Here is our Fireside Chat with Kate Blake, OEM and International Sales Manager for Cranford Controls and Co-Founder of Women in Fire Safety. This interview touches on Kate's experience within the fire industry, building the WIFS awards and how she got to work with one of the members of the group Atomic Kitten.

20 February 2023 by Kirsty Lavell, Marketing Manager


Hello, I am Kate Blake. I am the OEM and international Sales Manager for Cranford Controls who are a UK Manufacturer of Audio Visual Devices, Based in Hampshire.

I am also the co-founder of Women in Fire Safety. We created an annual awards ceremony to help highlight women working within the Fire Safety industry and to inspire future generations into a possible career. I have spent my career in Finance, Construction, Supply chain and in manufacturing for the fire safety industry in the capacity of a sales manager.

How have you been affected by Covid-19?   

It was quite an eventful time and encouraged me to be quite creative. I was working outside the Fire Safety industry at the time, working for a Spanish company specifying electric heating products into social housing. To cut a long story short, I was furloughed and then made redundant. However, I had qualified as a Coach with the Association for Professional Coaching prior to the start of the pandemic, and although I had been doing some mentoring before this time, I decided to just work for myself and get more experience. I also continued study to become an Accredited Master Coach.  

I coached many people in that time. From high level executives to people who were just needing a bit of extra help during the lockdown, perhaps being at a career crossroad. I also worked on a project with a client, coaching women in around the world, South Africa, Zambia and the UK to keep them positive during this difficult time. Along with that I did sales consulting working with coaches in America selling their programs as well as guest writing in a couple of books and articles. I did some public speaking slots too, one for the staff at Sellafield.  

So a busy time really. Fun-fact during covid I worked with one of the group Atomic Kitten, who found me on LinkedIn and wanted some sales training. You really never know who is looking at your social media. Our first Women in Fire Safety led me to my job at Cranford Controls.

Personal Questions 

Do you have any pets?   

I have a dog called Jade she’s tiny, and fluffy with watery eyes.

What’s your favourite movie of all time? 

The Godfather 1 and 2, 2 being my favourite. I read the Godfather 1 at my aunties house at Christmas many years ago, she was an avid reader.  I sneaked it out of her bookcase and read it with a torch as I thought my parents would disapprove.  If you like those films, check out the limited series “The Offer” on Paramount.

Describe yourself as a teenager in 3 words? 

Naïve, idealistic, underestimated.

What is your biggest pet peeve/hate?  

People that try and drag others down. I’ve seen a lot of that in my personal life and in business. We should all be confident in our abilities to lift each other and be happy for each other’s success.

If you could be from any other decade (or era), which would it be and why? 

Difficult to say. I would be happy to live in most decades as long as I was well off. Apart from France maybe in 1789-99 when being wealthy may not have been a benefit.

What is your favourite quote and why?  

I like quotes that talk about the need for continuous learning. Shakespeare says this well. “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” Socrates also said similar, “Wisdom Comes to each of us when we realise how little we understand about life, ourselves and the world around us.” The older I get the more I realise there is so much to learn. It’s impossible to know everything. Which is exciting.

If you weren’t in the fire industry – what would you be doing and why? 

I love sales, and I really love networking so I would stay in that area. It’s a natural curiosity about people in general. However I would mix it more with my Coaching.

What’s on your Spotify or iTunes? 

R&B, Classical Music, Rock , funk and Jazz…..and many more.

If you could have any three people (dead or alive) over for dinner – who would they be? 

Well there are so many. Maybe Mozart, Marilyn Monroe and Voltaire.  Music, Entertainment and philosophy.  The mixture of the 3 of them would spark some interesting conversation.  If they were not available, my mum, dad and brother who all went too soon. I have so much to get them up to speed with. Can I have more than 3? A party perhaps?

What two things would you take to a Desert Island?  

A boat and a hamper full of food? Is that allowed? Alternatively a sun bed and a machete. Got to cut open those coconuts right?

Name a book, movie or tv show that has positively shaped you and why? 

A book I would recommend is a really quick read that can been accessed when ever it is required. It is The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. Don Miguel Ruiz Is a shamanic teacher and healer and he presents the reader with a code of personal conduct. The four agreements are Be impeccable with your word, Don’t take things personally, Don’t make assumptions, Always do your best. There are some great lessons in that book.

If you were an animal, what animal would you be and why? 

A wolf. Their howls can be heard by their packs for up to 10 miles. So their communicating and listening skills are amazing, also great hunters, but caring and devoted to their families I find them fascinating when watching them on documentaries. My dog is a Shih Tzu mix. She’s a very little wolf.

What is the best gift you’ve ever received? 

I was adopted as a baby into a really fantastic family. I couldn’t have wished for better. I now know my biological family, so I’ve certainly been gifted with parents.

What's your favourite thing in your closet right now? 

Jeans and Tee shirt I’m so glamorous.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? 

I’ve watched the series The Boyz on TV, these things don’t always end well. However I do think that something to prolong or change time so I can pop back and fix a few things and also help a few people. However that never seems to work out well in films does it.

