You live and you learn: Dido Harding of TalkTalk

The CEO of the phone network on horse racing, her competitive streak and what it's like to be married to an MP.

by Hannah Prevett
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

My grandfather was a big influence. He left school at 16 but finished life as a field marshal and a lord. He was my guiding star, which meant that when I was growing up, I wanted to be a WWII general.

Riding a horse in a race is instant love or hate. Either people have one race and think, that's the stupidest thing I've ever done, or they say: 'I never want to do anything else.' I was in the latter camp.

My mum would say I am competitive in a game of tiddlywinks. I am hugely competitive. I hope not in a nasty way. I just love the fight. My grandfather used to tell me 'you can't be brave unless you're afraid'.

I could never work in the City. I once had a summer job working for Barings. I hated it, as I could never get this total focus on numbers.

Working at McKinsey taught me how to think. It gave me a lot of the pattern-recognition skills and the confidence that you know how to solve a problem even if you don't immediately know the answer.

My husband's an MP. Most political spouses have mixed reactions about success or failure in politics. Part of you so wants them to get it but you're also terrified of the possible consequences.

Having children has made me miles more disciplined about work. I was a complete workaholic and this has given me some barriers - a real reason for needing to come home.

I've never encountered overt sexism. I hate to stereotype but women are less likely to push themselves forward than men. I suspect any barriers I've felt have been much more self-imposed than put there by men.

TalkTalk is like an under-12s football team. It's a young, immature business that has grown incredibly fast and everyone just follows the ball.

I'm a restless soul. My husband describes me as an Energiser bunny. I am training for the Edinburgh marathon. As I announced it on the internal blog to our 7,000 employees, there's no going back now.

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