Elizabeth Sheldon

Elizabeth’s fascinating past has taken her from nursing to commercial interior design and now, for over a decade, to forensic computing

Elizabeth is the Chairman of Evidence Talks Ltd and Vice President of Security for the Aerospace, Defence and Security Industry

With a passion for running businesses, Elizabeth has a renewed focus on the growth of Evidence Talks (ETL), an innovative digital forensic technology company. She concentrates on the business strategy and building the processes and functions that have resulted in a robust business structure.

She is also winner of the National First Woman of Science & Technology 2017, a committee member of Women in STEM with Milton Keynes Council.

Elizabeth, Welcome to the Leadership Interview

How do you start your day?

I am fortunate that I wake up clear-headed and ready to go, I have always been a morning person. After showering, dressing and breakfasting I will review the day ahead and make a ‘to-do’ list. Checking emails that have arrived overnight is the next step.

Having international clients means that they are working whilst we sleep so it is important to address queries as soon as we can before they retire for the night.

What was your first job and what is the worst job you’ve ever done?

My first job was a paper delivery girl at the age of 13. 6:15 every morning before school, but I guess that is not what you meant!

I left school and trained as a nurse at Charing Cross Hospital in London, ending up as Sister in Intensive Care.

The worst job is a more difficult question to answer as my attitude has always been if I have to do a job then I will do it to the best of my ability and I will enjoy it.

There is nothing worse than thinking I do not want to do this, time slows and it is impossible to gain any satisfaction for the tasks.

So enjoy it and you will learn something even if it is about yourself.

What advice would you give to others about furthering their careers?

4 pieces of advice:

  1. Read widely.

I subscribe to the Harvard Business Review and there are a number of very interesting topics relating to my areas of interest and more extensively, business in general that add to the richness of my knowledge.

  1. Network extensively.

You never meet anyone who may not be useful at some point in your career, or, if not your career, then the career of a colleague who then will do you a good deed in return. It is all about who you know.

  1. Never make enemies.

If there is someone you do not get on with or like, guard your feelings and pretend if necessary. You do not want anyone speaking badly of you and you never know when that person could be useful.

  1. Volunteer for things.

Your career will progress if you give back to society and/or business. I have always volunteered for things in business and that has resulted in being offered some excellent opportunities and contacts. I made myself available.

More importantly, I have always given back to society, I have had a privileged life and so it is right that I should give my time and experience to those less fortunate. You do reap what you sow.

Who inspires you and why?

I am inspired by a variety of people. Nelson Mandela has always inspired me. He fought for what he believed in although to begin with he did not act in a way he would have condoned later on in life.

He was imprisoned for over 2 decades but he was not bitter he turned out to be a kind a compassionate leader who did great things for his country and fellow South Africans, not many people could have left prison with the attitude of kindness and forgiveness as he did.

I am also inspired by people with intellect and fortitude such as Professor Stephen Hawking. His legacy is enormous and he did it all with a totally debilitating disease that would have crushed the best of us.

Do you think a talent to lead is nature or nurture?

I think it is a combination of the two.

You have to want to lead, but not all those who want to lead are good leaders.

Leadership can be learned certainly, you can watch a good leader and learn techniques, adapt your style to reflect good practices, but some leaders are most certainly born.

How can a leader fail? Do you have a personal example?

One of the greatest skills of any leader is that of listening.

Too many people pay lip (or ear) service to listening, they hear part of what someone is saying, then drift off on their own track or interrupt because they feel they know what is being said.

A good leader listens, engages then acts.

Another mistake made by some leaders I have witnessed is that of talking too much and not allowing others to contribute.

A good leader will garner opinions from many contributors and select the best to action. Because you are a leader does not mean you must only use your knowledge or opinions, good leaders will seek a wider base from which to select the right path.

What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

One of my weaknesses is that I find it difficult to suffer fools. I can be abrupt and short, a somewhat strange thing to admit when I said not to make enemies. However, I am much better than I was.

I also prefer brevity to a lot of detail. I enjoy a briefing where the salient points can be summarised to a long meeting where people go on and on.

My strengths include being a good leader (I think), being able to grasp concepts quickly and having the ability to stay calm in times of stress and rationally think through viable solutions to issues.

What do you find most challenging about being a leader?

One of the most difficult things about is having enough time to devote to everything I do.

Leading two organisations means prioritising time, meetings and events. Truly one cannot be in two places at the same time.

As my life has progressed I have decided that for every new thing I take on, I have to drop something else and that is working better for me.

Managing people, their expectations, and demands are, without doubt, the most challenging aspect of leadership but in some cases can also be the most rewarding.

What are you most proud of?

I was incredibly surprised but very, very proud to have been chosen and the CBI Woman of Science and Technology 2017.

I am also extremely proud of the technologies that we develop here at Evidence Talks that help our hard-working police officers and military personnel to keep our nation, businesses and citizens free from harm by catching criminals, cyber criminals and terrorists.

What’s your biggest self-indulgence?

I love good shoes and matching handbags!! I also love Pinot Noir wine.

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