A shopping centre boss who previously struggled with confidence is encouraging others to get advice on their chosen careers.

Ahead of International Women's Day, Vicki Costello, the director at intu Watford, has spoken out about some of the barriers she faced over the last 19 years.

The 49-year-old started her career working at the head office of C&A, a retail company, in 1988.

She eventually she took on different job roles at a shopping centre in Essex and then moved to intu Watford in 2006.

After nearly two decades of working in her industry, she said she worked her way up from operation management, general management and to centre director.

She said the diversity in roles enabled her to "build up knowledge in all areas".

She added: "People may not appreciate the job can be complex. It's like running a business in itself."

Ms Costello is encouraging other people to learn the skills and knowledge for their career to help them progress up the ladder.

She said: "I think if you know what you want in life, build all the skills and knowledge to get there.

"My 19 years in the industry has flown by, that's because I enjoy it. Believe in yourself and have confidence in your ability."

Watford Observer:

Ms Costello says she had personal barriers in her career such as confidence and urges people to speak to others to get advice on their chosen career.

But she admits her problems were not just because she is a woman and says obstacles come in all forms.

She said: "Times have changed drastically and women are treated with respect in whatever walk of life they choose.

"But similarly so are men who choose a different path to what was once expected decades ago.

"There are barriers for everyone in life whether you're a woman or man. It's important we recognise individuals' challenges in any form they may come.

"I've had many challenges in my life personally but in all honesty, not because I'm a woman."

Ms Costello says one of the challenges can be managing family life with her work.

She added: "I have two teenage stepchildren. Flexible working, understanding employers such as intu and a partner who takes more than his fair share of parenting makes a situation like mine work.

"We all live busy lives and juggling family life and a career can be challenging at times.

"But in this day and age employers are very understanding and many senior leaders are also in the same boat."

But in the past, she said she felt she had to "lift her game" when moving from lower to higher positions, and she faced a male-dominated team at her roles at other shopping centres.

She said: "The intu Watford senior team are all women and you will find in our industry many shopping centre and operations managers are women.

"I work with many other key stakeholders in the town and many in senior roles are women."