I was thinking back to when I lived in the suburbs for a beat, and remembering the funny relationship that you have with the folks that get on the same train as you, each and every day. Even if you might have felt a little oppositional at first, you gradually become a little like extended family, and you grow to find their presence reassuring. In some cases, you might even become real friends.
I’ve been noodling around cyberspace for the past 10 years and in the wonderful way that people do, I’m aware that people have joined my pixelated ‘train’ along the way, and I have joined theirs right back. We’ve developed that feeling of extended family with each other, celebrated one another’s growth and in some cases, taken that pixelated train friendship to the real world. There are still so many co-passengers that I know so little about, perhaps joined the same train a little later and missed one another’s back stories. That means that we can assume knowledge on the part of the reader that they simply don’t have, given we have recently alighted onto one another’s ‘trains’, and that can make posts feel a little cryptic.
So to my pixelated train friends, I don’t want to be cryptic, I just want to be Ruth Penfold; sold as seen.
This is me, giving you a new chance to get to know some of my backstory, in the hope that I get a new chance to get to know you a little better in return.
- I was born in Carlisle and lived in Northumberland until I was 7, then moved to Bristol until I was 19 and settled in London for University where I have been ever since. I have never lost the essence of my northern roots; the open heart and the conversations with strangers (often on trains haha), but have complimented that with a little southern sass for good measure.
- I was an effervescent, loud, creative and independent child, who fed herself as soon as she was able and was intensely focused on things that she found interesting, but struggled to focus on things that she didn’t. Very soon I learnt to judge my own merits in the eyes of others, which meant I quickly shed my innate operating model to become what I thought the world needed me to be.
- I rebelled for a lot of my teens, determined to grow up super fast and experience as much as I could of what life had to offer. I was driven to be independent and make my mark in the world, and got a job as soon as I was able to. Seeking validation in the eyes of others meant I was constantly striving and seeking admiration, rebellion was the tool I used at the time that allowed me to find it.
- I studied Business Law and Marketing at the University of North London (now London Metropolitan). Whilst I didn’t pursue a career in the Law, the course was an essential ingredient for me as it taught me that I was smart enough to achieve around 70% in all my Legal papers. Up until that time I had identified as an entertainer and someone who had bucketloads of common sense, but found a lot of traditional education hard.
- At around the time of my move to London, I got embroiled in a codependent abusive relationship which didn’t serve me, and spent 12 years applying the majority of my energy on trying to make that doomed relationship successful. I felt like if I worked a bit harder or gave a bit more, things would be better. I was wrong. I landed my approval-seeking squarely at the door and in the eyes of my ex husband, and fought for years to try to find it. Honestly that was a big part of why I stayed, constantly striving, constantly seeking admiration, seeking love.
- After University I fell into recruitment, and spent the next 13 years working in smaller boutique recruitment businesses. I was with the first company for eight years, and was a Director of that business. At the time my self esteem was so low, that I felt silly calling myself what I perceived to be such a lofty title, so I often downplayed it on my CV. In actual fact I was running the team and bringing in a healthy revenue; I was indeed a Director.
- At the age of 27 my life started to shift when I started to be inspired to choose something different by the people around me, first with my dear friend Emily Robertson, who shone a light on many of the areas of self neglect in my world. The awakening was a slow process, but at the age of 30, when the pain of remaining became bigger than the pain of leaving, I set myself free and started my life over again.
- At this time I moved to Notting Hill, an epicentre of eccentricity and life. It was across the backdrop of this neighbourhood that I allowed my healing journey to really unfold, a journey that continues to this day, each week shining a little brighter and feeling a little wiser than the last. I now understand who I am and what my triggers are, I take full responsibility for my environment, the integrity with which I operate and how I ‘show up’ in the world. Every day is a school day.
- As part of this journey of self discovery, I started to meet people who looked interesting and that I admired in some way. I’d invite people for coffee and see where it took me. The whole world had suddenly opened up for me, and whilst it was a little overwhelming at times, I chomped down the new experiences and learnt a tonne about lots of different people and ways of working, largely across the creative spaces as I felt like the energy of those people matched my own my closely.
- That intense drive saw me spend a couple of years working across the art world in my spare time, curating a couple of shows and working with artists to help them network with galleries. I fell in love with art and became determined to learn everything I could about it. I quickly became part of a brilliant art community. If you speak to me on a Zoom call, you will see that my walls are full of artwork as a result of this time. Whilst I was still seeking validation in this community, they simply seemed to accept me just as I was. I kept this work secret from the ‘professional’ sphere at the time as I thought it would be seen as a bad thing. Silly Penfold.
