“You have to keep balance or some of the balls will fall out of the air.”

In episode 48, Sham chats with Alison about her work with the British Council, how her career has taken her to multiple countries across several continents, and how she and her partner work together to make it all work for their family.

Alison is the Director for Teaching for Middle East and North Africa for the British Council. Her career with the British council has spanned continents over the years. She first joined British Council as a teacher in Sri Lanka in 1988 and has grown her career with the organisation. She is an inspiration for any woman out there juggling a career and demanding job – throwing in moving countries into the mix. Her two lovely children who recently graduated from university were born in Sri Lanka and grew up across the globe.

“You need your partner to be on board with the career choice, the moves across the world.”

Show recap:

  • She plays a role in making friends for the United Kingdom via the British Council – not in a political way but a cultural one.

  • She currently serves the teaching portfolio which generates income for the British Council – she looks at the strategic focus and business development aspects.

  • Her career has spanned continents. She started with the British Council as an English teacher in 1988 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. She then set up another teaching centre in another city in Sri Lanka as her life moved on with setting up family with her two kids.

  • The family then moved to Barcelona, New Delhi, Kuala Lumpur, Lisbon and now Dubai.

  • Alison opted to work with the British Council because she believes in the organisation where people are passionate about their work – it is a charity and she has focused on the business aspects of it.

  • When questioned about one of the most fascinating aspects of her life – moving across the globe, starting and building her career there and starting a family, she says the first thing that is crucial is one’s partner. The relationship with your partner. You both have to be signed up for the lifestyle.

  • Alison’s husband was a willing partner while she became the main breadwinner.

  • She believes she could have never pulled it all off without her husband’s support.

  • And the second thing – Alison enjoys variety in her work. If you are going to move to lots of different countries, you have to be adaptable to lots of different change and serve as a stimulus.

  • Alison and her family have moved once every four or five years. And one of the things she loves in her current role is the ability to travel to 12 different countries in the region and experience 12 different cultures.

  • In terms of moving her children around, she says we tend to worry too much about kids. Generally children are more flexible than we give them credit for. Children are agile at adapting.

  • She made sure to stay for blocks of four years and not moved during crucial times in the children’s lives.

  • If you sign up to this sort of life where you move around a lot, you have to have a belief that things will work out.

  • It is difficult to foster friendships etc when you move around constantly. With children, it is easier where you make friends through the school life. She started going to a book club meet when in New Delhi and enjoyed the change it gave her.

  • She sees bringing people together, getting the most out of teams as a her strength, her success.

  • As a leader she sees giving clear directions, empowering teams as crucial.

  • Her challenge in the region is the lack of a team as it is rather spread out – but she has managed to foster a team feeling across the region. A lot of one on one time and work has borne fruit.

  • Lessons learned, rather than failures, she believes that is best to see life that way. The biggest lesson for Alison in terms of work is that she is very vocal and assertive and with time she now spends a bit more time to see how to achieve what she wants.

  • It takes a lot of energy to challenge things all the time.

  • On a personal side, a big lesson learned is that one has to balance and nurture your family life, relationship along with your career.

  • She advices to keep the balance and don’t take family life for granted.


Connect with Alison:

She can be reached via email at alisonsri@hotmail.com