Julia Duncan - Head of IT to Photographer of Little People

"Motherhood knocked my confidence dramatically.  I under-valued myself in my first role after voluntary redundancy and took a pay cut that I shouldn't have.  Whilst I correctly that fairly quickly, it probably took me a year to get my confidence back."
“I feel grateful to be able to do the school run, chuffed to be able to be present with my daughter when she is at home but also to have time to myself to do something I love is great.  The guilt has disappeared.”

 Career overview

After finishing university, Julia quickly accepted a temporary role for Ericsson. This role formed the beginning of a near 20-year career in Telecoms and IT ending ultimately with a “Head of” role reporting directly into the CIO for Telefonica.

“I had essentially fallen into a career that I hadn’t really planned.”

What triggered your career change/career re-design?

“I went on maternity leave knowing that I needed a change.  I was scared to death of leaving but even though Telefonica had technology systems to allow for remote working, I would still have been traveling a lot and working long hours.  Since the arrival of my daughter, my priorities had changed.”

Whilst on maternity leave, voluntary redundancy was offered which gave Julia a fantastic opportunity to make a change.

“I was worried about how friends and family might judge my departure.  I was concerned about how I would be perceived in the market-place after voluntary redundancy and my perception as a mum if I ever needed to go back to the corporate workplace.”

“I had always been quite an arty person and wondered if I could make that work as a business but had no real, firm ideas.  That said, I felt like I had an opportunity to try something that I would regret if I didn’t take it.”

“My daughter was born in May 2013 and I left Telefonica under voluntary redundancy in October 2014.”

First steps?

Even though I had made the decision to accept voluntary redundancy I had no clue what I would do.   A dinner table conversation changed that.   Whilst discussing my lack of next step career ideas, my mother-in-law suggested that since I loved photography I might consider doing something in that field.  A bolt of excitement ran through me. That was it!”

Then Julia began a huge research project to figure out what kind of photography would work and what business model would be best.  “After investigating franchises in detail I decided to go with the Photography for Little People franchise.  I liked the support that they offered.  Decision made – then I just had to find the money to pay for the franchise!”

“I took me two years contracting part-time to save up pennies to buy into the franchise.  At the same time, I honed my photography skills, learned about the business and spent some lovely time with my daughter.” 

“There is a misconception from the corporate world that it’s really easy to run your own business.  It is hideously hard.  There is no-one to delegate anything to. You can’t blame anyone when things go wrong. You have to do all the managing, the doing AND also have the entrepreneurial vision to make it work.  The other thing I spent time doing was to shake off the corporate mould that I spent nearly 20 years building.”

“I read an enlightening article once that said that photographers spent about 20% of their work time actually taking photos and the rest of their time is spent editing, social media marketing, networking, planning campaigns and running their businesses.  I’m so glad I read it as it gave me forewarning about the reality.”

What did you learn during that process?

“So much it’s staggering!  There are 2 sides to my learning:

1) Motherhood knocked my confidence dramatically.  I under-valued myself in my first role after voluntary redundancy and took a pay cut that I shouldn’t have.  Whilst I corrected that fairly quickly, it probably took me a year to get my confidence back and get my professional head back on.

2)  Support:  it is amazing how much support there is for people wanting to set up their own business.  The amount of free training available is incredible – if you know where to look.  Also, so many people are willing to help you for nothing, to give you the benefit of their experience.  This realisation is what led me to set-up my own networking group for local business ladies. Find us on Facebook by searching Beccles Business Babes.”   

“Making a change is hard work.  Some days, I feel dragged down by the need to keep plugging away at it.  I have to remind myself to take time out and to remember why I wanted to become self-employed in the first place.  Having a vision board helps as does writing down 3 good things that have happened that day when I go to bed.”

“If I look back at just this year on how much I’ve learned and how many amazing people I’ve met, I still can’t quite believe it.  Each conversation seems to open another door or spark another idea.”

“I had a period recently when I couldn’t work on my business as much as I had hoped due to personal illness and a family bereavement.  I kept up the crucial elements of the business and no one noticed except me. The flexibility to work hard when I can and not if life takes over is fantastic.”

If you had to do it all again, what would you do differently?  Why?

“I would have sought out more inspirational entrepreneurs who had set-up their own businesses to understand the pitfalls and get their tips etc.  There’ve been a few mistakes I’ve made that they might have saved me from doing.”

“To have had more belief in myself and my abilities in the first year.  I was scared to ask for what I was worth and spent too much time comparing myself to competitors.”

On the days that you KNOW you have made the right decision, how do you feel?

“Relieved!  Liberated and excited!”

“On a good day, I find myself smiling and singing to a good tune on the radio knowing that I feel proud.”

“When I over-hear my daughter proudly telling people that her mummy is going to take a photo of someone today, I feel great that I am inspiring her as well.”

“I feel grateful to be able to do the school run, chuffed to be able to be present with my daughter when she is at home but also to have time to myself to do something I love is great.  The guilt has disappeared.”

Any regrets?

“I’m 43 and wish I’d discovered my new career earlier.  That said, maybe the timing was just right.”

What one piece of advice would you give to anyone re-designing their midlife career?

“Don’t rush it.  Take time to really think about the skills you have and the value you can add.  Don’t judge yourself just on academic qualifications.  Visit trade fairs / franchise events / networking events / courses aimed at those thinking of starting a business or retraining.  Some will be useful, some won’t, but they will help you to structure your ideas and focus in on your priorities.”

Find out more about Julia:

Networking Group - https://www.facebook.com/groups/1664449473582717/

Business website - http://photographyforlittlepeople.com/user/julia/

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/PhotographyforLittlePeoplebyJulia/

Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/photographyforlittlepeoplebyjd/

Twitter - https://twitter.com/plpnorwich

Google+ -https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/108953534854529658326/+PhotographyforLittlePeoplebyJuliaWorlingham