Grace Macwilliam, Innovation Engagement Advisor

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Grace works as part of the innovation team who help to drive the firm’s strong culture of collaboration with technology and resources to make change happen.

Grace-Macwilliam

I am a “people” person!

This has been reflected in my career choices so far as I have always orientated towards people-focused roles.

I went travelling for a year in 2015 and had the time of my life, I worked on various farms in Australia and could probably tell you more than you need to know about broccoli. When I came back to the UK I started working at PwC Birmingham as a secretarial assistant looking after 70+ senior managers, mostly from the Bristol area who were used to a secretary sitting next to them in the office. I’m proud of my time at PwC as it was the first time secretarial support had been offered to the senior managers remotely. Despite a dubious start, I built successful and trusting relationships and transformed rather a lot of perspectives on the benefits of remote support. I worked at PwC for just under two years but I wasn’t fully settled and still had an itch to explore which I needed to satisfy.

I applied to be cabin crew for British Airways on a bit of a whim in 2016! I had the experience of a lifetime as mixed fleet crew for BA, meaning I did a mixture of long and short haul flights from London Heathrow. I saw a lot of the world in a short space of time which was incredible but exhausting as I was still commuting from Birmingham. I also struggled with spending so much time alone and doing bucket list worthy things like climbing Table Top Mountain in Cape Town with people I didn’t know and would probably never meet again; I missed building connections with people that lasted more than three days.

I left BA after a year which was plenty of time to see the world, enjoy numerous take off and landings in the cockpit, take my loved ones with me so they could experience first class and avoid falling asleep at the wheel after an eight hour night flight from Chicago with no sleep! Birmingham felt like home for the first time since moving here and I was ready to get stuck into life at Mills & Reeve as an executive assistant!

Why Mills & Reeve?

I chose Mills & Reeve because there was and is so much going on! It was obvious from the website that there was a real culture of making a positive impact which I wanted to be part of. I threw myself into any opportunity I could as an EA and made the most fantastic work family in the Birmingham employment, pensions and immigration team which is what I had missed so much at BA!

How having the “patience of saint” led me to my current role

I think it’s fair to say that I’m a fairly patient person. I volunteered to support on a key transition project within Mills & Reeve and would often sit with different teams to help learn and navigate the new system. One of my colleagues told me I had the “patience of a saint” to put up with all the queries but I found that helping others to find improved practices and processes was something I really enjoyed. Which is why I applied for the secondment as innovation engagement advisor when the opportunity arose in September 2020. I believe we can all challenge the way we do things to improve working practices and I’m quite patient while people are learning those new skills and systems.

Luckily the innovation team have also been very patient with me learning a completely new role during a global pandemic! Despite joining the team in October 2020 and spending the majority of my secondment working remotely, I feel completely connected to the team. In fact I completely forgot I hadn’t met the majority of them in person until they commented on how tall I am in person! It’s my role to connect people internally and externally with the innovation solutions we have available at Mills & Reeve, which I love as its people driven! My secondment has since been extended to a permanent role which I’m thrilled about!

Influential women at Mills & Reeve

I feel very lucky to work for Mills & Reeve; the work is varied and interesting, the people are warm and friendly, and the ethos is positive and change driven. I also think the network of women across the firm is absolutely incredible. Listening to a recent Women in Law session hosted internally at Mills & Reeve made me reflect on the role models I have at Mills & Reeve. During my second interview with partner Jog Hundle in 2018, I remember feeling very empowered in my career path as she told me I could branch into anything I found interesting whether that be marketing, HR or law qualifications. From that moment on I’ve felt 100% supported in my career decisions. Jog and Annette Haye were so supportive when I told them about the secondment opportunity in the innovation team. I was terrified to tell them which was ridiculous as they told me to absolutely go for it! Joining the innovation team in 2020 only extended my network of inspiring women as I was introduced to the world of women in legal technology…wow. My innovation colleagues Emma Jackson, Jodie Hosmer and Vic Sears could quite easily conquer the world and be back in time to feed the kids!

Pay it forward

The innovation team have been brilliant at throwing anything and everything in my direction so I could really get a sense for what the team do and what I find most interesting. I’ve loved working with so many different teams, implementing legal technology solutions like Volume Control for clients, building apps, offering inductions and training firm wide on innovation at Mills & Reeve and helping write award submissions to celebrate innovation not only in legal practices but also in diversity, inclusion and wellbeing.

Emma Jackson recently nominated me to join the Birmingham Law Society Legal Technology committee which has been very rewarding but also quite challenging as we try to build our presence amongst the West Midlands legal community. Emma is very good at involving junior members of the team in projects she knows will be exciting and beneficial to them. Probably a result of the supportive mentorship I know she has received throughout her time at Mills & Reeve. I want to pass on my own knowledge where I can and “pay it forward” creating an ongoing chain of support and enthusiasm for personal development and progression at Mills & Reeve.

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