Helena Bowman

Head of MFC Foundation, Durham

Sector: Charity

For the last 15 years Helena Bowman has worked for Middlesbrough FC’s official charity, the MFC Foundation.  

Where do you call home? 

I grew up in Durham and I would class that as my home town. However, I feel like an adopted Teessider as I have lived here for 15 years and am very proud of our area. 

Tell us about your role?  

As I write this, I am Head of MFC Foundation, the official charity of Middlesbrough Football Club. In September 2021, I will be joining the football club full time as head of business operations and community. I have worked at the foundation for over 15 years and it’s a fantastic charity doing some brilliant work in the community to support and inspire the people of Teesside. We have a team of 70 staff delivering activities seven days a week with a vision of “Inspire Hope and Inspire Confidence”. 

How did you get to where you are today? 

I graduated from Sheffield University with a BSc in psychology and moved back home to Durham. I got a job in a local bar as a waitress and when not working, I searched for jobs in the local paper. I saw a job at Middlesbrough Football Club Foundation as a youth engagement worker and I applied. I probably shouldn’t say this but it was the fact that role was at a professional football club that attracted me, as I love football. I’m not 100 per cent sure I even knew what the job as about when I applied! However, I was successful and after 11 years and seven different roles at the charity, I became head of foundation in 2017. I would not have been able to do that without the brilliant team of people at the foundation and those who have invested their time and effort in developing me. 

What struggles or obstacles did you face along the way? 

I have had many struggles both professionally and personally but ultimately, they are all things I have learned from and helped me to be a better leader. Any experience, good or bad, is a learning experience and looking back there are things that were very challenging and even upsetting at times, but without those experiences I wouldn’t be who I am today. 

Describe the moment you first got a feel for success? 

There isn’t one particular “light bulb moment” but I think that once I stopped being defensive when criticised and actually took those opportunities to learn and listen, that really helped with my confidence levels. Self-awareness is so important in leadership and recognising weaknesses or blind spots in yourself is actually a really good thing. 

Do you have any advice to aspiring young females? 

Try things that will challenge you. Do things which are in your stretch zone, rather than those that are just comfortable. They may be scary, but they will be experiences you can learn from which will help you develop. 

What advice would you give to your younger self?  

It’s OK to not know the answer. Admitting you don’t know isn’t a weakness, it’s a chance to find out the real answer and learn from it. 

What three words inspire you and encourage a positive path?  

Determination, listen, hard work.

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