On maternity leave I took the option to leave Diageo. I knew I was only able to have one child so wanted more time. I also knew it wouldn’t be forever – but that was all I knew.


After a year of play dates and clubs – the career part of my brain needed to get back into gear. I wasn’t ready to go back to work – but I was ready to start thinking about what next could look like.


I became an avid follower and participant in various forums for independent consultants and women in business (usually during the heady period of nap times!). I had disappeared for only a year into baby world, but business and many networks have short memories; the onus was on me to re-establish my visibility and ‘brand’.


I am and was privileged to be able to put my daughter in nursery while not earning. Initially for two half days, to give me a little more freedom and also had access to doting grandparents.

I started using my ‘free’ time pro-bono to advise on marketing, communications and strategy; one turned into a paid day a week with a bootstrapping startup and others some short-term work – but it wasn’t consistent.


I realised I was struggling to develop Spinning Red. I also resented that so many people and companies say to be flexible you need to be independent and then expect so much of your time for free. I craved more structure and the ability to have more impact.


Dusting off the CV, with so much I had already learned from the work and networks I established, I secured a short-term contract with Sport England to launch the latest campaign for This Girl Can.


This gave me the ability to see what could work for me and our family. It is so hard to know from the outset how you will juggle, how you will work childcare times and the inevitable illnesses.


This period also taught me that I wanted to go back to work properly and that we had found a routine for childcare that worked for us. I joined HSBC in late 2017 and I was lucky to already know what worked for us, which was flexible start/ finish times and working from home two days a week. And luckier that I could just do that.


But here is the thing – it is truly flexible. So if my husband and I need to swap, we can and do.

I am very privileged to have had this solid amount of time in the early years to be with my daughter – but also to rediscover what I wanted to do and learn from so many people in different sectors and industries. That time continues to hold me in good stead for whatever is next…


Natasha Plowman

Global Head of Communications Strategy and Digital, Commercial Banking