Last week’s Northern Power Women podcast Life Lessons come from Dr Marilyn Comrie OBE. Marilyn is one of the principal founders of the Black United Representation Network (BURN), Business Development Director of The Blair Project, CEO of Manchester Innovation Activities Hub and Director of Formula Girl Ltd. We got the chance to speak to Marilyn about the messages she shared in her Life Lessons, on the importance of mistakes, being adaptable, striving for excellence.
In the podcast, Marilyn cited Bruce Lee’s quote “be like water”, and how this ethos was a vital ingredient in her recipe for success. She went on to share with us how “success in life is about being adaptable, learning to go with the flow and moulding yourself to changing situations rather than resisting change”. Marilyn cited examples of how she has been like water throughout the coronavirus pandemic. “The COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted The Blair Project, resulting in a loss of £200k of income as a result of the cancellation of our ProtoeV STEM eKart Challenge”. Rather than allowing this to cripple her business, Marilyn and her team instead chose to pivot out of the situation, using furlough to “complete a feasibility study into the creation of a new skills training and innovation facility which secured £4 million of central government funding in August 2020”. As well as embodying Bruce Lee’s advice during this time, Marilyn also lists other key ingredients in her recipe for success: “the ability to remain calm and collected in a crisis, know that every cloud has a silver lining, and be able to spot and respond to emerging opportunities”.
Now an expert silver-lining-spotter, Marilyn also sees mistakes as a positive learning tool, saying in her Life Lessons how mistakes “shape you for bigger and better things”. This positive attitude towards mistakes developed whilst Marilyn studied chemistry at University, where she learnt that “as a scientist you know and understand that when conducting experiments, you will get it wrong before you get it right”. She mentioned the famous discoveries of scientists like Thomas Edison and Alexander Fleming, whose life changing and life saving discoveries were made as a result of making countless mistakes. As Marilyn reaffirms, “Mistakes are the best learning tool. They promote growth and development. Embrace your mistakes, learn from them, and improve.”
Both adaptability and an appreciation for mistakes have been demonstrated as Marilyn and her teams have overcome challenges throughout the past year and achieved excellence. Throughout lockdown, The Blair Project began development of a motorsport app, as Marilyn describes, “to deliver a virtual version of our physical karting challenge. This will enable us to reach and engage with thousands more young people all year round, and make learning science technology, engineering and maths ‘child’s play’”. The app is being designed by students at Trafford College with support from mobile technology company Apadmi. Alongside her work with The Blair Project, Marilyn joined forces with eight other Black-led organisations to form the Black United Representation Network (BURN) in order to tackle racial inequalities in Greater Manchester. Marilyn describes how BURN’s aims centre around three main goals. “increasing the number of Black people in senior decision-making positions in Greater Manchester, capacity building Black led organisations to become contract ready, and becoming the Northern gateway for doing business with Africa and the Caribbean”. Only having been established in February of 2020, the network has already gone on to have an astonishing impact. Some of their successes include, as Marilyn shared, “successfully lobbying the Metro Mayor to create a race equality panel, attracting over £200k of funding to employ core staff and deliver workshops, and staging of the first Northern Powerhouse Africa Trade Pre-Summit in March of this year, part funded by the Department for International Trade”.
By taking Marilyn’s advice and learning from her life lessons, we might be able to undergo our own process of human alchemy, experienced by some of Marilyn’s role models: Jason and the Argonauts. Marilyn describes human alchemy as “the process of personal transformation from your ‘base’ self and becoming your brilliant best by summoning the courage to overcome your personal demons and slay the dragon of your own limiting beliefs and self doubt that hinders your progression and growth to greatness”. Marilyn’s Life Lessons has certainly inspired the Northern Power Women community to overcome our demons, slay our dragons, and grow into our greatness.