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The only lesson I’ve learned from life: Karren Brady says your career isn’t everything

The only lesson I’ve learned from life: Karren Brady says your career isn’t everything

  • Baroness (Karren) Brady of Knightsbridge, 52, is CEO of West Ham United FC
  • Claims to say yes to things you’d rather reject as you build your career
  • London-based mum of two says lockdown has taught her to be in the moment


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Baroness (Karren) Brady of Knightsbridge, 52, is CEO of West Ham United FC. She earned a CBE in 2013 for business service, entrepreneurship and women in business, and a life peer in 2014. She lives in London with her ex-footballer husband Paul Peschisolido. They have two children, Sophia, 25, and Paolo, 23.

I went to a Catholic girls’ boarding school from an early age – you got up when told, went to bed when told. Slept in a room with six others, and took a bath and ate when told.

So the only ambition I had in life was to do what I wanted to do, when I wanted to.

I had had enough when I was 18. And I knew that independence only comes when you have your own money. So I left home to start my career [in advertising]. When I got my first rental apartment, I was able to take a bath at 3am. It was liberating. As you build your career, you say yes to many things that you would rather reject. Learning to say no is liberating.

Baroness (Karren) Brady of Knightsbridge, 52, (pictured) who lives in London, said lockdown has taught her to be in the moment

Baroness (Karren) Brady of Knightsbridge, 52, (pictured) who lives in London, said lockdown has taught her to be in the moment

Since I left home when I was 18, I never really felt like I was living with my parents. When the lockdown came, my husband and I and our children went to stay in Hertfordshire with my mother and father, who were over prostate cancer.

During the day I worked from my bedroom. Then we cooked together, had quiz nights, spent the evenings chatting and just being a family. It was pleasant.

We now know that life can be very short. Family and friends are everything to me. If you can’t see them, life is hard.

But lockdown has taught me to be in the moment and think carefully about what’s important.

The advice I would give my younger self is: a career lasts a lifetime. But you have to stay focused and not burn out. I wasn’t surprised that a poll for the Women in Business & Tech Expo found that up to 60 percent of women say work-life balance is more important than pay.

With home schooling and no childcare, women were hit harder than men in lockdown. Flexible working is paramount.

I think young Karren would tell me to stop being so serious and have more fun! I often say no to invitations. But recently I’ve been saying to my husband, “Shall we go to that party?”

Karren Brady’s Women in Business & Tech Expo can be viewed online: wibexpo.co.uk.

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