When I arranged to interview Maggie Semple, I had no idea what a force of nature she was. She is frequently described as formidable, but I also found her style to be extremely gentle and gracious. There is no way that she could have achieved all that she has without being formidable, but I love that she has not lost her feminine energy along the way.
Maggie and her sister grew up as two black girls in London in the 60’s and were very much in the minority. But she had a really strong home-life with very supportive parents who raised Maggie and her sister to believe “the world is there for you to grasp”.
She did very well at school and became head girl at her school before going on to university. Her professional career began as a teacher in Dance and English, whilst she also pursued her passion for contemporary dance. After spending a few years teaching, she was asked by the government to spend a two-year period on an education task force; quickly followed by stints on higher education, adult education and life long learning task forces.
During this time she was still teaching and built a reputation as an amazing teacher. People from around the world came to her school to see how she taught. From there she was asked to speak at conferences and was given many platforms to spread her message. Maggie rapidly became known for speaking about teaching and learning and was in high demand.
When I asked Maggie what was the secret of her success, she advised that if you want to do something, you’ve got to think about what you’ve done prior to it. It’s worth doing all sorts of things instead of being linear in your approach. Take unique opportunities that come along because you never know where they will lead. Keep yourself relevant and keep your game up, in a way that allows you to get invited back again.
In the 90’s Maggie also took on her dream job as the Director of Education and Training for the Arts Council. In this role she went from managing a budget of £110,000 when she joined, to ultimately deciding on how the Arts Council should spend £100,000,000 when she became responsible for setting the policy on the lottery fund allocation.
She then left the Arts Council and became the Director of Learning Experience at the Millennium Dome where she was managing a budget of about £80m . The Dome was hard work for everyone, but it was also a great opportunity to build her network with large corporates. Working at the Millennium Dome gave her great coverage in the media and shortly after her time there, she was awarded her OBE for her services to learning. Maggie is now the CEO of the Experience Corps and runs a programme funded by the government to put 250,000 people into work experience.
She works as a trusted advisor to many businesses and has launched her own fashion business which can be found at www.maggiesemple.com.
Maggie has produced a book called Semple Women Fashion Stories and has developed an interesting business product called Behind the Seams, creating beautifully crafted books that are built around a woman’s favourite fashion item. Each book has personalised illustrations of the item and the wearer, and includes information about the fabric, the designer and personal stories.
I loved speaking with Maggie and found her incredibly inspiring and am thrilled that she agreed to share her story with us. She has achieved so much, all through her own hard work, amazing relationship building skills and passion for the Arts.