Connecting classrooms with careers across the Tees Valley.

IWD 2022 – Kirsten Donkin

International Women's Day 2022 -

Q&A with Kirsten Donkin, Head of PR, Marketing and Communications at PD Ports.

Career Stories

Please tell us about your background, younger ambitions, interests, education.

I was born in Middlesbrough but raised in Thornaby, where I lived most of my life. For the last ten years I have lived in Hartburn on the outskirts of Stockton with my husband and two children.

How did you get to where you are today, successful women in business? How did you gain your skills and knowledge to do what you’re doing?

I am Head of PR, Marketing and Communications for PD Ports, a role which I feel honoured to have held for over 16 years and as a proud Teessider take a great sense of personal satisfaction to be able to make a valid contribution to my local area.

PD Ports is one of the UK’s major port groups and the largest private employer in the Tees Valley. I oversee a team of two who work tirelessly across our entire business portfolio which covers Teesside, the Humber, Felixstowe and the Isle of Wight. Working in such a diverse and busy business, we have extensive relationships with external agencies and partners. The effective management of these relationships is a key part of my role to ensure successful delivery of PD Ports’ strategic business objectives.

In addition to the core role of communications, I also lead on the company’s CSR activities to drive positive social and economic value for our local communities including skills development of young people. I am a Trustee for the High Tide Foundation, Board member of the Tees Valley Logistics Academy and lead on the Teesport Explorers programme, aimed at primary school children.

It is a challenging and fast moving environment which demands a lot of the team but it also creates a fire in our bellies when we see the positive difference we continually strive to make to improve the economic and social outlook for the people and communities we are connected to.

Have you faced challenging times in the past or any times you have failed at something? How did you face this?

Self doubt and overthinking have been the biggest obstacles I have ever encountered. It is something I work hard at but I never let it hold me back and if anything it has given me an enormous sense of empathy and respect for others who achieve in life despite the chimp on their shoulder telling them they can’t.

When I left school, I had no clue really what I wanted to do – careers advice was limited to visible roles like teachers, doctors or retail workers. I ended up at Middlesbrough College doing Beauty Therapy and quickly realised it wasn’t for me and I knew I needed to do something more suited to me and went on to do my A Levels. Being honest when you know you have made a bad decision was a good lesson to learn early on

I encountered a bad experience in my early days of working and before joining PD Ports which taught me how not to manage people – to get the most of people you need to give them space to develop, empower them and show them respect. On the plus side this experience stayed with me and helped to shape my own management style.

Can you tell us about times that have inspired you throughout your life and where do you get your inspiration and motivation from?

That’s such a broad question as motivation and inspiration comes in different forms at different points in life. My mum is a huge inspiration to me – my mum has always been a strong role model and from an early age taught me the importance of hard work, being a fair person and equality. My children inspire me every day as they give me a purpose in everything I do.

What makes you feel empowered?

Believing in yourself and being accepting of who you are is hugely empowering. Within a work setting, knowing I have a voice which is heard, being given the freedom and respect in the workplace to navigate my own path and an environment which allows me to make mistakes and learn from them makes me feel both empowered and motivated.

What are your future goals?

To continue to do more as a visible female role model with the aim of inspiring the next generation, especially in industries where women are historically underrepresented and show that you can achieve anything if you believe in yourself and have the courage to pursue your dreams.

If you could give one piece of advice to your 15-year-old self, what would it be?

Believe in yourself. Always be true to yourself. Work hard, keep an open mind and always make the most of every opportunity.

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