When Charlotte Owen stumbled across The Portfolio Collective, she was on the hunt for a role that allowed her to work flexibly and juggle her most important job as a new mum. All it took was a nudge from her long-time friend and community member Nicola Twiston Davies and a deep dive into all our values and community to convince her to join our team.
Now, as our Team Coordinator, Charlotte gets involved in a plethora of different projects and tasks – from HR and events to learning facilitation, whilst also supporting the team to make everyone’s lives a little bit easier.
We sat down with Charlotte to learn more about what she does and to find out what life was like before TPC.
We’d love to know, what does your role at The Portfolio Collective look like day to day?
I’m the Team Coordinator, which means that I do a little bit of everything for everyone. I mainly focus on events, HR, supporting the team on the different projects we have going on and I’ve also recently started dipping my toes into the learning and courses side of things.
Describing a typical day is truly very difficult because it really does vary day to day. At the moment, I’m doing lots of research for our in-person events as that’s an area we want to build out and evolve in the new year. I also spend time chatting with the community – taking calls, providing people with feedback and guidance and educating them on what we do here at TPC. On top of that, I’ve been working on data analysis from our portfolio career survey, so a whole lot of variety, really.
So many different things! What was life like before The Portfolio Collective?
I was on a very long holiday period, having a baby. So safe to say it wasn’t the most restful of holidays. But prior to that I had been working as a talent manager for a teeny tiny tech startup in Amsterdam, which was lots of fun. Getting to experience a new country and a new industry was quite a drastic change, but one I really enjoyed.
Before that I spent eight years in education, within the apprenticeship sector specifically. What I really loved was that a lot of the stuff I’d been working on in the apprenticeship sector translated really nicely across into the tech space. And now, it threads into TPC with all the training and learning we provide has felt really organic which is great.
That’s great! And what was it like living in Amsterdam?
It was so cool, but very, very hectic! There are a lot of tourists, all of the time, and I quickly became one of those people that just wanted to figure out how to get away from them. I lived in an area called De Pijp which was really busy with lots of bars and restaurants, so I had a great time.
That sounds like so much fun. And back to TPC, the team and our community make up quite a big part of your role. If you’re thinking slightly longer term, is there something that you’d love to be a part of?
Having worked on analysing the data from our recent survey, I’d love to be a part of repeating the exercise next year. It could be the data side of things or also creating and being a bigger part of telling the story would be really cool because it’s such a central point of reference for anything to do with portfolio careers. I’ve never been a part of that before but working on white papers and the like would be really interesting and a great learning experience.
I love getting into the flow and working methodically through things. It sounds nerdy, but it’s like getting to know someone. And once you’ve kind of got that understanding and comprehension you can start being more curious and deep dive into the data to find really interesting pieces of information that people are trying to tell you en masse, but that you haven’t necessarily explicitly asked for.
That’s such a nice way of looking at data analysis. I’ve never thought about it like that before.
Right? Another thing I’d love to be more involved in is events, because they’re just super fun. They get everyone really galvanised. I think that online events are great, but in-person events, for me, are even better! There’s such a lovely sense of community when you’re physically present with people, it really makes you feel part of something.
I’d love to be a part of making our in-person events more regular and less ad-hoc and then growing them from there. And who knows in a few years maybe we’ll be having some sort of mega event at the O2 or something – that’d be really cool.
That seems entirely doable for sure. As you’ve mentioned, you’ve recently had a baby. How have you found transitioning back into work?
Honestly, it’s not easy, but I think I’ve picked a great company to be a part of to support me. It’s really hard – I used to be a perfectionist and was the sort of incredibly driven person that’d stay until the work was done, but now I literally cannot do that. So having to come to terms with that change is difficult at times. Everyone here has been incredibly understanding and flexible, but there’s obviously a part of you that still doesn’t want to let anyone down.
When you’re joining a new company I think you naturally want to show off a bit, and give your best self, but I feel like that is amplified when you’re returning from ‘mat leave’ to a brand new team. Coming back to work to something totally fresh – new systems, new people, new approach – has made me want to go above and beyond to prove my worth. Maybe not just to the TPC gang, but to myself.
I actually spoke to someone in the community that gave some great advice about being a working mum, and she said “you cannot give 100%, you have to aim for 60%”. And that was horrifying to me as someone who is such a perfectionist, but it was really nice to hear from someone else who’s been through it and is now out the other end and so successful.
For sure! And that definitely speaks to the benefit of working flexibly. What did you know about portfolio careers before you started at TPC? And what have you learnt since?
I’d never even come across the term portfolio career before I found out about TPC. I did a little bit of freelance work during my maternity leave and had thought that I’d continue doing that while Huxley, my baby, is little. I was looking to curate that lifestyle and I’d been moaning to my friend Nicola about how inflexible employers are and how depressing job descriptions can be. Of course, Nicola, being a long-time member of The Portfolio Collective, told me to check out what you were doing. I saw that TPC was hiring and that you facilitated everything to do with flexible working just as a matter of course, which is obviously very cool and where everyone needs to be going.
I think until employers fully trust their employees and allow more flexibility, portfolio careers are the way to go.
I came into TPC thinking a portfolio career was all about being a freelancer and not really thinking it was much more than that. What I realise now is that a portfolio career is a whole variety of things and that it also means different things to different people.
I’m learning so much about thinking in new ways, so I think the value that TPC brings is just opening up people’s eyes to other opportunities and other options that aren’t always immediately obvious. Having the opportunity to chat to other people that have either done it, or are considering it, and the willingness of everyone in the community to just lend a hand to one another is very cool. I don’t think that exists in many places.
And finally, what advice would you give to someone who’s looking to embrace a more flexible working style - or even jump straight into a portfolio career?
You have got to figure out what you want to achieve first, then mould the rest around it. Be prepared for that to evolve over time, but be clear in your goals and boundaries. That way you will organically find the right opportunities for you and ensure you’re meeting the expectations of others, but most importantly, yourself.
Think this sounds like the right path for you? Come along to our monthly Get started event for new members to find out what a portfolio career could look like and how The Portfolio Collective can help you take those first steps towards professional success – and don’t forget to connect with our community!