After Heriot’s Blog

Natalie Shering has experience in a number of fields and now runs her own business, Natalie Shering Ltd. Natalie speaks very openly about her career and how Heriot’s impacted her choices in the working world. Have a read of Natalie’s wise words and watch the video she made especially for us which reflects on what she learnt from her time at the school.

Please get in touch if you wish to share your story ‘after Heriot’s’.

Natalie Shering, Class of 1995

What is your current role?

I am the Managing Director of my own company, Natalie Shering Ltd.

My business provides leadership consultancy and coaching to individuals and teams who want to enhance their leadership impact. I work with people who have a desire to be more deliberate in the way that they act in their life and their work, including how they treat others and, just as important, how they treat themselves. These individuals or teams can be looking to boost their performance, to improve how they deal with uncertainty or change, or they can just be looking to make a positive difference in their day-to-day work.

My work is all about people and serving them: supporting them to achieve their goals. It is heavily influenced by the discipline of coaching. As Managing Director of a small business, I take on many roles, such as financial control, delivering training, strategic planning for the future, and a whole list of other tasks that are required to keep a business running. Fortunately, I have my wonderful wife, Lucy, to help me with lots of this work as well as providing me with moral support and encouragement along the way.

How did you get there?

This is my third career, and is part of a portfolio of work that I do. It is the result of focusing on the type of work I love to do and making choices that mean I get to do more of it. When I was at Heriots, I aspired to be a Doctor. Fortunately (although it didn’t feel like good fortune at the time), I didn’t get the required grades in my Highers and I took a different path, into Nursing. Back then, at the age of seventeen, this turn of affairs seemed quite catastrophic to me.  Suffice to say, the overwhelming support and care I received from the teaching staff during that difficult time made a lifelong impression on me and its legacy has helped me ride many waves throughout the years.

My time as a Nurse gave me so much. I spent about 10 years working in the NHS, at the Western General Hospital, and later in the Community, providing care to patients around the south of Edinburgh. Nursing developed my compassion for others, and the belief that we are never more human than when we are caring for, and serving, others. It also taught me to work very hard, as I balanced my professional nursing work with studying for my MSc.  It was at this time that I was also invited to study for a PhD.  Ultimately, I chose not to pursue that opportunity, but the fact that I was even considered as being a worthy candidate for PhD study was testament to how much I had learned and developed in those intervening years since taking my Highers.  The example still serves to remind me that there are many routes to success in life, and they can present themselves to us at different times.

What did nursing teach you?

That life is not a dress rehearsal. Caring for people at the end of their lives is challenging for many reasons, but most of all when the words “I wish I had…” were uttered. That experience has developed in me an approach that encourages me to grasp those opportunities that are meaningful to me and not find myself in a position where I say, “I wish I had”. Regret is an energy-sapping and destructive emotion that can be held at bay by a more purposeful way of living.

My interest in people, and how we interact and influence one another, led me into a conversation with my identical twin sister Nicola – also a Heriot’s alumnus- who was gaining great success and very much enjoying working in her graduate role at a global pharmaceutical firm.  Nicola encouraged me to have a go at working in the Industry too, to see if the sales environment suited me.  If it didn’t work out, I could always go back to Nursing with some new skills and perspectives. And so I began my second career; fifteen years in the Pharmaceutical Industry – working in various roles, which culminated in me managing teams of senior professionals at the very company my sister had started with.

How did this develop?

I was asked to take on a Consultancy role within the business – to design and deliver national and international projects. This was a Baptism of Fire for me, and there were days when I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and felt utterly out of my depth.  However, by drawing upon my pooled experiences from nursing and managing teams of people, I was able to excel at this role and achieve great things. I learned two important life lessons at this time: firstly, that we do not need to know all the answers – we only need to know how to ask the right questions, and secondly – that if you get a chance to have a go at something, say ‘yes’ and see where it takes you.

