Investing in Her: Ciji Duncan, Chief People Officer

News Culture
Ciji Duncan Mar 08, 2024
Ciji Duncan
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Empowering and investing in women not only fosters individual growth but also drives collective progress towards a more equitable and prosperous society.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we caught up with the women in our senior leadership team to hear more about their career journey, the importance of investing in women and the advice they would share with others looking to follow a similar career path.

In this edition, we spoke to Ciji Duncan about her experience of joining xDesign as an Office Manager to becoming our Chief People Officer during a period of exponential growth. She highlights some key mentors and supporters on her journey and shares some great reflections on what she’s learned along the way.

Can you tell me about your career path so far? What led you to where you are today?

I’ve had a few different roles, from customer service advisor to receptionist. Before xDesign, I was unfortunately made redundant from my previous job, which drove me to apply for the role of office manager here. Having been successful, I joined xDesign when it consisted of only 25 people which saw me working closely with our CEO, Euan, to help in various aspects of the business where needed. As the business grew, there was a need for a people presence and, with Euan’s belief and investment in my growth, I started to work my way up to the role I’m in today. Throughout my journey, I’ve had access to the right mentors and coaches who have supported me and given me the space to develop on my own.

What are the benefits of investing in women’s leadership and decision-making roles in various sectors?

There are many tangible benefits of investing in women’s leadership roles. Firstly, it promotes diversity in thinking which leads to more mature and practical decisions being made. It also brings in strong interpersonal skills and tendencies that many women possess that are valuable for resolving conflicts, finding effective solutions and building trusting and transparent relationships.

Secondly, it helps leadership teams authentically reflect our current society. That visibility is what creates realistic role models that encourage other women to strive for leadership roles too.

We’ve seen the tangible benefits of all of the above at xDesign; since Tina and Jessica joined our executive team, it has really diversified our views and enriched our decision-making for the company.

Who has invested in you? How did they do it? And, what have you achieved as a result?

As mentioned above, Euan has invested in me and given me the confidence to develop in my career. Without him, I would never have believed in myself and seen that it was possible to be in a leadership role. Gaelle, one of our Non-Executive Directors, has also given up so much time to give me advice, support me, and really take on that mentor role to steer me in the right direction.

Their investment in me has ultimately given me the confidence to share my voice and use my expertise to shape xDesign’s people strategy to what it is today.

Who has had a significant impact on your life or career, and continues to inspire and motivate you?

Another person who continues to inspire me is Debs, our Head of People. She works incredibly hard and has been a huge motivator for everyone in our team. She has my back every step of the way and never ceases to amaze me with what she juggles every SINGLE day!

My fellow execs also continue to motivate me through the trust they put in me and my ability which means a lot as they have a wealth of experience.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in your field or aspiring to follow a similar career path?

Seize every opportunity as you never know where it might lead! It will be a difficult journey and mistakes are inevitable, but through this, you will grow, learn from failure and build resilience.

Another thing is to continue to protect your boundaries and values - and I can’t emphasise this enough! People often compromise these because they think it will get them further in life but it won’t. A strong woman in leadership is one who can say ‘no’ when others challenge their boundaries and values.