What is your role?
Head of Strategic Partnerships
I’m the second daughter of Caribbean immigrant parents. Initially the four of us lived in a one bedroom flat in north London then spent most of my life up until the age of 18 in Bedfordshire until I left to study Public Administration & Management at the University of Kent.
I’ve worked in Financial Services for over 20 years and my first job was telesales for Endsleigh Insurance for six months and then I spent the next eight years working as a financial adviser. I completed my professional qualifications and won a Young Financial Adviser of the Year award. I’ve worked in asset management and outsourced investment processing in senior roles running teams. I joined Zurich in June 2015 and I am currently; Head of the Strategic Partnerships team, a Trust Executive for Zurich Community Trust and a spokesperson for the company regularly commentating on savings, insurance and pensions for Zurich.
I’m a strong campaigner for greater diversity and inclusion chairing Zurich’s Women’s Innovation Network (WIN), which helps to grow and nurture in-house talent which has over 700 member across the UK of which 22% are men.
What factors allow you to bring your full self to work?
a. How does your environment make you feel involved and included?
The main factor is my sense of self-worth. I know what I’m good at and where I can add value. I am also aware of my development area and align myself with people who and strong where I am less so.
Networks within the organisation allow me to feel involved as do the teams I work within. Working towards a shared goal or objective can bring people together and I love feeling part of a team with purpose.
b. Do you think there is improvement needed? What are your ideas?
Improvement is always needed, raising awareness is key and the “ostrich” approach regarding diversity and no longer an option. We need to be aware of differences and understand how beneficial they can be. Different lenses provide broader thinking.
What was your first motivation to be involved with the LGBT+ community? How has this most positively influenced your experience?
I am a diversity champion so I believe in fairness which stems from my own intersectionality and is far reaching so being involved with the LGBT community is simply part of what I believe. My diversity is visible (black female) so I have had to react to people based on what they see and what they believe. Being involved in the LGBT community has given me an appreciation of a managing something that is non-visible and in some instances personally crippling, and therefore made me think on how I communicate to diverse audiences.
Do you have any advice for someone who isn't out at work yet?
Understand what is important to you and find the courage to act upon it. You are who you are and you should be proud. People who are not supporters have little or no place in your life. Find your ‘tribe’ or be who you authentically are and ‘your people’ will appear.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Worry less. Most of the things you worry about never happen, and IF they do, know you are strong enough to deal with them, and understand that challenging situations offer a great opportunity for leaning and development.
Can you describe the moment you realised you were a role model?
I can’t say I remember a moment, it was more like an evolution and awareness or comments that were made to me like; “I really liked the way you said what you said in that meeting……..can you teach me how to communicate like that…..you always look and sound the part…….I wish I could be a bit more like you”. I used to be a little embarrassed by these compliments but began to understand that I was being watched and sometimes people wanted to copy or be a bit like me. I’ve worked hard at understanding where I add value and delivering in an authentic way, and I’ve done so without being part of the ‘status quo’ which I’m extremely proud. So if I can lead by courage and example then that is something that I want to do!
What do you do on a day to day basis to be a positive role model?
I go about my business in a Rose St Louis way. I stay true to my values and am clear about my objectives. At work I have successfully found a role where I can align my personal goals to the business goals, so I feel confident in what I am doing. How I do it is just as important as it is my intention to create a brand which individuals aspire to and want to emulate. I try to ensure that my ‘what’ and my ‘how’ are equally authentic and things to be proud of.
What are you doing outside of your organisation to be a good role model?
I am one of 4 founding members of a group call Women in Protection Network (twitter @WIP_Network) which aims to help more female consumers buy insurance protection products and also encourages women to start or develop careers within the Life Insurance profession through research, articles and storytelling.
Who is your most memorable role model and why?
My mother because she is fiercely strong with a kind heart and wants the best. She is a tenacious lady and will not let anything stand in her way. She arrived from Jamaica as a 21 year old upon a request from Britain to train and work as a nurse and was welcomed to London in the 1960 with greetings or doors like ‘No Irish, not Blacks, no dogs’. She worked hard, fell in love, had a family and continued to work hard as a mother and career woman. Mum and dad put both my sister and I though University and it was our privilege to support her with her Healthcare Studies degree and take to our feet applauding when she graduated at the age of 50. She has taught me that anything is possible and you truly can achieve your goals, you simply need passion and desire.
How did you feel coming to your first Link event?
I’m looking forward to attending my first Link Event, I follow on twitter and they look fantastic.
What do you think Link can do in the future to best serve the new generations?
Provide and environment to foster talent and self-worth through education and awareness.