Nilema Bhakta-Jones, Ascential Group Limited
Taylor Root is proud to be supporting International Women's Day 2018. We have interviewed a selection of our female clients asking them how they are pressing forward for women's gender parity #pressforprogress
Taylor Root interviewed Nilema Bhakta-Jones, Group Legal Director, Ascential Group Limited
If you could tell your younger self one thing what would it be and why?
Have more fun, work fewer hours, no-one went to their grave saying they wished they worked harder. Ask for help, and listen to your heart and your head. However, if someone tries to reshape your personality, dampen your passions or mould you into a shape that is not authentic to you – resist. Always stay true to your passion and core values. Don’t miss your children’s special days.
What action or decision are you most proud of making in your lifetime?
Standing up and being counted when it really mattered even if I was a lone voice. When it comes to people, I have advocated on many occasions to do the ‘right thing’. People matter, and by putting people first every time you can’t wrong. I have discovered subsequently from others that I made a difference to their lives – to me that is a life worth living.
Describe one of your failures. What lessons did you learn, and how did it contribute to a greater success?
I failed to advocate for myself, allowing others to take the accolades for my ideas thinking it didn’t matter as I rationalised it on the basis that it was for the greater good. Actually, it does matter when it comes to remuneration and progression. It is not crass to advocate for yourself, it is necessary when you are surrounded by high achievers and especially if you don’t have a Senior Executive sponsor/mentor. Sometimes it can be easy to be generous outwardly and yet be ungenerous to yourself. Create time for yourself: “put your own oxygen mask on first, then help others”.
If you had to start your career from scratch, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?
Seek out a mentor sooner, and get coaching even if you have to fund it alone. Everything else taught me valuable lessons.
Of the people that inspire you, what character traits do they have which you admire?
Honesty, integrity, courage, kindness, empathy and great oratory.
If I were to ask people in your workplace for three adjectives that best describe you, what would they say?
After a straw poll of those around me:
Passionate, committed, empathetic.
Energetic, collegiate, resilient.
Innovative, progressive, smart
courageous, enterprising and industrious
How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
I look for the joy in everything, and opportunity to learn. I am surrounded by creative, passionate, smart people who know how to have fun! I stay motivated by continually learning.
If you were to be a mentor to someone within your profession, what one piece of advice would you give?
I do mentor people in and out of the profession. I say there is no wrong decision, be authentic and true to yourself. There are plenty of opportunities to grow and be happy. Find out what your greater purpose is; you were put on this planet for reason, so don’t settle for mediocre pursue your passion. If it boils down to one thing: do the thing that makes your heart sing!
What is your personal mantra?
If I can make a positive difference to people’s lives then I have lived a life worth living.
How is gender parity being achieved in your profession and what do you think needs to be done to press for progress?
Great strides are being made, we need to celebrate it and recognise it in order to maintain momentum, and to give people hope and confidence. In our profession progress is coming from groups of women reaching out and supporting one another. It has also come from Senior and successful men and women giving back and paying it forward. However, it needs to converge, it is too fragmented: ‘united we stand, divided we fall’. The Press has played a huge part in exposing wrong doing. But Society continues to measure success in monetary terms and status as badges of honour, which in turn rewards certain type of behaviour. We need to revisit this and consider the behaviours that matter to society and humanity. Generate value in social enterprise and ‘giving back’. The campaign to redress past mistakes and abuses is helping to cleanse society of things that have been swept under the rug for too long. We have to keep it alive but maintain a balance in our approach which means focusing on success stories too. If reporting the negative ventures into hysteria, we will lose influence, credibility and many people will switch off.
What would you say the top 3 skills are needed in order to be successful in your industry?
Resilience, resilience, resilience.
What kind of legacy do you wish to leave behind?
That I made a tangible difference to people less well off than me. I have a work-in-progress social enterprise scheme to bring tech to humanitarian causes.
At the recent Golden Globes, Oprah delivered a moving speech which led to people talking about her running for president. If you had the choice to recommend a leader, who would it be and why?
Michelle Obama inspires me and moves me to tears regularly. She shines a light on key causes, is empathetic, smart, resilient, courageous, humorous, inspirational, a great orator and a great mom! I heard Poppy Jamon OBE recently – she was truly amazing and inspiring. Amongst lawyers – Lesley Wan is an incredible humanitarian!