I left school when I was about 17, in 1970. I eventually found my way to National Magazines as secretary to the publicity manager. At the time, Cosmopolitan was launched, and this made me think that I could combine what I was interested in and what I liked reading with a career. But at that stage, women didn't have careers: you were either a secretary, or had gone to university and had a profession, most likely teaching.
I worked for Penthouse Publications for about three years, where I had learned a lot about magazines, and a lot about men too. That was an interesting, if rather surreal, time: Penthouse had a sex aids division at the time, and the person I worked for was responsible for that, so it was not unusual to come into my office and find masses of prostheses on my desk.
Later, I joined IPC. I again went to work for a publicity manager, because it was something I was familiar with. I worked for a woman called Grace Cook, who was quite a grand lady. I suppose she was the first person I came across in my career who made me realise there was more to life than being a secretary. After about three years, a vacancy came up for a trainee promotions executive, and I got it, though I had to fight hard for it. It was the biggest achievement of my life in many ways, because to get out of what was the secretarial rut onto the first rung of management was a huge breakthrough.
I then worked on a range of magazines, generally women's. By the time I was 30, I had the job of group publicity manager, working across a range of women's magazines, at which point someone suggested I become publisher. I had to think about it, because I wasn't quite sure what they did, and I really liked what I was doing. I was pushed into it, really, and I went to be associate publisher with Sally Cartwright, who is now at Hello. After six months, I became publisher, so I had quite a rapid rise.
In 1987, Glenda Bailey joined the company with an idea for a fashion magazine, and she and I worked together very well, producing something that we published for a few issues called Fashion Folio. There was talk of Marie Claire coming to the UK, and we were both very keen to do it. We had a meeting with Evelyn Pourvu, who owns Marie Claire in France, and it was a case of right place and right time. She was coming to the UK that week to see another company's dummy for Marie Claire, so she saw us that afternoon.
We clearly had the same approach to business, and she asked if we would go out to France the next week if she decided not to go ahead with the other publisher. We gave up a bank holiday to go, and we met all their key people before Evelyn called us into her office. She just looked at me and said "Okay, when are we going to launch UK Marie Claire?" I said "September 1988", and we got back on the plane unable to believe it had been as simple as that.
I take great pride in the fact that it has changed the face of women's magazines over the last decade. I became a board director about two years after the launch, and after January last year.
I think it's the most exciting thing to be involved in a creative process on things that change from week to week or month to month, and that are household names. The ties with Marie Claire opens doors, and it opens conversations. It's a strong brand, and we've worked very hard to create that brand, but I recognise that it has glamorous associations.
I get a kick out of doing the unexpected, and taking people from unexpected areas. Glenda is a great example of that, because when we launched Marie Claire, I got such criticism over her appointment, internally and externally. "What are you doing, Heather?" people said. I like sticking my neck out, which probably hasn't done me any favours in the company I'm currently at, but I think you have to fight for what you believe in