- Then I got a call from someone in my new network about a job with Shazam. At this point, I really wasn’t enjoying working in recruitment, it felt like a means to an end, but Shazam changed all that and suddenly I fell in love with my day job in a way I never had before, so the art stuff fell away. Shazam is an app loved by many, and I was at last able to see all the ways that I could truly add value to a business when my heart was engaged. It was at Shazam that I was able to develop a true sense of self respect for my work ethic and what I was able to deliver. It was at Shazam where I gave myself the permission to show up as my whole self, warts and all.
- By finding my authentic voice and using that voice to connect to others, I had quite unconsciously also started to build my own personal brand, blogging and being someone who often spoke on panels and at conferences. Saying yes to those opportunities awakened a side of myself that I had allowed to become dormant; the entertainer. I found my voice and through my passion and love for my work, had quite a lot to say about the People space and the growth of the working world in general.
- Outside of work, the journey to self continued with a segway into the yoga world. As I began to find the means to connect to my body, I fell in love with the practice of yoga and decided to learn how to teach. I have been teaching now in my spare time for almost four years. This moment was complemented by learning more about meditation, and somewhere between those two things, I found the ability to be still and find my breath. I stopped striving for a moment, and learnt that the person that was inside me wasn’t someone I needed to keep running away from.
- I was at Shazam for almost 5 years, and during that time many companies tried to hire me to do what I had done for Shazam, but I didn’t want to live Groundhog Day. Through the network I had created, I was given the opportunity to step into a broader People role at Onfido, my first role at Executive level. It was like a grown up grad scheme, and I was laden with imposter syndrome, but I kept leaning in and I learnt a tonne. I am truly proud of what we achieved as a team during my time there. This time I showed up as my whole self from the get go and in doing so, gave other people the permission to do the same.
- The Launchpad role appeared and it was too good an opportunity to turn down; to build an organisation that supported and accelerated the growth of new technology companies in the energy space. Our role is to bring the very best of bp to the companies we support, whilst maintaining their agility and ability to scale rapidly. I am learning each and every day, and as Launchpad we are trying to build something a little different. We approach the People stuff with very much a product mindset, and are really just getting started. I can’t wait to see what we can build together.
- I have spent the last 10 years studying humans; who we are, how we are and why we are. I know what it has taken for me to put myself in an environment where I can truly thrive; mind, body, soul. I am hugely compelled to take this knowledge and apply it to the wider world, supporting people to grow on an individual level, but also supporting organisations to operate in a way that allows the human being to find their authentic voice and thrive. This is a subject that I never tire of.
- This year I also launched my podcast; Pancakes and Peacocks. It is a podcast which focuses on joyful living. When I talk about joy, I don’t mean something giddy and temporary, I mean the deep feeling of calm when you are truly walking in alignment with who you are, what you really want and making choices that serve you. As so much of the positive momentum in my life has been created through the inspiration of others, this pod is a chance for me to share some of those people with you all, in the hope that you might feel a little inspired also. Oh and my love of pancakes is real. It’s not just a podcast title. I eat a version of some kind of pancake most days and I am always hacking and creating new ones.
- Since lockdown in London in March, I haven’t been teaching yoga, so I have been applying that energy into things like mentoring, whilst working on my own practice. Daily exercise is one of the cornerstones of my existence. By learning to honour what my body really wants and needs in the past decade, that has influenced how I rest, how I move, what I consume. The work here is continuous and I am constantly iterating on my operating model to created the best possible lived experience for myself. Hacking things and optimising life is one of my very best things to do.
- When I stripped it all away, it turns out I am still that loud and effervescent child who is fiercely independent, but I have at last learnt to stop looking for validation and love in the eyes of others, or at least, I have learnt how to catch myself when I am and instead learning to look inwards. I have learnt the the only love and admiration that truly counts is that which you fine within yourself. It is that steady, committed, consistent love that forms the foundation of my world and I fall in love with myself a little more each day. I work hard to stay committed to my truth and to live from that place as often as possible.
- I ground my day to day life and interactions in a place of love. I meet new people like old friends. I talk unashamedly about love often in a business context and see no divide between who we are professionally and personally. Now showing up as my whole self is instinctive, I no longer have to think about it in the way that I used to. I am delighted to share all of me with all of you, in the hope that I inspire you to feel able to do the same in your own world.
You can expect to see me dialling up on even more honesty in the coming weeks and months, as I endeavour to find new ways to share what I have learnt with you all, in the hope that you will feel inspired to do the same with me right back.
This is my stop. Same time tomorrow…?