Spectra Meets: Amrita Dasgupta

NAME: Amrita Dasgupta

EDUCATION: Masters in Biochemistry at University of Oxford

JOB TITLE: Management Consultant at Deloitte

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Describe yourself in 3 words.

Loyal, Determined, Whimsical

What’s your story?

As a third culture kid, this question is such a relief compared to the generic questions “Where are you from?” followed by “No, where are you really from?”. Born in India and bred in Singapore, I pursued my undergraduate degree at the University of Oxford which culminated in me obtaining a Masters in Biochemistry. I’m currently back home in Singapore where I’m working as a Management Consultant at Deloitte.

What influenced your decision to go into consulting?

Consulting offered me the opportunity to explore a myriad of different fields early in my career and provided invaluable breadth and depth of experiences. It was an especially attractive career choice as I did not want to commit to a particular career trajectory, at this early in my professional career. Due to the wide variety of people and projects, consulting also provides a dynamic work environment, which was essential to me.

What does your job entail on a day to day basis?

The reality of consulting can be a lot more sober than what people expect; making slides, conducting research and making spreadsheet models. However, when you get to see the impact your work has made, it makes the day-to-day work completely worth it.

What do you like most about what you do?

I always feel privileged to work alongside passionate individuals who love what they do as it provides a motivational and educational atmosphere to work in. Also, corporate stationery.  

What was your ever first work experience?

I worked at a zebrafish lab during the summer of 2011. It was supposed to be the requisite internship every high-school student does just before applying for university to demonstrate “passion” in all their essays but, it really kindled my passion for science and made me realise it was what I wanted to do for my undergraduate degree.

What are you passionate about?

I love music, I’ve been playing the piano since I was 5. I have a penchant for close-up magic but I’m really not very good.  

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Considering it’s a Saturday today, probably lazing around at home reading a novel. Hopefully with an MBA certificate (with my name on it!) on the wall or in a drawer somewhere.

What’s your proudest moment?

Probably when I got my acceptance letter from Oxford, it validated all the hard work I had put in throughout high-school. While I realise that looking for validation from outside sources is not the best way to live life, you can’t deny that it really does boost your ego.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

Show up to everything (reasonably) early so you are perceived to be organised because while perception may not be everything, it’s at least 25%.  

What message/tips would you like to give to young women with similar aspirations?

There is literally no substitute for hard work when it comes to achieving your goals.


We first met Amrita through The Class of Spectra Project. She was close to graduating and shared her thoughts about graduation, what it meant for her and what memories she had from her Oxford days. She’s truly an amazing person. If you want to find out more about her career and say hi, please do let us know.

If you want to share your story and feature on Spectra, go here!

 

Spectra Meets: Mary Agbesanwa

NAME: Mary Agbesanwa

EDUCATION: Economics at University of Birmingham

JOB TITLE: Management Consultant

Amsterdam

Describe yourself in 3 words.

Confident, inquisitive and energetic!

What’s your story?

I remember deciding what to study at university was really difficult for me but I eventually chose to study Economics. I was always good and had an interest in maths but not enough to study just maths. At the same time, I loved writing and reading. Economics is a great mix as it’s both quantitative and qualitative and of course, it is a well-respected and employable degree. I spent 3 years studying Economics at the University of Birmingham after receiving an unconditional offer! I really enjoyed Birmingham – it is a really youthful and exciting city to study in. It is also a great size (you can walk almost everywhere) and it’s cheaper than London which is great.

During my time at uni I really tried to challenge myself to find new hobbies and meet new people as often as possible. I was the news reporter on my University’s radio station and also got into running. Most notably, I founded the Women in Finance Society at the University after noticing that many young women on my course didn’t feel confident enough about pursuing careers in male-dominated fields such as banking and accounting. In the two years I led the society, we grew to have more than 120 members, hold more than a dozen events a year including a Conference sponsored by the likes of Deutsche Bank and Ernst & Young and with Bianca Miller from The Apprentice as the Keynote speaker. I really loved leading this society and I won some cool awards doing so too. It was great to hear back from young women who had got internships and jobs for the events my team and I put on. I guess this was where I found my passion for helping others and bridging information gaps! I graduated from university last July (2016), after which I spent some time relaxing and working in Tanzania for 3 months! I then started a career in Management Consulting in the autumn.

What influenced your decision to go into consulting?

