Q&A with Tamara Box
1. You're talking to a friend of a friend at a party. How do you describe what you do?
I usually try to start with something like, ‘Complex financial deals that generate or free up capital for enterprises. . .’ at which time I see a glazed look that seems to say, ‘Is it possible to be any more boring?’ Then I just give up and say: ‘All the stuff that caused the credit crunch.’ That usually stops the questions, anyway…
2. What’s the most interesting case you’ve worked on?
Again, this probably won’t sound interesting to most people, but I worked on Asia’s very first LBO where my client acquired a palm oil plantation in Indonesia.
I learned all sorts of interesting new things, such as what ‘clonal seeding’ is and how to do it! Yes, it is about using clones, but that’s enough said. The best part was visiting the plantation deep in the heart of Medan, Indonesia.
3. What was your first job?
As a teenager I worked as a ‘people pleaser’ in a restaurant in Texas. Basically, I just walked around and made sure all the diners were happy. I couldn’t believe they actually paid me just to chat and be friendly to customers.
The same summer my day job was selling clothes in Palais Royal, a department store, where I could get a discount on all the clothes I bought there. I would just select something, and it would be charged to my account and the amount would be taken out of my pay cheque. I thought I was in heaven! Then I got my first pay cheque and saw that after paying for all my clothes I was taking home a whopping 74 cents! Good thing ‘people pleasing’ paid better!
4. Career highlight?
I like to think that I’m not on the downhill slide just yet and my career highlight is still to come!
5. Sunrise or sunset?
Sunrise, but under duress. I live with two morning people - my husband and my son, both of whom like to get up around 05:30. Horrid.
6. What's in your desk drawers?
The usual: lippy, glasses cleaner, chopsticks (you never know when you might need chopsticks), salt and pepper, and lots of thank-you cards. My mother always made me write thank-you notes for everything, and I still do.
7. Share some great advice you've been given.
‘Never eat lunch alone.’ That one statement, told to me by a wonderful friend and successful banker, shows how easy it is to increase your network by doing the same things you do every day - just do them WITH someone. I must admit I don’t exactly always follow that advice though.
8. Can you recommend a local lunch or coffee spot?
Since I travel a lot, I’m not sure what local is anymore, but any Joe and the Juice. Such a great place: it makes me feel old and young at the same time.
9. How do you relax?
It’s a tossup between shopping and yoga. Ideally, someday someone will invent a way to do both at the same time!
10. What's your pet hate?
Non-responsiveness. I am just sure that being super responsive - perhaps, admittedly, obsessively so - has been a significant part of my ability to succeed, so I am frustrated when I see others waste the opportunity to get that right at the outset.
11. Favourite city?
No doubt about this one: London. I fell in love with this city when I was 19 and came here to go to university at the London School of Economics. I haven’t fallen out of love yet.
12. What book is on your bedside table ?
A Good Time to be a Girl, by my friend and the inspirational Helena Morrissey.
13. How would you spend your last £5?
At this point in my life, I would probably spend my last £5 on Lego. It seems like I spend every other pound on Lego, so why not my last?
14. Favourite TV box set?
The Killing. My son decided to learn Danish, because he is very determined that he will work for Lego when he grows up. So, we watch The Killing (in Danish) together. It’s actually rather good – and so is his Danish!
15. Seaside or mountains?
Mountains, always. I don’t like hot weather, and my skin doesn’t like the beach. We have a small place in Switzerland where I go when I want to breathe the fresh air and enjoy the serenity of the mountains. I always feel very relaxed there.
16. Hidden talents?
I don’t think I have anything hidden - I’m afraid that what few talents I have are all on show!