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What I’ve Learnt: Lesley Gulliver, Managing Director, The Engine Room


The Engine Room is a Mirfield-based strategic brand consultancy which has been operating for 20 years.

It’s led by MD, Lesley Gulliver, who’s been Managing Director since 2013. Gulliver is an experienced figure in the world of design who is also Board Director at the Design Business Association and Director at What Could Be, which delivers design thinking workshops worldwide.

She’s successfully built major brands and launched new ones in her career, and is passionate about helping SMEs achieve growth through design.

We found out the lessons she’s learnt.


Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?

Either my morning cup of tea, first thing, or reading the news before I go to sleep.

What’s been your luckiest break?

Getting my first job in the design sector straight out of university and getting thrown in at the deep end! I was given a lot of responsibility in an ambitious and successful company in my early career, and I had to learn on my feet – quickly! While stressful, this very much accelerated my development and set me up for the future.

What’s your best failure?

There are too many to mention! But if I had to call one out, it might be failing to ask for support in situations that might have felt tricky to navigate – projects where I may I have felt stuck and don’t know where to start. I’m not good at asking for help.

What is the best investment you’ve ever made, either financial or time?

Time with my son, who turns 12 next month.

Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

‘Jonathan Livingstone Seagull’ by Richard Bach, because it’s OK to not conform.

What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Work hard, yes, but play hard too. And follow your dreams. Sorry, that’s 3!

Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?

Carl Rogers. I studied his work in person-centred theory many years ago. His principles of empathy and congruence as ‘core conditions’ are really important to how I work.

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I re-read every email at least three times before I send it.

How will the COVID crisis change work for the better?

We all feel OK about wearing trainers to client meetings now! But seriously, it’s been an opportunity to review the way we work – especially in terms of efficiencies – while streamlining our digital processes and genuinely taking some time to breathe. Hybrid working is the future.

What does success look like to you?

Being fulfilled at work and at home. Growing in confidence but never in arrogance.

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