Jan Babiak - Prime Women | An Online Magazine

Jan Babiak

Board Member of Walgreens Boots Alliance, Euromoney Institutional Investor and Bank of Montreal; Former Managing Partner EY


Insights on becoming a non-executive director

I recently interviewed Jan Babiak for a program that Prime Women will be running, to hear Jan’s insights into becoming a non-executive director. We are both fellow alumni of EY and she has achieved what is the holy grail for so many – a portfolio non-executive director career.  But as you will see, she worked extremely hard to make this happen – planning ahead for years. And that is one of the tips she will be sharing on Prime Women’s program they will be launching October 23, 2018.

So first, a bit about Jan and then to cover how she created her second act so successfully.

Jan’s LinkedIn profile explains her former executive career – a global business leader with over 30 years in P&L management, technology, cybersecurity, regulatory, finance, and more, with Ernst & Young (now EY).  Twenty of these years were spent in London where she became Managing Partner, leaving the firm in 2009.

Jan now holds non-executive director roles with Walgreens Boots Alliance, Euromoney Institutional Investor, Bank of Montreal, the GHD Group and GlobalLogic – and previous roles with Royal Mail and Logica PLC.

Tip 1 – plan ahead

Jan’s biggest tip is you can’t expect the phone to ring off the wall – you have to make your career happen. She says you would think, from the media perspective, the only reason there aren’t more women on boards is there aren’t enough women, “And that is really wrong,” she says.  “There are a lot of AMAZING women out there – and a lot of AMAZING men too.” Her point is that it is extremely competitive and you will need to put yourself forward if you want one of these coveted roles.

How did Jan plan ahead? Well, she is probably one of a kind, as she started creating life plans when she was eight years old and always has a solid ten year plan ahead. When she reached her late 30s she started thinking seriously about the experience she would need for long term board roles, “I played a long game, for example, taking on P&L roles when I could have gone for better paid roles but not built the experience I would need.”

Jan also thought about the downsides – a portfolio career does not give certainty of income and many roles are not paid, but offer equity which may not achieve a return for a decade or so.

Tip 2 – take advice from non-executives

When Jan was ready to leave her ‘single career’ and move into her plural, she interviewed 40 men and women who had made this transition. The 35 women she interviewed were both generous with their time and she felt would have the most relevant experience for her – but the five men represented those on the nominating committees who would make appointment decisions.

The thing most people were worried about was how Jan would adjust from running operations with tens of thousands of people to a portfolio, advisory career, but she did not see this as a problem, “For me, it was not dissimilar to managing multiple clients and stakeholders.”

Tip 3 – what do you really want from your second act?

Apart from taking on non-executive roles, Jan has coached and helped dozens of women and started Project Starfish. This video on EY’s alumni site explains more about how Jan built a database of female candidates she could recommend to headhunters.

Jan coaches a lot of women and points out this is a wonderful time of life to fulfil dreams and ambitions, “For some women it is a time to give back, some want to start a business and for others it is the first time they can really choose who they want to work with.”

Her advice is to reflect on what you want to invest your time in.

To hear more of Jan’s tips and to get practical help in shaping your second act, join Prime Women’s online program. This is five 90-minute sessions over several weeks, with a small group of your peers. You will cover how to create a plan for a life on your terms and gain skills in personal branding, strategic networking, LinkedIn and more to make your plan happen. Click here for information and to book your place – this is limited to just ten women. You will hear more insights from Jan and other women who made stunning transitions – to become board directors, social entrepreneurs, a wine writer and even having a TV show!

Written by Victoria Tomlinson, Next Up