I came to the UK with my family from Tanzania at the age of 4. At the time we shared a house with my Uncles and their families, 19 other people with no room for privacy. My dad came over with just £100 in his posession, and on his first bus journey had it pick pocketed – we were left with nothing.
Within a few years we were living on a notorious housing estate in North-West London. During this time my parents worked all the shifts they could to help us have a reasonable life. My brother and I regularly got mugged or beaten up for being different.
Like most Indian parents there was the emphasis on higher education – anyone would have thought I would have ended up an accountant or a doctor.
I was the first in my family to go to University, the prestigious London School of Economics (LSE), where I studied hard so as to get ahead in life and graduate. Study and exams did not come naturally to me, but the weight of expectation had been firmly placed upon my shoulder.
It was a shame nobody taught me the importance of networking and building relationships. As a shy teenager I kept myself to myself, and had little opportunity to socialise on account of having to go back home to look after my siblings.
After university I managed to secure a junior role at a multi-national corporation in South London. The daily commute was over 2 hours each way and the job was far from satisfying. It was my first experience of outright prejudice.
After a year I discovered on a night out that I was paid less than my English counterparts for doing the same role – even though most of my life was in this country. The enormity of this discrepency did not hit me fully at the time, yet looking back it was clear discrimination.
We pooled our resources together as a family and got our first mortgage and our first home. I set about working my way up, and in two years I had left those higher paid peers behind to go work within a bank.
World of Banking
The world of banking is where I stayed for the next 17 years working for various organisations, either as a permanent employee and an external consultant. There is a distinct culture to be found in the banking sector which are typically global in nature.
I learnt all about banking, development processes, and dealing with irrate end users.
Transition to Management
About 4 years later I transitioned into management, first as a team leader, then as a department manager. Looking back now I clearly did not know what I was doing – even if I got better results than my peers. Sure we delivered on time and on budget projects that required little support and met people’s needs.
I did not understand how to get the best out of people, always expected the same high standards as I put in, and viewed people performing badly as untrained idiots. I had modelled myself on the wrong people, and did not understand the importance of understanding people as human beings.
If only I had known then what I know now, life would have been far less stressful and far more successful.
Transition to a Leader
This last 3-4 years I learnt from my mentors the difference between management and leadership. Anyone can be a leader, and clearly not every manager is a leader.
I learnt the art of getting people to work with each other, and how to get the best from people. I can truely say that under the guidance of various mentors my life has been transformed, and those of others.
I have learnt about the importance of establishing a common vision, how putting simple frameworks in place and making people central to the solution, one can achieve the seemingly impossible.