challenging and sometimes it takes a knock to your self-esteem when you do that. But in my case, it’s turned out to be a pretty happy ending.

We always ask people at the end of these sessions, if you had one piece of advice to give the current Sloan’s and leadership students at LBS, what would it be?

I think it’ that you need to be very open about learning and being receptive, to input from all different angles. That could come from your fellow students, it could come from even, in my case, I learned some great things from some of the memes, if you will. Be willing to be straight with yourself, about what you want to do and where you want to go, and what kind of work and effort that’s going to take to get there.


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