My approach to finding my dream career was similar to deciding what I wanted to study at university. I wanted to try as many options as possible from a narrowed down set of industries. Studying Economics I grew to have a natural interest in companies and how they work. I did some work experience in Investment Banking but realised it wasn’t for me. I then decided to try Management Consulting and secured an internship with PwC in London. I really really enjoyed the experience. Consulting is all about people and solving business problems so a pretty perfect match for me as someone who likes teamwork, talking and analysing an issue.

One of my favourite things about Consulting is that it is dynamic, the work/client always changes and you get to work on a variety of projects. You also get to travel if you are interested in doing so! Additionally, I like that Consulting as a profession requires you to have both technical and soft skills, with probably more emphasis on the latter.

What are you passionate about? Where do you see yourself in the future?

I am passionate about a few things. But I think the common thread with all my passions is that they are about helping others and bridging gaps of information. I am particularly passionate about working with young people, education and financial literacy. In the future, I want to start my own company involving one of my passions but for now I blog here about my life as a young professional in London! I also run a Whatsapp group called Now You’re Talking for young women in London interested in entrepreneurship, technology and finance – if you are interested in joining, send me an email here: mary_agbesanwa@hotmail.co.uk.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

This is a tough question, but the best advice I have heard recently is that ‘complaining is ingratitude’. Earlier this year I caught myself complaining a lot and to be honest I think it’s really acceptable in British culture to complain. Complain about transport prices, complain about your job, the weather etc. Anything or anyone. This quote reminds me to appreciate what I have. I remember travelling and meeting young people who were worried about where their next meal would come from. I really believe it is important for us to have gratitude and stay humble. Remember how far you have come and take moments to congratulate yourself and others.

What message/tips would you like to give to young women with similar aspirations?

The main message I would tell other young women is to have confidence in yourself! Believe you can and you will! But also be prepared for success because it will never just be handed to you. Work hard and remember that success is where opportunity meets preparation.


If you want to share your story and feature as part of the #spectrameets, please go here!

Spectra Meets: Jackie Adedeji

NAME: Jackie Adedeji

EDUCATION: BA(Hons) Broadcast Journalism at Nottingham Trent University
JOB TITLE: Reporter

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Describe yourself in 3 words.

  1. Bubbly
  2. Empathetic
  3. Charismatic

What’s your story?

I grew up in North West London, Colindale. The middle child, the entertainer, the naughty one who used to talk lots, but also the child who moved school six times, and was always the new kid. How dare my parents do this to me? Me and Megan had just become best friends!

But who knew becoming the new kid every Sunny September meant I would build the confidence to be the person that I am today? I was constantly having to make new friends, buy new school jumpers and hang around with the kids that picked their noses because nobody hangs out with the new kid.

My confidence grew, when I finally stayed in a school longer than a year and I was able to put myself into the shoes of the new kid that wasn’t me.

‘’Thanks for being so nice to me…’’

I Shrugged

‘’It’s fine I know exactly how it feels’’.

I was always the loud tall one, that nobody really fancied but:

‘You’re really funny though and have nice legs’.

I was always the one that had potential but talked too much and was a dreamer.

I was always the one that never passed Maths GCSE, with a tutor, and had to retake all my exams to make it it university and still retook university exams in the summer.

I was always the one that failed at academics but succeeded in the art of conversation.

I was always the one who knew where I was going and sowed the seed into my future.

What is for you, will go by you, I promise, grab it with both hands, every bad experience is part of your future.

 

You used to work in television. What did that experience teach you?

In telly I learnt a lot about resilience, I learnt about making things happen. In telly people expect you to magic things out of nowhere, and you have no choice but to deliver. It taught me the art of doing. There’s people who watch the magic happen and there’s people who make it happen.

Television is all about creating the unthinkable.  All you’ve got is a budget and a team the rest is down to the work you put in, after all they say you’re only as good as your last job! I remember working really late, coming in on Saturdays to finish jobs off. It is glamorous in the sense there’s great perks but equally the work you put in is important, I met some incredible people, and without them believing in me, I wouldn’t even be close to the person I am today.  Rejection is part of it, you can apply for 20 jobs and be turned down even if you’re over qualified. Competition is scarce.

Build positive relationships, work hard and most importantly  have fun, any opportunity to go to the pub to network, do it! This might be the difference in you being work experience and bagging your first PAID job. Tell your flatmates to record Eastenders, you’re busy!

What influenced your decision to become a reporter/blogger?

