The one lesson I’ve learned from life: Karren Brady says your career isn’t everything

  • Baroness (Karren), Brady of Knightsbridge is the CEO of West Ham United FC. 
  • Claims that you agree to things you would rather not, in order to build your career 
  • London mother-of-2 says lockdown taught me to be in the moment.

Baroness (Karren Brady) of Knightsbridge is West Ham United FC’s CEO. She was awarded the CBE in 2013 for services in business, entrepreneurship, women in business and was made a life peer. She lives in London together with her ex-footballer husband Paul Peschisolido. They have two children, Sophia (25), and Paolo (23). 

I went to a Catholic girls’ boarding school from a young age — you got up when told, went to bed when told. I slept in a room with six other girls, had a bath, and ate when instructed.

My only ambition in life was to do what I loved, when I liked.

I’d had enough by age 18. I realized that independence is only possible if you have your money. I left my home to start my own business. [in advertising]. When I rented my first apartment, I was able to take a 3am bath. It was liberating. Building your career requires you to say yes even to things you would rather turn down. It is liberating to learn to say no.

Baroness (Karren) Brady of Knightsbridge, 52, (pictured) who lives in London, said lockdown has taught her to be in the moment

Baroness (Karren) Brady of Knightsbridge, 52, (pictured) who lives in London, said lockdown has taught her to be in the moment 

I didn’t feel like I lived with my parents because I left home when I was 18. My husband and I, along with our children, went to lockdown. My dad was recovering from prostate cancer and my mum and dad were staying in Hertfordshire.

I worked in my bedroom during the day. We cooked together, played quiz nights, and spent our evenings talking and being a family. It was beautiful.

We now understand that life can be very brief. Friends and family are my greatest treasures. When you can’t see them, life is hard.

But lockdown has taught me to be in the moment and have a good think about what’s important.

My advice to my younger self: A career lasts for a lifetime. But you have to keep going and not give up. I wasn’t surprised that a poll for the Women in Business & Tech Expo found up to 60 per cent of women say work/life balance is more important than salary.

Women were more affected by homeschooling and no childcare than men locked down. Flexibility is a priority.

I think Karren would tell you to have more fun, and stop being so serious. I don’t often accept invitations. But, recently, I’ve started saying to my husband: ‘Shall we go to that party?’

Karren Brady’s Women in Business & Tech Expo is available to view online: