Women that inspire: Rachel Puttick – bringing big energy into the world of learning and development

When you are on a mission, the Universe will give you signs to keep you on the right track. That is how I felt when I met Rachel Puttick – an extraordinary woman with endless stories to share. A couple of weeks ago, I announced my book project in a business group and she replied in under 24h, leaving me speechless. That was some commitment from somebody who has never met me! Therefore, I wanted to have a chat, and wouldn’t you know it, she baffled me with her sparkly personality and burning passion for human rights in general and women’s rights in particular. For me, the conversation passed as smooth as I was talking with my best friend. Her positive energy makes you smile even through the phone and now I get it why all her clients are in love with her! I am so happy she agreed to share her experiences and inspire me and others to be the best versions of ourselves.

Rachel, tell us the most important things people should know about you in under 30 seconds:

I am 46 years young and at the moment live in the UK. I run Like Learning Ltd, a boutique learning and development company, which I founded when I was made unemployed at 6 months pregnant. I wanted to get out of the ”walk in”, give information and ”walk out” ways that I had seen other consultants deliver.  Our work is all about a commitment to your people’s development – assessing learning needs; designing bespoke programmes and workshops and ensuring that learning is  brought back to the workplace with post learning cohort reviews and action planning at the heart of what we do. 

You were born and raised in the UK. How were your childhood years and what were the two lessons you learned as a girl?

We were a busy and large extended family with no spare money but lots of love and values. I learned that:

1. Money doesn’t make the man (or woman) – Beatles, the famous song from the 1970s, “money can’t buy you love” was often played  and we were taught that love was more important than money or things.  

2. In line with having things not being important we were taught to look after other people, that we are all humans.

You have had quite an interesting career so far. What were actually your plans as a little girl?

I wanted to be a police woman. Because I wanted to help people in an exciting way!

Wow, that is a surprise answer! What change as you grew up? What was ”the dream” as a teenager? Did that develop into a career?

Have the love of the boy I loved! I was deeply in love with the twin brother of my best friend! I wanted to travel the world, I wanted to live outside of society’s norms. Neither were career orientated, I wanted to explore and have love – that is how I was as a teen.

Funny story: I pretended to menstruate at 12 because I was embarrassed that it hadn’t started! There was a lot of peer group pressure on growing up quickly and I always wanted to be accepted within my group and stay ahead of the game – like most of us. 

That was an interesting story and I can presume that your teenage years were also a bit ”out of the ordinary”. How did you feel during this transition from a girl to a woman?

I was quite self-conscious. I didn’t want to be loved and valued based on how pretty and slim I was. Looks were always valued; the boy I was in love with had told me once when I was 14 – ”you look pretty in this photo, you don’t look yourself” and I attached a meaning to that which was I needed to be prettier. Crazy what we do, right? Now I’d hear it as just words – thoughtless ones albeit. I had been taught to value what was inside. Yet throughout the years you are still complimented on weight loss; looking good etc. and I often internalised that, regardless of my education and achievements. I take responsibility, it is my choice to take a meaning from that or not to – usually human beings do – and then use whatever we can find as evidence for negative stories.

You are a mother to a beautiful 8-year-old girl. What is motherhood to you? What are you doing different with her than your parents did with you?

It is the most difficult and heart whole job ever. I never know if I’m doing it ”right”, yet I’ve never loved like I love my daughter. My Mother is amazing and she lived in a traditional church life way – the body was very little discussed, we did not discuss menstruation and my vagina was called we-we, which I found confusing.  I try to be very open about the vagina and periods and sex.  Perhaps too much so! My daughter has asked me not to explain on a few occasions. When I tried to explain how babies came into being, in a very simple way, about putting the willy into the vagina when you have love with a boy, she said: I am never having babies! So bye-bye hopes of grandparenting! From an early age she has known her Vagina as Gina, which I loved as it rhymes with ‘China’ and now she can say it, it is a vagina. I have tried to teach her not to be embarrassed and that it is hers and precious. I think it’s about how you act around your kids, despite weight gain! I try not to hide nakedness all the time, for example. 

Apart from being a mom, you also run a successful business. What does having a career mean to you?

A lot – it keeps me intellectually challenged and feeling alive. Personally, I used to feel that I get more feedback and insight when working than at home. In restrospect that’s just a story, the way my daughter Lucia shows love for me is infinitely moving. 

In your long working experience, do you believe men have it easier in the workplace?

Yes, because they are less likely to be pigeon holed and may feel less responsible for home management. Having said that, in macho workplaces there are different and equally  challenging personal pressures for men. It is difficult to generalise especially when we have multiple labels and responses to those labels. For example I have a vision impairment and I’m classified as being disabled. I believe in allyship; fighting structural inequality and empowering people to go beyond the label. 

Do you believe that the work you do now honors the girl you used to be, the one who dreamt of becoming a police woman?

Yes. I support other peoples development and help them to fulfil their potential in countless ways, which surpasses the dream of being a police woman. It’s about purpose either way and I am fulfilling mine in what I do, I have iron strong values which I live – courage; integrity; inclusion and helping other human beings. 

Building on that last question, what does it mean to live a life full of purpose to you?

A lot. 

On the phone, we talked about how culture influences our personal views and reactions. In that spirit, I would like to ask you what is your opinion on menopause?

Something that fills me with trepidation and reduces my self-confidence when I allow it to.  I have felt physical decline which I have made into a story about how age and menopause is all part of a downhill journey having witnessed a friends battle of 10 years with a very difficult menopause.  I now realise that this is her story; mine will be different and that what meaning I place on different restrictions is key – how I interpret decline; what I do to master decline; how I, with age, fulfil different purposes and flower in a different way is what is most important. A smile often only becomes more beautiful. 

Rachel, congratulations for all that you have achieved so far. I could hear it in your voice and read it between the lines of your answers: you are very happy with your life right now! I am excited about what you are going to do next. When you think about it now, how would your life to look life when you are 60?

Paid of my mortgage and see my girl flourishing and free. Enjoying my career and achieving measurable impact at organisational level. Still smiling despite all the many challenges that life will always throw at us, I’ll nurture a garden in many different ways and I will always be feeling the beauty in that. 

An how do you see your life when you turn 80?

I will be spending my time in a sunny place, with plenty of family and friends. Still with my gardens!

That sounds lovely! What can you do NOW to ensure you live that fulfilled life you dream of having when you are 80?

I’m doing it. I believe in the daily little contributions you can make in other peoples lives and I do that continuously as well as the grander contributions in designing and delivering learning sessions for NATO; Airbus; Greenpeace UK and many others.  

Thank you so much for this interview, Rachel! I am certain many women will read this and say ”I know exactly what she means!”, just like I did. If there was only one piece of advice you could give women in general, and to women who want to do business in particular, what would it be?

“Forget what society says ‘success’ looks like or what others achieved. Acknowledge your fear of ‘failure’. Take your negative stories about your experiences and burn them up. See the success in what you have done and who you are. Celebrate. Take the leap.”

With 21 years in adult training, Rachel is a highly experienced & charismatic trainer. Overseeing instructional design & quality, she ensures that Like Learning lives up to its name & excellent reputation. To reach out to Rachel, you can access her business website at www.likelearning.co.uk and on a new website resetyourorg.com that addresses emerging learning needs for organisations following the covid pandemic. 

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