I started blogging when I was 18, I remember I was in university and I got sick and tired of everybody telling me ‘’I should be dating people’’. Apparently being single wasn’t in fashion. I was so freaking annoyed and I also was tired of using Google to help me understand life, and certain experiences, so I began to write, and created www.jackiedaydream.wordpress.com and haven’t looked back. I look back at the posts now and laugh, there was a time when getting late  deliveries from ASOS was a first world problem, now it’s bills and travel.

Now I also have a new blog called The Twenty Something Diary Enquiry which is my life documented from now, and I am obsessed with it, is that weird? It’s so therapeutic for me to discuss being a twenty something and making mistakes and looking stupid but also drinking countless glasses of rosé instead of saving for a mortgage? Anyone else..?

I began vlogging last year actually, I worked for a TV production company called Zig Zag, if it wasn’t for them I don’t think I would be where I am now. When I first started that job I was relatively quiet, and fast forward a year later I was best friends with the Postman, had the nickname Jayonce and managed to be appear on a show with Amanda Holden for W TV.

I was bored of telling people I wanted to be on camera, because it’s all good banging on about it, but what was I actually doing about it?  So I used the office camera and  began filming at home, when I was out with friends and at Festivals, and editing the videos after work. They were honestly awful videos, they look like I filmed them in 1992 but because of that, I got my job at Winkball.

What does your job entail on a day to day basis?

Day to day, I wake up and I think first coffee, because coffee is thebomb.com and then I think what can I report, what’s fun, what has a cool and interesting angle? I propose it to the Senior Editorial team and wait for the green light, and them I’m good to go.

At all times I’m searching for events on every social media platform you can think of to cover.  I also do features. ‘’ Get Fit with Jackie’’ is the most popular on the channel, I don’t mind looking silly, so I have a lot of creative control over the content I feature in which is so much fun! I am paid to be me, I don’t think it gets much better than that. I was always told off in class for ‘talking too much’ and being so nosey.  Now I can do that to my heart’s content, If i can provide a platform for people’s voices to be heard then a job well done I say!

You’re also a peer mentor! What do you like most about it?

Peer mentoring is incredible. I am so passionate and positive about influential leadership: we all have the power to influence and it is an amazing skill to be able to enrich the lives of others. I enjoy it so much. I have been peer mentored since I was 16 and I was chosen  as one of 10 out of 50 students to be a listener and a professional friend. I know exactly what it feels like to lack guidance, and feel lost.  I think we all do, and the truth is your parents can’t fix you, you need an objective opinion on your life to help you grow. Sometimes you don’t need advice, you just want someone to say ‘’I’m all ears tell me everything, let’s  grab a coffee, play some Drake and let it all out..’’ In University, I did peer mentoring and at times my heart sunk when you meet students in college with potential, like Richard Branson potential but they can’t even dream of success because they’ve never witnessed success, they’ve never been exposed to a brighter future. To be able to sit with somebody and help them recognize the gift they have, and turn that talent into skill, wow it is honestly… words can’t describe, unlocking somebody’s potential is the most beautiful rewarding thing.

What was your ever first work experience?

I worked in a hair salon when I was sixteen, and OH MY GOSH. I got fired!  Can you even get fired from work experience.. Is that even a thing? Actually no, yes it is a thing, I was told not to come back. My job was solely, sweeping hair on the floor and replenishing stock, I was awful at that and I was told I was too unprofessional because all I did was talk to customers and do zero work.. See the theme here? Me.. chatting? I cried and I cried, I felt useless.  I was the only one in my year to not complete work experience, so I ended up coming back to school and feeling a bit crap, as everyone enjoyed theirs.  Mine wasn’t as glamorous as I thought it would be. We all think when you do work experience it’s like The Devil Wears Prada and you’re running around flying to another  country to collect Gucci loafers for your boss and then come back with a Blackberry in your left hand and a Caramel machiatto in the other. Unfortunately it isn’t like that, sometimes you really can get sacked for being terrible at sweeping hair.

What are you passionate about?

PEOPLE. People make the world go round. Bringing out the best in people, making people feel amazing –  that’s what drives me, that’s what helps me get out of bed, my passion is bigger than myself. I love building confidence, we live in a world that tells us to copy everyone else to function. We all have something special in us to bring to the world, I want people to feel proud of being themselves and to be the best version of themselves.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Good question.  But really I would love to be part of a Primetime panel show with women, I love women! Like Loose women but with a pinch of The Real, I love discussing topics and getting other women’s takes on situations, learning from people is how I learn best. What I experience could be totally different from what someone else experienced but we both learn the same message, incredible huh? Just to share stories, experiences and laughter, I feel like at that point I’ll feel like “ok mum, I’ve made it”. P.s Covering The Brits would be a dream, I’m welling up a bit now thinking about it, next question..

