Joanna Woolf was born in Bollington and went to Macclesfield High School for girls in Cheshire. During her engineering apprenticeship at Simon Engineering, Cheadle, she studied for an OND. After graduating with a First in Mechanical Engineering from UMIST in 1982, Joanna entered BP’s graduate programme, spending 12 months establishing the oil terminal at Sullom Voe in the Shetlands; her career at BP culminated in a head office role working on speculative oil finds for potential sites around the globe.
Moving to ICI, Joanna began at the Wilton site as plant manager in Advanced Business Materials, and then moved to the Runcorn site to set up turnaround programmes. At the age of 29 she was promoted to Engineering Manager, holding responsibility for 600 people across all trades and disciplines, and tasked with establishing a site training organisation and training to NVQ standards with TTE at Ellesmere Port. After switching to global business management within the ICI Chlor chemicals downstream business, Joanna moved into strategic supply chain global logistics.
She attained her MBA at Manchester Business School, before joining Hays Chemicals as Manufacturing Director in 2000. The Hays business has since been acquired by Albion Inorganic Chemicals where Joanna fulfilled the role of Operations Director, which she held until accepting the post of Chief Executive with Cogent.