Getting to know... Sara Harper-Holton, GlobalWelsh board member
In 1995, fuelled by a sense of adventure and full of ambition, shortly after graduating from Aberystwyth University, a young Sara Harper-Holton left Wales. Twenty years on, and a very successful HR career later, she's channeling her passion for talent mentorship and people development as Group Head of Talent & Leadership Development at RB (Reckitt Benckiser), one of the world’s leading consumer goods companies and traveling the world.
In her new (side) role as GlobalWelsh board member, Sara's combining her passion for people with her passion for Wales. Putting her vast skills to bear in helping us develop and deliver our global mentoring programme, GlobalWelsh Academy, as well as encouraging more diverse participation across all GlobalWelsh's initiatives around the world.
In this getting to know you Q&A, Sara gives us a insight into her humble begginings, her motivations and how, through GlobalWelsh, she's paying it forward for the next generation...
Sara, tell us a little bit about yourself, your valley upbringing in Ystrad Mynach and your ambitions growing up there?
I grew up in a very loving, working class home in Ystrad Mynach. My Dad was a butcher in a shop in the village and my Mam was a nurse in the hospital. Ystrad Mynach is quite small and at that time everyone knew each other and it was a very close knit community; typical of the Welsh valleys really!
I go home, roughly, every 6 weeks and whilst some things change there is a strange comfort that not much has really changed - I still see the same faces and businesses which I love.
As the eldest of 3 children, I had a very happy childhood and never wanted for anything. We went on caravan holidays every year to Porthcawl which I loved - I go back there any chance I have. Trecco Bay is even nicknamed 'Hi Butt Bay' as you often meet people you know and spend a lot of time saying ‘Hi Butt’!
I have a really adventurous spirit and whilst I love my family and Ystrad Mynach, I knew there was a big world out there to explore. Through my love of languages, (I studied French, Welsh and Italian at school), I realised there was so much more I wanted to learn about the world. The first step was going to university. I won scholarships to study at Swansea and Aberystwyth. I chose Aber as it was further away!
"As I get older I really want to pay it forward and help the next generation. GlobalWelsh is a fantastic initiative to drive investment in Wales and support those looking to develop themselves and their ambitions."
What do you love most about Wales, what drives your passion and compels you to want to give back?
I love everything about Wales. The beautiful scenery, the singing, Welsh cakes, our heritage but above all the strong sense of community and pride in our nation. The way that we support each other. In the Valleys, people who don’t have much would give everything they have to help their neighbour.
It is hard to explain what it means to be Welsh unless you are Welsh! As soon as I hear another Welsh voice, I ask them “Where you from then?”... It drives my (English) husband mad! He says “I just don’t get it! Why do Welsh people need to do that?” I just smile as I cannot explain it but we just do!
I travel a lot with my job and Hiraeth is definitely a thing! Wherever I am in the world, Wales is always home.
You left Wales over twenty years ago to further your career, how do you think Wales has changed in that time?
Some places have changed a lot. For example, Cardiff has really developed in the last 20 years with lots of investment and regeneration and can definitely rival many other European cities. On the other side, our beautiful landscapes and coastal areas Wales never really change that much. At its heart it is majestic and breathtaking...
We do not do enough to promote Wales outside of Wales. I get so frustrated when people have either never heard of Wales or, have heard of it, and never visited. My husband had not been to Wales until he met me - can you believe that?! People are missing out on so much!
What does Wales look like in the future?
An attractive investment proposition with strong talent and businesses. Leveraging our natural passion and ability to build strong partnerships and a more prosperous Wales for future generations.
"I travel a lot with my job and Hiraeth is definitely a thing! Wherever I am in the world, Wales is always home."
What inspired you to get involved with GlobalWelsh and how do you think GlobalWelsh can make a difference to Wales' future?
As I get older I really want to pay it forward and help the next generation. GlobalWelsh is a fantastic initiative to drive investment in Wales and support those looking to develop themselves and their ambitions.
By connecting Welsh people around the world together, and back to Wales, we can share the amazing and inspirational success stories of those outside of Wales as well as promoting the talents and opportunities that exist within Wales.
Connecting with and learning from each other with our collective passion to make Wales an even better place in the future can only do good. To play a small part in this legacy is hugely exciting!
What difference do you personally hope to make through your involvement in GlobalWelsh?
I’ve had a very successful career, I work hard and have a fantastic life. Through my work with GlobalWelsh, I want to inspire and support the next generation of Welsh talent to follow their dreams, fulfil their ambitions and be the best they can be.
I am starting to accept that I am getting older and this is a great way to share my experience and help make Wales a better place for the future.
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