Because of the two fantastic awards that our CEO Julie Hawker has won recently, we asked her to share her experiences with us. Julie has been awarded the Social Enterprise Women’s Champion and the Devon Venus Awards’ Director of the Year. She has agreed to give us an insight into her remarkable career journey so far…
I’ve worked at Cosmic and in social enterprise for almost 20 years now, and so how fantastic to receive two awards in two days, both of which I feel recognise my commitment, determination and also my dedication to social enterprise as a fantastic way of doing business. I really do believe that the UK and Devon would be better served by an economy which embraced many more businesses like Cosmic.
When I started out at Cosmic, it had already been established and had a great vision for achieving social impact alongside a local business operation. Joining the team gave me a great opportunity to be a part of developing that vision and to learn and absorb the passion of others involved at that time, particularly Ian, Peter and Kerrie. My work focussed on business development and so I also learned a great deal about local businesses who we wanted to become clients and spent many hours listening to business people around the local area explain their views on success. I remember very well feeling a little ‘out of my depth’ in those days, but having the right spirit of friendliness, support and motivation made things work out well in most cases. Cosmic soon began to grow.
I took over as Chief Executive in spring 2002, a time when Cosmic was experiencing a major growth in its social impact through our work with the Big Lottery and with a variety of major programmes seeking to overcome digital disadvantage. My determination at this time was to ensure that Cosmic could make the most of its position in making a difference to people’s live and to their ability to develop and progress using digital skills. We did this exceptionally well and really did establish our role as key partners to major digital programmes across Devon and Somerset – a position we are still very successful and active in today.
“Finding a successor for an organisation that you have created isn’t easy. However, the decision to appoint Julie as my successor and CEO of COSMIC was the easiest of my career. And probably with hindsight, one of the best business decisions I ever made. We had worked together for five years by that time, and she had shown that she had all the skills, social insight, drive and determination needed to take COSMIC to the next level. And so it turns out, several levels beyond that. You have redefined the word ‘successor' for me. So congratulations on this recognition Julie, its fully deserved for all the years of hard work you have put in. It has been a source of quiet but great personal pride that COSMIC kept growing and you made that happen. Thanks and huge congratulations” – Ian Clifford, founder of Cosmic
And then came along opportunities to represent not just Cosmic, but the wider social enterprise community in influencing, lobbying and business development. I became Chair of RISE (the regional body for Social Enterprise in SW), then I was appointed as a Social Enterprise Ambassador by the government’s cabinet office. I was involved in the set-up of the Social Enterprise Mark company and Cosmic was the first mark-holder. I spent time as the Regional IT Champion for the south west a role which enabled me to meet many other great people working across the voluntary, charity and social enterprise worlds in the region.
More recently I’ve worked on the board of Devon & Cornwall Business Council and the Exeter & Heart of Devon Skills Board using both of these positions to advocate strongly for the place of social enterprises and digital skills in our local economy. I am a firm believer on working alongside organisations to influence and change, and demonstrating my success through my role at Cosmic has proved a powerful force in this respect. The Cosmic business, my team and the support I’ve had throughout from my Board, partner organisations and the wider business community has been exceptional.
“Julie is the driving force behind Cosmic’s success, it doesn’t surprise me that she’s won these two awards, she truly deserves them. Julie is a huge inspiration to many women both within Cosmic and other organisations as a champion of integrity in leadership and of social enterprise. I know as a team we are so proud of her and look forward to the exciting ideas and plans she has in mind for the future.” – Kate Doodson
And so now, with plenty more years ahead and plenty of ambitious plans for Cosmic, I’m delighted with the awards for one very simply reason. Over the years there have been several times when the challenges seemed just a bit too tough, or the agenda a bit too steep, and during those years I needed a role model who was another woman, and who had made her success in business and amid strong competition. It was always better to find a woman with a smile and someone I could relate to of course. If I can be that woman for another woman out there right now – then that’s good enough for me!