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Karen Hester

Honorary Graduate


Karen Hester

Karen Hester began her career at Adnams in 1988 as a part-time cleaner. Today, as Chief Operating Officer, she is responsible for over 400 employees, ensuring the smooth daily operations of the Company. Adnams being a diverse organisation means that manufacturing, pubs, hotels, shops, human resources and logistics are all within Karen’s remit. Karen has come such a long way in her career from cleaner to Chief Operating Officer showing determination and enthusiasm every step of the way.

Her first role in the army is a far cry from her present job, but the fact that Karen has succeeded in so many different positions, just goes to emphasise her ability to adapt and thrive in all different roles. Her varied work life has proved she is capable of working successfully as part of a team and on her own initiative. Karen has achieved success in a predominantly male environment, which further proves her strength of character and determination. Karen won East of England Business Woman of the Year in 2008 and First Women Business of the Year in 2013.

Most recently, Karen became the first woman to be appointed to the Adnams Board as an Executive Director since the Company formed in 1872. Karen also sits on the Board of Independence Matters, an organisation that provides support services tailored to the needs of adults with learning and physical disabilities. Karen said to the graduates, “Not only am I honoured and privileged to accept this award today but it is a dream for me because when I was young the opportunities to go to university were not there. I actually wanted to go to university to be a barrister but that wasn’t to be so my career path was very different. What is apparent today is how great you have all done, I am at the other end of the scale, you are just beginning your journey of learning. Never forget where you have come from and all the support structure you have had around you to get you to where you are today because today is a fantastic beginning for you.” “I’m sure many of you would have preferred to graduate yesterday but obviously you hadn’t met me then and actually it’s probably lucky for Ed Sheeran to be before me because I am a hard act to follow, so thanks Ed for that- going before me! I would like to thank my family who have supported me, Adnams and a great coach and mentor to me that’s Andy Wood. My advice for you all now is to be the best you can be, enjoy today because the hard work probably begins now for you whereas I am just going to ‘chillax’ as Ed said so congratulations to you all, I wish you all good success in your careers but do work hard because as well as the bit of paper you do need to have a good work ethic, one day you might have to work with someone like me!”