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Closing the influence gap

Carla Miller (BA Politics with International Studies, 1996) is a leadership coach, trainer, and speaker, helping women in leadership roles to increase their influence and impact at work.

Why did you choose the University of Warwick and what did you study here?
I was initially drawn to Warwick as it was one of the best institutions for my course, but when we came for the campus tour my parents said I looked completely at home straightaway. I wanted to go to a campus university as it felt safe and fun at the same time and I’ve never regretted my decision. I loved my time at Warwick and made brilliant friends here.

What did you do after graduating?
I wanted to make a difference (I always have done – that’s why I studied politics) so I wanted to work in the charity sector. It took me a couple of jobs to get there but I spent most of my career in corporate fundraising and loved it. Then about 14 years ago, I started coaching alongside my job, which evolved into becoming a women’s leadership coach. I really love bringing groups of women together and helping them to support each other to overcome some of the barriers I faced during my career.

What skills do you need to be a good coach and trainer?
Listening and uncovering the main aspects of what someone is sharing and exploring those further. Asking great questions and making people feel really comfortable and safe. Knowing there is never one right answer or option. For training, it’s about being comfortable on stage, taking complex ideas and simplifying them, telling stories to engage people, and thinking on your feet.

How did your time at Warwick help you develop these skills?
I learnt from studying PAIS that there is never one right answer. It would drive me crazy – you’d go into one class and learn a theory, and then the next week you’d learn why that theory was wrong and learn a completely different theory. I just wanted someone to tell me the right way we should be running the world, but I learnt that life is way more nuanced than that. I wrote a lot of essays, which enabled me to distil reading and learning into salient points and communicate those clearly, which is something I do a lot now. I stood for election for Sabbatical Officer in the third year, which gave me a lot of confidence. My parents couldn’t believe that the shy girl they had dropped off in year one was now standing on a stage doing hustings. I still hated telling jokes, but I really loved answering people’s questions and I think my degree prepared me well for that. You also meet a diverse range of people and learn to embrace your differences. That’s really important for being a coach because even if you think you’ve heard a particular problem before, it’s a different person experiencing it.

Can you tell me a bit about your book, Closing the Influence Gap, and how it came about?
I would have loved a book like this when I went for interviews, when I was going into my first management role, when I was promoted, when I made mistakes and beat myself up, and when I was in meetings where people didn’t listen to me or take me seriously because I was young or female. I learnt a lot of techniques that worked for me, so it’s my way of giving back and making this advice accessible for everyone.

The goal is to give women the tools and strategies they need but also to make them feel less alone and to understand they are completely normal and don’t need fixing: those are the two key points I make at the start of the book. Women are operating in a world that was designed by men for men, and the reason some of us experience imposter syndrome is because, in a way, we are imposters in that world. We’re trying to prove ourselves constantly. The book is aimed mainly at women in leadership and covers topics such as gender bias, seeing yourself as a leader, getting others to see you as a leader, and increasing your influence and impact, along with troubleshooting techniques, coaching tools and strategies, and stories. It’s a really practical reference tool that can sit on people’s desks and be dipped into on a regular basis.

What is the proudest moment of your career?
I’ve led teams that have raised £20 million for good causes, so I’d say that’s what I’m most proud of, alongside the book of course!

image of a white female with blond shoulder length hair, standing against a white wall and smiling at the camera

Carla's book, Closing the Influence Gap, has been shortlisted as a finalist for the Leadership category of the Business Book Awards 2023.