Ann Cairns, President of International Markets, Mastercard

Case Study: Ann Cairns

Ann was born and raised in Ashington, Northumberland, and is now President of International Markets for the global financial services company MasterCard.

In our film, Ann recalls feeling inspired in 1969 when she looked up to the moon and tried to wrap her head around somebody standing on it. She went on to study Maths, Physics and Chemistry, and took degrees in maths and statistics at Sheffield and Newcastle Universities.

Staying in the North-East, she worked for Transco in Killingworth, and became the first woman to work offshore on the oil rigs.

Like many people, Ann switched paths, in her case moving from engineering and statistics into management and the finance industry. She’s now risen to the post of President of International Markets for MasterCard Worldwide, and is a regular presence on lists of the most powerful women in business (Forbes list; BBC list).

When Think Physics caught up with her on one of her regular visits back to the North-East, we expected a hard-nosed, hectic businessperson – but instead found Ann both approachable and entertaining. Chatting to us, she described how the skills she learned serving coffees at Newcastle Central Station in her teens are still useful to her today.

Her achievements are clearly the results of hard work and determination, but Ann also reckons business success stems from how you relate to and communicate with others; to resilience; and to having a great sense of humour. All qualities, she notes, for which people from the North-East are renowned.