What I learned from the CEO of Barnardo's

On Tuesday 13th February, Leeds University Business School students met the CEO of Barnardo's, Lynn Perry, as she gave a talk on her career journey. Our students provided the following reflections.

Georgia Glew, BA Business Management

Lynn Perry began her talk with the earlier stages of her career. She demonstrated her passion for making changes for people that suffered social injustices, rooted in her working-class background that she felt had a great impact on what her had driven her ambitions. She began her career working with young boys in secondary school that struggled with emotional difficulties and later sought a new opportunity to work with young offenders in York. Whilst Lynn Perry discussed her career moves it was clear that she took every opportunity that she came across and was very driven by innovative ideas that would revolutionise processes to improve the lives of children and families across the UK. She then discussed her bold move to Manchester in criminal justice work, aiming at rehabilitating young offenders before they would go to custody to reduce the amount of young people in Prison. It was clear to me that she was driven by every opportunity that could change the lives of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and why she would later be in the position she is today. Her next move took her to her work in Barnardo’s where she started out as a children’s assistant director and loved the work because the people there were all striving for the same common purpose and held the same values that she described as the backbone of charity work.

During her time at Barnardo’s she talked to us about the importance of interim positions and how these small opportunities can land you a permanent position if you are able to demonstrate the competence and capabilities within the role. She talked about how she moved into the executive board by a temporary position that became her own that would later be her priming for taking the CEO position. With this, she gave the advice that she had received during her career as ‘never mind my shoes, bring your own shoes to the table’. I interpreted this as her way of saying bring yourself and your bold ideas to a role and not attempt to copy the role of your predecessor.

After she discussed her career journey to CEO, we watched an impact video from 2022 of what Barnardo’s achieved that year. The video was incredible in demonstrating the charity work that they had achieved, reaching 373,000 children and families, 17,000 volunteers across the UK and over 800 services available for children and families. The video outlined how impactful and important the work that Barnardo’s is to improving the lives of disadvantaged people. From this video I recognised how important it is that someone like Lynn is the CEO, that is so driven by social injustices and making an impact.

From watching the video, Lynn discussed how business works within a charitable organisation. Barnardo’s strategy is to increase the value of their services, which in their industry is really important when tendering for contracts where it is highly competitive with other charitable organisations. The other difference between the charity sector and other sectors is that they are driven by purpose and not so much on growth, therefore they don’t grow for growths sake, growth is very strategically aligned with the purpose of the organisation.

Lynn Perry delivering a talk to LUBS students


Kara Protomartir, International Marketing Management MSc

Apart from the numbers and the reach she has accomplished, I believe it’s being able to highlight that she is a mother first and foremost. To be a woman at the top and a good mom is not an easy feat. Moreover, her ability to hold true to her values, empathically listen, and use these so-called “motherly instinct” strategies, a trait not often seen in the business world to influence people in the parliament and truly make a change is admirable. 

There have been studies showing how women are taking a backseat in their careers to rear children. I’ve always believed, albeit difficult, that this can be done and I am grateful to see women like Lynn to be leading the pack. We need more leaders like her. 

Lynn Perry delivering a talk to students


Joseph Hopkins, Accounting and Finance BSc

Attending the first session of the Leeds University Business School (LUBS) International Executive speaker series for 2024 was an enlightening experience, thanks to the very engaging talk by Lynn Perry, CEO of Barnardo’s. Her journey from a working-class background to the C-Suite was not only inspiring but also provided valuable insights into the pathways to high-responsibility jobs.

Listening to Lynn Perry's perspective, I gained a good understanding of the challenges and obstacles a person may encounter while climbing the corporate ladder. Her struggles in managing personal and work life, along with her contemplation of ‘moving on’ multiple times, shed light on the realities of the professional world. As a first-year student, this gave me a real glimpse into the complexities and dilemmas I may face in my future career.

An aspect of Lynn's journey that particularly resonated with me was her unwavering passion. It was noticeably clear that her commitment to making a difference was the driving force behind her career decisions. Despite the challenges she faced, her passion remained firm, propelling her towards success. This made me reflect on my own passions and how they could shape my future career path. Her story encouraged me to delve deeper and question what truly motivates and drives me, and how I can channel my own passion into making a meaningful impact in the future.

It was fascinating to gain insight into the kind of financial figures and staffing numbers Lynn deals within her role as CEO of Barnardo’s. The scale of responsibility and decision-making involved in managing such resources was eye-opening. It highlighted the level of strategic thinking required to steer an organization towards its goals effectively. Additionally, learning from the third sector, particularly charities like Barnardo’s, provided a unique outlook. Understanding the intricacies of managing a charitable organization, balancing financial constraints with social impact, was highly informative. It broadened my understanding of the diverse opportunities available in the professional world outside of traditional corporate settings.

Furthermore, Lynn's presentation underscored the importance of perseverance and resilience when challenges arise. It was made known that her journey was not without its setbacks and difficulties, yet she persisted, continuously striving for change. This served as a reminder that success is often preceded by hardships and challenges, but it is the ability to overcome them that sets individuals apart.

In conclusion, Lynn’s session was a testament to the power of passion and purpose in achieving success. Her journey from university to the pinnacle of corporate leadership serves as an example for aspiring students, showing that with determination and dedication, anything is possible. As I embark on my own path of life, I will aim to find my own passion, drive and resilience to overcome any future struggles or decisions.

Finally, I am incredibly grateful to the Leeds University Business School for organizing this event. The first session of the International Executive speaker series provided an invaluable opportunity for students, like me, to gain insights into high-responsibility roles early on in our university journey. Experiences like these not only broaden our horizons but also equip us with additional knowledge and inspiration needed to navigate the constantly changing professional world.

Find out more about our International Executive Speaker Series and upcoming events.