Can you tell us about your background and career to date?
I became interested in law at an earlier age through my dad. Some of my happiest memories include sitting in court watching him speak and watching the lawyers do their stuff! Like many others I did a Law Degree and then for good measure qualified as a Solicitor and a Barrister. I also worked at Sweet and Maxwell, Thompson Reuters before I came to the Law Society.
What would you say are the main personality traits you have that helped you progress?
Hard work, determination and optimism. With the latter I have weathered some challenging times in the confident assurance that things will inevitably get better!
In your career, what has been the most difficult challenge and how did you overcome that?
Perceptions of other people about what you should or shouldn’t be doing as a woman, and as a woman of colour. There can sometimes be a perception that you don’t or can’t know something and therefore a failure to include or consult you.
I overcame this through consistently getting to know my stuff. Being prepared so that on many occasions when the opportunity presented itself I was more than ready to deliver.
What is the single, greatest instance of trade-off you have had to make in reaching the role you currently hold and, in hindsight, would you change it if you could?
Probably salary. A few years ago, I decided to take a pay cut to take on a role I could see had potential. While many thought it was a mistake and a high-risk strategy I was prepared to go with the vision that I could see. I don’t regret it particularly as I was proven right and things worked out in the way I hoped they would.
What are the top 3 things you would advise people to do to manage their career growth?
Study to become an expert at what you do (in any field of endeavour) and invest in yourself (get a mentor, a coach, go to a workshop or shadow someone who is doing what you want to do). Don’t settle for what you already have or where you currently are; it may feel or even be a good place but never forget that “good” is the enemy of the “very best”. Never give up your dreams.
How can one ensure that they are a top performer in this competitive and ever-changing environment?
Staying up-to-date and being future-thinking and future-focused.
What does diversity mean to you?
A level playing field. A colleague shared an example of something she saw on YouTube that is a powerful visual example of this:
What observations have you made about the progress of diversity and inclusion in organizations that you’ve worked in?
There is certainly much greater awareness of diversity issues in organisations today than there was say 5 or 6 years ago. Yet even having said that I still feel that in many organisations the balance between diversity related training conversations/campaigns and proactive steps towards implementing diversity could be better.
What do you think is the key to unlocking the talent pipeline in women of colour that could open the door from middle management to senior management?
I think blind recruitment processes could help. Also, more proactive shadowing so that a person makes themselves visible as a viable candidate.
Have you experienced any kind of discrimination in the workplace (consciously or unconsciously)? And how have you tackled it?
Of course! And in the early days I thought that if a person couldn’t see what I could bring to the table then it was their loss. More recently however I have been more pro-active in speaking out. Perhaps as time has passed I feel a duty to those following to make their path smoother if possible. To help with that level playing field that I referred to earlier.
What role do you think mentoring plays in career progression?
If you have the right mentor they can play a significant role in your development. The right advice can really position you to progress your career.
What advice would you give to someone beginning their career in any industry?
Double check that what you do is aligned with your passion or at least that you can find some passion in what you do. This will take you much further than doing something you dislike. It’s difficult to get ahead doing something you don’t like or enjoy.
As grownups we know that sometimes you must take a job ‘to pay the rent’ or even to “earn your stripes”. If that’s you in this season, while you wait – dream, plan, strategize and put a timeline in place to meet your goals so that you stay focused on your dreams and realise them in the fullness of time.