For this issue we interviewed the incredibly inspirational CEO of Charity, Switchboard LGBT+ the second-oldest LGBT+ telephone helpline in the United Kingdom.
Stephanie joined Switchboard in early 2021 as General Manager, bringing with her more than 15 years experience of operating at a senior level in a variety of non-profit organisations. Responsible for leading the effective day to day running of Switchboard, Stephanie is passionate about empowering and enabling the incredible volunteers. Here at Rankin HQ we’ve had the privilege of working with Stephanie and her team on and off for the past three years, most recently when she commissioned our short film ‘The Call’, in a hallmark movie showing what a creative force of nature she is.
We caught up with Stephanie earlier this summer, as she was recovering from London pride and could have sat listening to her for hours. Some brilliantly thought provoking stories, thoughts and words of wisdom for this issue of The Lightbulb.
WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION?
My wife and I, Karen, have four kids; they're 18, 19, 20 and 21, I find them incredibly inspiring. They show me things about the world today whether it's via tech or what’s going on with their friendship groups. They are also so different.
My eldest was diagnosed with Autism and has taught me more about the world than any other human.
They keep me tuned in, they encourage me to explore, to learn more, they change the way I look at the world. I talk to them about work, they question stuff, they’re much more informed than my generation was. Much more invested.
My team at work inspires me everyday too. I might be CEO, but I don’t have all the answers. I think it's really important to surround yourself with the right people and give them space to bring their own ideas.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST LIGHTBULB MOMENT IN YOUR CAREER TO DATE?
It’s more a life lightbulb moment that has given me a new perspective on every facet of my life. It was an incredibly pivotal moment and it is only really recently I’ve started to talk about it.
Going back to 1989, I was 19 and I was at Hillsborough. I was so fortunate to survive that day but it was very traumatic. It took me almost 20 years to process it, and realise I’d been given another opportunity in life and it gave me a whole new perspective to how I live life, really. I don’t just mean the trauma either, but after years of burying it, not talking about it, I realised I’d just buried it, not talked about it, but it impacted every decision I’d made.
I’d never really fully unpacked the events of the day. In reflecting on that I realised I had been using it to propel me, it had shaped my decisions, it made me comfortable with setbacks and whilst I still can’t really watch anything about it on television, I began to fully appreciate how much it had ended up shaping my life and my attitude.
It's an experience that ended up informing so much of my life and it took me a long time to realise that, so that was a huge lightbulb moment.
WHAT'S YOUR WEIRDEST OBSESSION?
I am a fairly rational person and certainly an optimist, so it's a silly obsession but I love my football. I made the weird decision to support Crystal Palace FC and find myself OBSESSED with a football club that has never won anything. Over 100 years of not winning!
Recently they were recognised as the world's oldest club so that added another 44 years of not winning.The matches are a place of letting off steam, I have season tickets, I go with my son, I love going to the match.
Unfortunately I have passed this obsession on to my son, maybe he will get to see Palace win something, who knows!
WHAT'S ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU LIVE BY?
You only get one lap of the track, I live by that view. So try and enjoy it. Find something that interests you and follow it.
Everyone has their own understanding of what good looks like, figure out what matters to you.
You get so much more satisfaction and fulfilment from working on or toward something that matters to you.
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING PEOPLE IS?
I thought long and hard about this, one thing transition taught me is that you don’t know people, at all. So don't make wild assumptions.
People will surprise you.
Don't underestimate people’s capacity for change, it's wild, I don’t assume a great deal anymore. And it keeps me curious.
The unexpected liberty of transition is that you totally redefine your place in the world. This absolute freedom to redefine how you live, whereas other people don’t get to do that. So everything else is by degree.
On a recent trip to Amsterdam, I visited the Anne Frank House, there is so much to be taken in, but one perhaps less obvious thing was the comment from Otto Frank, when he concluded that despite the years of confinement with his family, when years later he read Anne's diary, he concluded that parents don’t really know their children at all.
I think Otto is right. Looking back, I’m sure my parents would say the same of me.