What’s your proudest achievement?

Working in a prison, totally changed my life. (I really did say that..)

I wasn’t a prison guard or officer but I volunteered twice a week to Help the prisoners who were fathers, write stories for their children, record stories and pick books to send to their children in the post. It’s funny because I remember how much they loved putting heart and glitter on the envelopes and they would look at me like ‘’Don’t judge me..!’’ Hilarious. It was such an incredible experience. I won’t lie and say I wasn’t scared because I was, as soon as the gates would shut and I would walk through the prison corridors, I would physically feel sick and claustrophobic but then when I enter the room with the prisoners it’s a totally different ball game. These men were so vulnerable and so lost, they wanted certainty and security and wanted to feel loved, they didn’t know what it felt like to be content. Life on the inside was safer than on the outside, the only thing keeping them from suicide was their children. This is why I stand by my point that your parents shape your entire world. Not everybody is blessed with healthy and loving parents.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

‘’Time flies but the good news is that you’re the pilot’’ where your time is going is where your life is going.

P.S – Dale Carnegie: ‘’How to win friends and influence people”. Read it now, I promise you’ll love me forever.

What tips would you like to give to young women with similar aspirations?

  1. Perseverance, determination and Grit is what you will need to succeed at anything in life. You won’t make it without them.
  2. Find a mentor, if you can’t find one, find an influential celebrity learn from their mistakes, their failures, keep reading, my dad always says: ‘’Future leaders are Readers’’.
  3. Failure is going to happen, people will reject you and your ideas,  not everybody will like you or get you. It’s ok, because you are you.
  4. Take criticism on board, be ok with facing your flaws, because every time you do, guess what? You’re growing.
  5. Read the room, pick up signals, figure out what makes people tick and be genuinely interested in people, make people feel important when you meet them, they will never forget you.

Jackie is a whirlwind of positivity and we hope that her story and her joie de vivre has rubbed off you as well! If you want to find out more about Jackie, ask her more questions about her career, we will put you in touch! Let us know and we will work the magic.

If you are a woman in the early stages of her career and you’d like to feature please fill in our form https://spectrawomen.typeform.com/to/RS7v83 and we will reach out.

(Photo courtesy of Jackie Adedeji)

 

 

Spectra Meets: Fraz Azizi

FRAZ AZIZI

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I met Fraz at an insight event for women at a consulting firm. When the event had concluded, keen to mingle, a group of us decided to congregate at a café nearby, to reflect on the event and learn about our respective journeys. Fraz was among them.

Fraz stood out and had a brilliantly warm smile. At the time she was a finalist studying Natural Sciences at UCL. She told us that she was more interested in banking than consulting and that she had several interviews with investment banks for graduate roles in Sales & Trading. She went on to secure a role at Lloyd’s Bank.

Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Fraz better, but curious to discover more about her story I asked her whether she’d be interested in being interviewed about her future life in the City: her new beginning.

Asta: How would you describe yourself?

I like to think of myself as unique; as a half Thai/Arab, 5ft 11in (181cm) female, who studied Natural Sciences at UCL, about to head into a career in Banking. I would also say I’m curious, a little eccentric as well as a confident, driven risk-taker who enjoys pushing boundaries and connecting people both to myself, and to each other. I seek out those I can learn from, with a special respect for my elders (probably a Thai influence).

I tend to live life at the extremes/ one end of the spectrum or the other – as in I’m either frantically juggling multiple tasks, having probably taken on too many, or I’ve stopped dead in my tracks, shutting myself off from the world in order to recharge.

Asta: What is your story?

A huge part of who I am comes from my mother’s Thai side. My large family grew up poor, as rice farmers in “outback” Thailand. Though hard-workers, my grandparents’ generation struggled to provide necessities such as school lunches and shoes for my mum and her siblings. I have a deep respect for the conversations I am able to have with my mum as she reminisces about her own journey and struggles. This plays a huge part in my own drive and motivation. We laugh about how, if it were not for my mother’s courage in bringing me to the UK (alone!), I could well still be playing with chickens in outback Thailand – but it’s true!

The other important part, where I have found resilience, is through my own struggles here in the UK.

