International Women's Day 2024

March 8th 2024

To celebrate International Women's Day 2024, we want to shine a light on the incredible women who play an integral role in keeping our company running smoothly.

Women hold key roles throughout our organisaiton but this year we wanted to highlight our dedicated administrative staff who work tirelessly behind the scenes to manage accounts, liaise with our suppliers and clients, and ensure operations run seamlessly.

We are spotlighting three different women in our admin team to find out about their career journeys, their biggest achievements, and the women who inspire them the most. Here's what they had to say.

Frances Valente - Office Manager

Can you share a bit about your career journey and how you came to be in your current role at Arch Henderson?

I left school at 16 with a handful of O levels and an absolute determination not to work in an office. I wanted to become an engineer and applied to college to study for an HNC. I was turned down – I have a sneaking suspicion that this was because I was a girl, as I had better grades than some of the boys who were accepted.

That left me with no option but to get an office job, which led to a successful career in the public sector, mostly in the Civil Service. I spent the next 25 years working my way up the ladder and then when I was 40, I was a Service Development Manager at Havant Borough Council. It was a hugely stressful job. I had 27 staff and managed IT, HR and Customer Services for the Building Control, Planning and Housing Departments. At the same time, I was a single parent, with a toddler and a teenager, and had to spend nearly 2 hours commuting to work each day. Something had to give!

Long story short, I gave up my job and moved to Shetland, and started a full-time degree. I joined Arch Henderson in 2005 as a part-time secretary while I was studying, so the job was perfect. I didn’t intend to stay beyond my graduation a couple of years later, but I really enjoyed working for the company. I eventually left in 2009 to work for the NHS and then moved to Ireland for a while. When I moved back to Shetland in 2011, I was offered my old job at Arch Henderson. By then I was studying part time for a Master’s in professional writing, so the job was the perfect fit again. However, this time I was no longer tempted to leave after graduation. My job has expanded beyond recognition from when I first started, and uses more of my skills and experience, although without any of the stress. I also gained new skills when I studied for the NEBOSH (Construction) certificate and added ISO 45001 to my auditing qualifications.

What is something you are particularly proud of, at work or in your personal life?

There are lots of things that make me proud to work here: the variety of work, the camaraderie in the office, the work hard – play hard relaxed attitude – we get a lot done but we have fun too. But possibly one of the things I like best about the job is seeing the concrete (literally) results of what the company has created locally. It is good to feel I have made a tiny contribution to some of this; especially as after 25 years in the civil service there was nothing tangible to show for it. The piers and buildings that the Lerwick office worked on will be here long after I have retired, so I will always be reminded of Arch Henderson when I walk along the harbour.

Who is one woman that inspires you and why?

I am inspired by Jane Austen. Not least because she wrote some of the funniest and most influential novels, but also because she wrote them all by hand, and in a time when nobody took women’s writing seriously. I have published four novels so far and had the luxury of being able to use a laptop, with grammar and spellchecker, and any research could be done instantly with the help of Google. I would not be quite so prolific with a quill.

Tracey Carnegie - Finance & Business Manager

Can you share a bit about your career journey and how you came to be in your current role at Arch Henderson?

I left school and started working for Dietsmann, an Independent Operations & Maintenance company. Whilst working I took evening classes studying Accounting then Management at Robert Gordon University. I really wanted to be an Artist, but Accounting was the next best thing! Dietsmann was a great start to my career, a Dutch company that respected their staff and allowed them to flourish with support from Management & Peers. 14 years later I took a very short break (12 weeks maternity in those days) to have my son Harris, then back to work as Financial Controller for a large grain cooperative, what a change from Oil & Gas! 4 years of travelling to and from work lead me to Arch Henderson, now coming up for 17 years I’ve seen many changes in Partners, colleagues, offices, different countries of work which all keeps me on my toes, loving every moment of it!

What is something you are particularly proud of, at work or in your personal life?

My biggest achievement, apart from having my son, is getting through the pandemic in one piece and keeping up with the constant change in rules and regulations in the workplace.

Who is one woman that inspires you and why?

My mum is my biggest female inspiration, being brought up on a remote farm in Chile, home-schooled then moving to the UK at the age of 17, she had many jobs including becoming one of the first woman police officers in Aberdeen and later retiring after many years of running a very busy nursery from our family home. She still has many fond memories of her early years and is the most positive and strong person that I know.

Fiona Ritchie - Office Administrator/Secretary

Can you share a bit about your career journey and how you came to be in your current role at Arch Henderson?

I have been working for over 50 years now – since I was 11! My first real office job was in 1979 working for a local solicitors. I then joined HM forces army as a Military Accountant and when demobilised in 1984, went to work on various jobs in London as a Payroll Clerk, an Accounts Manager and an Administration Manger. I moved home to Thurso in 1992 after having my first child and since then have had a myriad of jobs varying from Finance Officer, Programme Performance Analyst and Programme Manager. I have also specialised in SAP reporting, having helped design, install and operate the business data warehouse at Nuclear Site Dounreay in Caithness. I then moved on to be the IT Service Delivery Manager at Dounreay which I did for 4 years before taking early retirement at 50! I decided to look for a job with shorter hours and less responsibility and worked as a Project Manager’s assistant in a portacabin in the middle of nowhere for 2 years. When the project ended, I was transferred to work at another site for a few months to replace a colleague that had left. This colleague, who had moved on to work at Arch Henderson, made me aware of a vacancy for her position; I got the job and that was nearly 6 years ago. I will be with Arch Henderson until I retire now as I love the job.

What is something you are particularly proud of, at work or in your personal life?

I am proud of my work at Dounreay, where I spent 2 years helping to build a 100 year plan financial model in Excel that then went on to be converted into commercial software and is currently being sold on the open market.

Who is one woman that inspires you and why?

Personally, there are many inspirational women I have met over the years, therefore, picking one is difficult. I have a passion for gardening, probably influenced by my parents, they led by example and my mother in particular loved growing flowers. In the late 90’s I worked in a ‘two-man’ office for a few years with another woman, Ros. Her passion for plants and flowers and knowledge of gardening and horticulture very much inspired me to garden and continues to do so now as, over 25 years later, Ros and I continue to be good friends and the best of ‘gardening buddies’!

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