I'm one of those people who's never had a career in the traditional sense of knowing exactly what they wanted to do; jobs have tended to come my way, and I've taken them if they felt right at the time. Although I've been slightly political, what I have absolutely no regrets about is not going into politics. A common thread to my career is campaigning - I've worked for a trade union, as a health and safety officer and, from 1985 to '95, I was director of Shelter, the charity for the homeless. But I could never be a parliamentarian because I'm almost incapable of compromising my views. My mother had a phrase for this attitude even when I was a child.
She'd say: 'Sheila's fizzing.' There's a part of me that thinks, yes, I could enter mainstream business and run a major corporation, but even at the top I'd still find it difficult to take instructions. I'm a fully paid up member of the awkward squad. I tend to stay at organisations for too long, but only because I'm intensely loyal. I haven't any serious regrets, but I sometimes wish I hadn't turned down the first job I was offered in 1972. I'd just graduated from Edinburgh University and the Machine Intelligence Unit wanted me to help write a new computer language, but I decided to study industrial relations at Warwick instead. I don't know if I'd have become a dot.com millionaire, but I occasionally wish I'd known then the importance that IT would come to have in business.