Leaders Plus Profile

Leaders Plus Fellow Profile – Sam Bethune

Samantha Bethune, Leaders Plus Fellow, on co-founding HSBC’s first flexible working network, her children’s love of Chaka Khan and overcoming a major crisis in confidence after maternity leave.

What do you do at work?

I’m currently Head of Content Planning for Global Communications at HSBC. I’m also the co-founder and Chair of FLEX, HSBC’s first employee network for flexible working in the UK. My main responsibility is the coordination of employee communications activity and content for the digital communications team. This means that myself and my job-share partner are the conduits between the content team (i.e. video-makers, copywriters, social media experts) and the rest of our 600+ strong Global Communications function as well as the rest of the business. When I’m wearing my ‘FLEX’ hat I also co-chair this relatively new employee network which exists to represent the voice of the flexible working community at the bank and to influence company policy and culture around the topic. Having had first-hand experience of making flexible working work for me, this is a topic I’m extremely passionate about.


Tell us about your family

I’ve two very boisterous and energetic boys who really keep me on my toes!  Eli is 3 and Raif is 11 months old. Suffice to say we’re not getting much sleep in our house at the moment. The boys LOVE music. Eli’s favourite tune is Chakka Khan’s ‘Like Sugar’. It gets him on his feet ‘dancing’ without fail!


What working/family arrangement do you have that enables you to continue your career?

When we had our first child, both my husband and I decided to go part-time in our respective jobs (Adrian is a primary school teacher) in order to be able to raise our family whilst both continuing with our careers. It was then that I entered a job-share partnership with a colleague of mine who was also looking to strike a better work-life blend.  This means that when I’m not on maternity leave, I work 3 days a week both in the office and from home.


What motivated you to apply for the Leaders Plus Fellowship programme?

2 years ago I returned to work after having my first beautiful baby. I had taken a wonderful (but whopping!) 15 months off and during that time had, what I now refer to as, retrained myself in self-doubt. I constantly questioned whether I was doing things right or well-enough: how do I get him to sleep better/longer/on his own? Which swim class to send him to? Is he eating/drinking enough, why isn’t he rolling/crawling/walking yet? etc. When I stepped back into the world of work, I took that doubting mind with me and my professional confidence was on the floor. It took nearly 18 months to get back to me again.

So, when I fell pregnant for the second time, I was determined not to go through the same thing again. My husband chanced upon this thing called Leaders Plus on twitter and sent me the link. I applied and was accepted on the course! That was 11 months ago. Today I’m a Fellow and have had the privilege to work alongside some extraordinary working parents and have learned so much about myself. Now the only question on my mind is ‘where to next?’


What 3 things did you learn about yourself on the programme?

  • I’m stronger than I give myself credit for
  • That a sense of purpose is my main motivation (it sounds strange but I hadn’t realised this previously!)
  • That I’m a social being – something that I’d lost sight of since having children.


Was there anything that surprised you about the programme?

I honestly didn’t know what to expect and was anxious that I would be sat in a room of alpha-professionals whose only goal was to get to the top of their organisation. What I experienced was a group of extremely impressive individuals but whom, like me, needed support in how to achieve their goals (whatever they may be) whilst remaining a present parent. The group was warm, friendly and unbelievably supportive.


What does the future hold for you and your family?

Well, I don’t have a crystal ball and right now, as I come to the end of my second maternity leave, I’m at a bit of a cross-roads in terms of my career. But what I do know is that I have more autonomy over mine and my family’s situation and that whatever I decide to do I can be confident in trying to achieve that. I really do have Leaders Plus to thank for this.

Samantha Bethune, Leaders Plus Fellow, on co-founding HSBC’s first flexible working network, her children’s love of Chaka Khan and overcoming a major crisis in confidence after maternity leave.

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