Professional Questions 

Where’s the most interesting place that you have ever been with the Fire Industry? 

I’ve only recently started travelling in my capacity of OEM and International Manager with Cranford Controls. I’ve had 6 trips in the last few months however Dubai was great. In 2009 I wrote an essay on it for my Construction Management level 5 qualification. I had not had the chance to visit back then so was very excited to visit for Intersec this year. Clearly it has changed since 2009. But in addition to being somewhere I had written about, it was a great event for networking and I got to meet with so many customers and industry friends.

What's the best piece of advice you've received? 

Don’t spend your time worrying about what people are thinking about you. They are generally more concerned with worrying about their own lives. I have to constantly remind myself of this.

What time did you get to work this morning? 

I generally get to work for 8am. But the nature of my job can make this much earlier. But if I’m at home 8 is a good time.

What does your usual day look like? 

Every day is different. Especially if I’m travelling to see customers and I’ve always enjoyed that aspect of being in sales. The world has become very much emails and teams meetings, so it’s always good to be able mix things up.

I’m working hard to make sure I remember to add a few of my coaching habits into the day. I always used to tell my clients to go out for a walk, take time to stop, meditate etc. I try hard to remember to take my own advice in my working day.

How does your work and family life come together? 

Two of my children have left home many years ago, and my youngest is off to Uni this year.

So, family life changes over time and so does work life and both have different requirements.  I have worked in jobs for many years where I have potential to be working away from home, the family are used to that.

But I enjoy working and I enjoy my family life so its works. I find its important to have gratitude for both.

What makes you excited about the future of this industry? 

Change for the new people entering the industry. I’ve been working in industry since the 1980s, and I am starting to see change. At our Women in Fire Safety event, there was an amazing mixture of men and women. In all honesty, I have spent most of my professional life going to events where, as a woman, I have been in the minority, and that’s ok, I accepted it because there weren’t many women coming through into these industries.

I think this is changing and working with Women in Fire Safety, I am encouraged to see how many more young women and young men are now entering the industry together and also, how many of us are out there in the industry.  

It was nice to see an event which was equally men and women celebrating together. I really am excited about that.

What does the fire industry need? 

It’s important to be encouraging new people into the industry. I think the challenge is how do we highlight the wide variety of opportunities within the industry to children of school age. I know if I went into a local school in Birmingham where I live, the knowledge of our industry would be miniscule. Still probably a fire engine and a fireman.

Maybe, we do need to be more open to change and make it more welcoming, accepting diversity in many different ways, however that looks. 

This is no difference in the other more traditional industries I have worked in, so it’s not unusual. Quite often cultures are the last to change in industry because that is always how it’s been done.

I’ve had many years in business, and I have witnessed some progress, I could reel off the horrors of my early days in business, and how things have changed.  But on my part, have I done enough to make it a welcoming place for the next generation? I’m sure I could do more.

Encourage new blood into the industry, and with that, will come new ideas and innovation.

It is after all a fantastic industry to be in.

What do you like about the fire industry? 

As I’ve already mentioned I have found this an incredible industry to be involved in. It’s such an essential industry and with the thought of keeping communities safe, I find the passion from the people in the industry inspiring. I have been very privileged to have worked with and continue to meet really amazing people daily.

My customers all over the world share this passion.

What matters most to you?

As a business woman, even if very small, helping to make a positive change to help future generations.  

As a woman my family.

What would you tell yourself at the age of 21? 

I had a tough time when I was 21. I had already had a rather traumatic journey by then. So I would tell myself that things can change, and try and convince myself I able to achieve far more than I believed. But I would advise myself to go back into education. I did do this when I was in my 30s but I would advise the 21 year old to do it sooner,  but also find a good role model to help my young self out of the bad vices earlier.

At 21 I may not have listened.

What motivates you?

I generally love working with people. So, on a business level, achieving my business goals and getting to know and learn from as many inspiring people as possible really motivates me.

But of course, as a mother, my Children.  

Where do you want to be in 5 years? 

Always a difficult question, for now I’m happy to help grow the Cranford Controls brand. There is so much to do and I’m loving getting to know all my international customers.  Cranford Controls has a great product and we are becoming more proactive in shouting about it. I think the prospect of potential growth over the next five years is exciting.

Why is the FIA important to you and the industry? 

I still am very new to export, so I have so much to learn. The FIA helps to fill the gaps with learning and also helping to bring so many different areas of the industry together to help the industry thrive.  

I’m making new friends and contacts in many different areas of the industry thanks to the FIA.

What do you want to say to the readers? 

We are in an amazing industry and need to shout about it to encourage the younger generations to get involved.

The knowledge, passion and dedication I see on a daily basis is truly inspiring. I’m grateful to be playing a small part in that.

Also, the Women in Fire Safety Awards 2023 will be on September the 28th this year. Watch out on our Linkedin Page for the nominations opening in April.  Lots of things coming up for WIFS and if you want to get involved, please feel free to contact me on [email protected]