I would never have developed such a breadth of experience if I had only seen myself as one thing. By recognising that we are all a unique mixture of skills, capabilities and passions, and by investing in our own strengths and interests, we can turn our hands to many things.  It is this open mindset that set me off on my journey to become a Leadership Coach and Consultant and has led me to where I am today.

Tell us a bit more about the progression into being a business owner:

In 2018 – in a situation that many people find themselves in at some point in their careers – a restructure in the organisation I was working for led to my role being made redundant. The prospect of redundancy can be really challenging for individuals.  It is a time of change that is not always welcome. In my case, this redundancy presented me with a wonderful opportunity to take some time out to reflect, to follow my dreams and to have new adventures.

By the time I’d had 6 months of thinking and connecting with others, I was ready to get going again and begin my new journey. I created my leadership coaching and consultancy company – Natalie Shering Ltd – in May 2019, and I spend my time on this, in combination with Associate work for other organisations.

So, this is career number 3! Tell us a bit more about Natalie Shering Ltd:

Yes, the continuing work-in-progress that is my third career! It’s a rich and varied portfolio of income-generating work, all centred around my passion for bringing Creativity into Leadership and sharing that passion and expertise with others.

As a 17-year-old who had failed three out of five Highers (one with a glorious “no mention”), I would not have believed the story I have written above. There have been triumphs and disasters, and throughout both I have kept true to my passions and sought connection with others at every turn. These two things above all else have helped me roll with the challenging days and capture the opportunities that have been developed through a lifetime of being curious.

You’ve spoken so openly about your journey but if you had to pinpoint your professional and personal achievements, what would they be?

Personally, I am most proud of living fearlessly and authentically as me. I am world class at being me, and that translates into a rich and full experience that can be used to inspire and help others. In today’s social-media saturated world, the pressure to ‘follow’ and to be like everyone else can be hard to ignore.  Staying true to oneself takes courage.

Professionally, I am most proud of being brave enough to step off the corporate merry-go-round and start my own business. When you are in a corporate job that pays very well and is a big part of your identity, it can seem inconceivable to leave it behind and go off on your own into the uncertainty of new, uncharted territory. Being prepared to say “I can always go back” can help you take the next step with a bit more confidence. I’ve never gone backwards having taken the step.

You say Heriot’s taught you a lot not just academically but pastoral care wise too. What are your abiding memories of your time here?

  • The care and love provided by the teaching teams
    When I had my (at the time) catastrophic Highers results, I was desolate. All of the plans and dreams I had laid out ahead of me were torn away, and I was lost. The love and care of a number of the teaching staff helped me to reposition my perspective, to see that all was not lost and that many other opportunities would be open to me. I was held by loving and caring arms that brought me back onto my feet and instilled in me a resilience and positive attitude that has stayed with me throughout my life.
  • The sense of community
    No matter where you go in the world, if you meet another Herioter there is an instant sense of connection and camaraderie which is remarkable. This sense of community drives a recognition that we were privileged to have experienced what we did, and that it is our responsibility to give back where we can. The spirit of George Heriot and his philanthropy is continued by our community and it helps to support those who are in need.

What are your two ‘takeaways’ from your Heriot’s days?

  • Be kind
    Maya Angelou has a famous quote that says, “People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel”. It is within our gift to choose how we show up and how we treat others, and it’s impact lasts a lifetime.
  • Serve others
    If you find yourself in a position to help those in need, then do it. We are never a better version of ourselves than when we are in service of another.

And finally, any top tips for current pupils when planning their future?

Be yourself and work on being the very best version of yourself that you can be: whatever that looks like. If you can develop yourself to feel deeply fulfilled and comfortable with who you are, you will have a strength and resilience that will support you through the most trying times. Love yourself for who you are and share that acceptance with those around you. Your ability to share that love will make the world you live in a kinder and better place.

Life is a phenomenal adventure and like any good adventure it has twists and turns – some of which we can predict, and some which we can’t. If you don’t get to your destination on the first go, remember that your life is a work in progress – it may be that your next steps on the journey will take you via a circuitous route, or even towards an altogether different destination, but you will be making progress, either way.