The Women’s Enterprise Ambassador’s project is one of the actions from the Scottish Framework and Action Plan for Women’s Enterprise launched in March 2014. The projects feature stories of the most successful female entrepreneurs in Scotland, and seeks to inspire, motivate, engage and connect with women-led start-up and growth businesses
This northern light of IT burns brilliant and bright
PCL Group chief executive Jeanette Forbes is completely serious when she says she’s at the helm of her business 24 hours a day.
With clients across five sectors – Offshore, Marine, Commercial, Industrial and Renewables – in Scotland and around the world, Jeanette has kept the on-duty phone by her side 24/7 for 15 whole years.
Her rise from receptionist to dealing with the demands of running her own IT company in the energy industry has meant no let up in ambition and drive for this Aberdeen entrepreneur. But forging a path in the traditionally male dominated oil and gas sector was tough going, even for a determined woman like Jeanette, one with a dyed-in-the-wool work ethic.
Being involved in her grandparents’ Halifax-based wholesale fish business from a young age may have signalled Jeanette’s future direction as it gave her a good grounding in business and some early contact with the fish markets in Scotland’s north east.
As a young army wife Jeanette eventually arrived in Aberdeen with her Grampian-born husband and their two children. A stint in the city’s Royal Infirmary coincided with the Piper Alpha disaster and was a real turning point in Jeanette’s life. She resolved there and then to give something back to the oil and gas community.
A series of jobs in the sector saw her steadily climbing the ladder from receptionist to MD’s PA. But a nudge from a colleague led to studying part-time at night for a computing science BSc. Jeanette’s degree was gained while working full time as the family’s main breadwinner, she even used the office PC to study in the wee small hours before heading home to get ready for work and the school run.
Jeanette’s IT career moved on up, but when she was challenged on making significant progress in the sector because of her gender, she decided she had nothing to lose by striking out on her own. She started PCL off with only a hundred pounds in her pocket and no safety net. But her business has boomed.
Being a total IT service provider to the 24/7 oil and gas industry has meant complete commitment and steely focus from Jeanette. She’s worked hard to break down barriers and traps set by many of the men in her male-dominated industry, but she’s won an enormous amount of support and always gave respect back in those early days, even when precious little was coming her way.
Jeanette admits there’s been a high cost because of her work ethic and determination to make PCL Group fly. Her 31 year long marriage finally foundered because she was never at home, she regrets missing out on so much of her children’s childhoods, and she rarely takes time off. But Jeanette’s succession plan for her limited company is firmly in place – her son is already an integral part of the PCL team, and she hopes her daughter and granddaughter will eventually come on board too.
With a staff of twelve already, and more in the pipeline, Jeanette readily acknowledges that the best bit of business is watching her PCL people grow. Having a great team beside her gives her space to explore new enterprises and keeps her spark strong.
She’s now making moves to mentor girls into oil and gas careers, and with this northern star lighting the way, other bright spark women are certain to follow.
“Managing PCL Group is like oxygen, I need it to survive. The journey that I embarked upon 15 years ago seems like only yesterday. I have a great team behind me and the best reward for anyone in my position is watching your staff grow and develop.”
“Working in a male domain can be challenging at times. However I have always tried to be a first class woman and not a second class man.”
“Every woman should be given the opportunity to run their own business; ‘entrepreneurship’ is just a word not a barrier.”
Follow Jeanette @PCLGroup