Laying The Foundation For Success
A few formative moments.
Stephen Joyce (Rachel’s father): In the late ’70s we lived in a company housing colony at a cement plant where I worked north of Mexico City. There were swimming lessons in the colony’s pool for children 3 years old or more; however, the plant production manager, Pedro Nieto, thought children should overcome their fear of water and start swimming earlier. So while Rachel’s older brother was swimming one day with mum and dad proudly watching, Pedro threw Rachel — at 16 months of age — into the pool. Frozen with horror we watched her small arms and legs start paddling from the bottom to the top of the pool to get a breath of air. Soon after she had her first competitive swim — arm-band assisted this time — and the rest is history.
Joyce: When I was at high school we had cross country, and I would beat all the boys except for one. But the football, soccer and basketball were for boys but not for girls. So I petitioned to get a girls’ soccer club. Then it was like, “Oh, I’ve got to go to this — I don’t even like soccer!” But it was my duty to go. Then I got a bee in my bonnet because we weren’t allowed to play cricket — because the balls were very hard. I was like, “If they hit the boys it’s going to hurt just as much!” I went on this complete mission to get a girls’ cricket club. And I don’t like soccer very much, but I hate cricket! So I ended up spending all my lunchtime playing these sports I really hated. Then there was no 1500m track event for the girls — there was only an 800m. I said, “We can run 1500!” Of course, come sports day I had to do the 1500.
Neil White (Joyce’s former boss at the law firm of Taylor Wessing, where Joyce worked as an attorney): Initially when Rachel joined us as a trainee about 10 or 12 years ago, we found her very quiet — even a bit mouse-like — and were concerned that she was not cut out for the rough and tumble of the construction industry. However, during her six months training she impressed us with her determination and commitment. When she qualified [as a solicitor, the British term for lawyer], we thought she might do well in the construction group where these qualities are very important. Our concern remained that she did not seem to be very tough and that she might get pushed around in negotiations. We need not have worried. It quickly became clear that Rachel’s determination was more than that — she was actually as feisty and tough as she appeared to be meek and mild, but she concealed it well. In fact, it turned out to be a positive advantage, as her opponents tended to underestimate her.