How I went from being an intern at the Financial Times to featuring on their list of Top 100 Influential Tech Leaders

On stage with my homegirl Yassmin in 2018, weeks after the FT announcement.

1. Diversity schemes and extra measures to support underestimated individuals are essential.

The reason I found myself as an FT intern in the first place was due to Pearson (who owned the FT at the time) running an annual Diversity Scheme for young people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. I successfully applied after seeing this advertised on the LSE Careers website. The scheme made it easier for individuals from underrepresented races to find their way working in the FT office. I’m still friends with many of the people I met on that scheme. We supported each other and continue to do so today. It upsets me when organizations turn their noses up at initiatives like this. Diversity schemes change lives, I know because one changed mine.

2. Once you accept your career will be a long, winding path, it’s easier to keep moving forward.

School and university is so linear it’s no surprise we find ourselves graduating expecting careers to follow a similar predictable and consistent path. For the first few years after university I felt a real anxiety around the lack of direction in my professional life. I recall going to a networking event aged 21 and hearing the speaker aged 30 say, “I graduated almost a decade ago and I love my job but I still don’t know what I want to do with my life.” My immediate reaction was a feeling of disgust, ‘How could you still be so clueless?’, I thought. The irony that I now share that speaker’s sentiment is not lost on me. Every disappointment and unplanned move in my career has led me to where I am now. I accept there will be further disappointments and unplanned moves ahead. I’m ready for them.

3. Proactively removing negativity from your life frees up energy and headspace to make progress.

In my 20s I found myself investing time and energy in relationships that were certainly a net loss overall. A light bulb went off in my head as I started to read more personal development books, watch TED talks and explore the themes of psychology. I was not obligated to give my time to anyone. I had a choice about who I let into my life and who I let shape me. It’s not easy to walk away from people who society tells you that you should be close to, but we are each on our own journeys. We have one shot at life and owe it to ourselves alone to optimize for our personal motivations. No one else’s. This gets easier as you get older, when you can mindfully cultivate a support network based on your values.

4. Hard work is a skill we can all access, and you should never underestimate it.

It’s impossible to reduce a lifetime of experiences into a replicable formula for success but if I challenge myself to think of a consistent element that’s featured in all my achievements it is this: hard work. In my school days I completed all my homework assignments meticulously so I could move on to the next task. I’d read ahead in text books so I was more prepared than my classmates and sometimes even the teacher. As the child of immigrant parents hard work is written into my DNA and it has never failed me. To prepare for university exams I packed a bag like I was going on an expedition except my destination was the library. I spent 12 hours a day, five days a week, in there. I anticipated the questions and timed myself writing essays like it was the real thing. I only walked out of one exam early in final year and it was also the only paper where I got a distinction (mic drop).

Does that mean I have never failed? Of course not. But we don’t write about the failure stories. We write about the success stories.

Failures which were painful at the time but are now just a blip on a stellar record include being snubbed by my teenage crush, not getting the role I auditioned for in a school play, not getting a place to study PPE at Oxford, having the applications for countless “dream jobs” rejected at the first stage, plus many more I have no space to list. And that brings me to my final element of success:

5. Adjust your relationship with failure. Turn it into an essential type of spice that makes your life more interesting.

If you’re not failing, what are you learning? If you’re not failing, how are you growing? If you’re not failing, where is the arc in your story? As I’ve mentioned in my book Dream Big Hustle Hard, fear of failure is not your friend. Don’t let it fool you. It’s a fake friend. It’s holding you back. I decided to accept failure as an essential ingredient for success when I took the risk to start Hustle Crew in 2016. I’ve not looked back since.

Throwback to the party where we celebrated the 1st year of Hustle Crew and publication of my careers advice book

VP Global Community & Belonging at Brandwatch. Author of careers book #DreamBigHustleHard Host #Techish

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