My Work Life: Alice Olins - Founder of the Step Up Club by Tom Rowe

Described as the only voice to listen to in the women’s career conversation, Alice Olin is the founder of The Step Up Co, a place for women to grow when it comes to their careers and businesses. Here she tells KNOMO about her work life.

Tell us about The Step Up Club

What started as a single idea (a career manual, Step Up published by Penguin Random House) has grown to encompass so much more. Most excitedly, I have just launched the Step Up Club, an integrated digital and physical membership platform and community that changes the way women interact with career and business coaching. My business also includes the Step Up School (a London based, face-to-face learning course), The Success Revolution podcast, a column in Marie Claire magazine, brand collaborations and much more. 

Why do women need The Step Up Club?

It includes so many facets of modern coaching with the aim to help women succeed in a way that’s right for them, to earn more, build confidence and create a thriving network so that women feel less alone and better understood in the workplace. 

Talk me through what an average work day is like for you?

Well, I am a busy working mum, so no two days look exactly the same. But most of the week, after dropping my children at school, I head to my central London office, for meetings, brainstorming with my freelance team, writing content, meeting new coaches, talking to lifestyle brands and everything in between. I'm usually home by about 5pm, ready for the onslaught that is having two young daughters.

Do you feel you have a good work life balance?

I would say I do, yes. That doesn't mean that I always have my time, energies or guilt levels totally sorted out and in sync, but I have accepted my choices in how I work and I know that I am able to give both my family and my business the attention that both needs.  I could have scaled the business much quicker if I'd decided that working full time and not being around for my daughters some afternoons was a non-negotiable. So I've accepted the slower growth rate of my business because I know the benefits that my choice is having on my family.  

Any tips for getting the day off to the right start?

I mean, a good night's sleep and a solid breakfast is the simplest answer to that question! I often think ahead in terms of planning too; so I usually have a think through what I'm going to wear in the morning, pack my work bag, make sure everything is fully charged and waiting where it should be, so that there are no surprises in the morning.

What are your thoughts on flexible working?

I am an advocate and champion of flexible working becoming not just accepted at work, but the norm for all people. You don't have to be a parent to feel the benefits of flexible working; at it's heart, flex is about trust between employer and employee and that is something I can very much get behind. I think the days of 8 solid hours at the same desk every day are hugely out-dated and I'm trying to do my bit to empower women to make choices that are in harmony with their lives, and their goals. It is going to take a long time for society to accept flexible working as the norm, but we can all do our bit.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The women that I get to spend time with. Often this is the simple act of working with my amazing team, having fun and thought-provoking conversations and at others, it's leading a workshop and hearing the positive effect that my Step Up method is having on those who are part of my community. 

What’s the worst thing about your job?

I wouldn't saying running a small business is the most zen life choice. There are ups and downs, financial strains and so many plates to spin, that sometimes my brain feels like it can't quite cope. But I know that each little battles results in a little win and it's these little wins that collectively bring my joy and my type of success.  

How important is your outfit choice for the day ahead?

Very! I spent 10 years as a journalist working at newspapers and magazines, so I'm certainly not immune to the power of great clothes and shoes! I love clothes and enjoy the creativity that building an outfit brings.

Do you have a go-to killer outfit for those big days?

A great dress and statement shoes. Comfort is actually really important to me in terms of my workwear; there's nothing more confidence sapping than a waistband that's too tight or a blouse that keeps coming unbuttoned! So as well as choosing clothes for maximum impact, I choose pieces that allow me to move freely - and eat a big lunch, if the opportunity arises. 

How big a role does tech play in your life?

I'm pretty much surgically attached to my phone and laptop when I'm working, and I'd be lost without either or worse, both. Having said that, I try not to use my phone around my children, and if I need to, I communicate what I'm doing, so that they don't think I'm just scrolling or wasting time.

Tell us what you keep in your KNOMO backpack?

Everything! My laptop, my Papier notebook, my Smythson diary and pens, a lipstick or two and often a few hair clips too. It's the most useful part of my working wardrobe and certainly gets well used.  

Tell us your favourite 3 books

So far this year I've loved East By West Street, not an easy read, but such an important exploration of the Nuremberg Trials. I've also loved John Boyne's The Heart's Invisible Furies, which is an insightful and emotive tale of love, family and the unlocking of secrets. And Tara Westover's Educated, which blew my mind on so many fronts! 

Tell us your favourite 3 podcasts

The High Low, Jessie Ware's Table Manners and Elizabeth Day's How To Fail. Brilliant women, talking intellectually across all sorts of interesting subjects.  



Alice is so excited to be featured on the Knomo blog and social channels, that she's offering all of you an exclusive 20% discount on membership. So that will be mean less than £5 per week to breathe confidence and success back into your working life. Come and join our gang now. Use the discount code: KNOMO50 to receive 50% off of your first month. 

From the 14th- 27th October, enter the code: KNOMOxSTEPUPCLUB at check out for 20% off your purchase. Terms and Conditions apply*.


*Terms and conditions: Offer ends 11:59 BST Tuesday, 27th October 2019. To redeem the offer, enter code KNOMOxSTEPUPCLUB at checkout to receive 20% off full-priced products. Offer valid on and in Knomo London stores. Discount cannot be applied towards the purchase of gift cards or discounted items. Knomo reserves the right to amend or change the offer at any time without notification.