Due to disputes with my stepfather in year 9, my mother and I were forced to live in a homeless facility, for over three months, by the social services. Not only was our primary source of income no longer available, a strict curfew was set by the facility.

As a result, my academia and extracurricular activities suffered. During this time I was starting my GCSEs, whilst being amongst people who questioned my ability to become successful. Finding motivation was difficult. Fortunately, we found a new home. During the discouragement and hardship, I fought hard to find motivation; taking my frustration and negative energy and turning them into my work. This is a work ethic I’ve kept with me all my life.

I joined the Student Council, excelled through my GCSEs to A-Level whilst working in a retail store for two years, gained a full scholarship to study at UCL and aimed ambitiously for a prosperous career. Though not strictly religious, through struggles I now always think “if God got you through that, what makes you think they can’t get you through this?”

This has given me resilience in academia, independence when it comes to personal relationships and solidified career progression as a goal of mine.

Overall, this has led me to believe you make your own luck. What you put in is what you get out. I have had countless rejections so far, but that is because if an opportunity presents itself, I can’t help but try.

Asta: How do you feel about the end of uni and the beginning of your work life?

Excitement, but a little apprehensive.

Apprehensive due to the economic climate. Having lived through a recession and with Brexit looming.. I feel “generation rent” have had to fight a little harder.

Excitement as, finally, I can give back to my mum. The thing that drives me to work so hard, I can finally do. I’ll finally gain independence and proven those who doubted me, wrong.
With responsibility, comes opportunity.

Asta: Why did you choose Banking as your career choice?

I chose Banking as a career choice through discovering my strengths and weaknesses, thinking about my aspirations and therefore which skillset(s) I needed to develop, as well as the people I needed around me, in order to achieve them.

With an inquisitive mind, I’m constantly asking “how” and “why”, which laid a foundation for my interest in Science. Once we know the ‘cogs’ that make up a system, we can then apply our knowledge and understanding to find innovative approaches so we can live in a better tomorrow. This is something I have a passion for: leading and empowering a team so a difference can be made. I see this as the key to finding cutting-edge answers to complications. Though we must first know which questions to ask.

Hoping to one day run my own business, I have found a mix of a demanding environment, coupled with technical knowledge and my relationship-building skills makes powerful use of my intellectual ability, of which I believe my chosen career will provide, complimenting my scientific knowledge.

Asta: What comes to mind when you think about “beginnings”?

A clean palette. I see it as the glass being filled once again, just as the sun rises once again every day. As another change to get things right, to learn from your mistakes, get back up again and slay another day.

The Power of the Purse

Money. Power. Women.

It’s late at night here in Seoul. It has been a long day at work, which so far has been exciting. As I get established on the first rung of the job ladder, I’m learning new things everyday with hopes and dreams for where my future will take me.

Last week, I got my first paycheck. The feeling of euphoria when checking my bank account and seeing compensation for my hard work has been worthwhile. The money I have earned gives me power not to rely on my parents. It gives me the power to go on a shopping spree at Uniqlo or think about signing up for a Korean language course. It gives me the power to indulge in nice gelatos. And all subsequent paychecks that I earn will give me the chance to use the power of the purse to get what I want.

However, there are constant news items that make me suspect that there are limits to its influence. I might have earnt it, but I have come to understand that my power, at least economically speaking, is severely curtailed on the basis that I am a woman.

As I write this, I cannot help but think about two things that have dropped recently with regards to women’s relationship with ‘the power of the purse’: first, the McKinsey and Lean In “Women in the workplace”  2016 report, and second, how much the advice of Venture Capitalist John Greathouse to women has backfired.

‘Leaning In’ is not enough

The “Women in the Workplace” report revealed what many women (especially women of color) have known for a long time: women in the workplace ask for feedback or for raises just as men do, but are consistently ignored, their concerns and interests brushed aside like annoying flies. We ask women to ‘Lean In’ but the reality is that the glass ceiling is fierce, and cracking it requires more than simply “asking for more.” It requires others to genuinely change their mindset and give women the chance to do well.

Time and time again it has been established that diversity is good for business. Why would anyone stop the advancement of half of the population in the workplace on the basis of implicit and explicit bias when it’s been proven to be bad for business?

Does this mean that ten years down the line I will have to contend with a potential employer who is not interested in paying me the same as  my male colleagues for the same job? Does it mean that if I were to have children, I would be considered as no longer fully dedicated to work and thus dispensable?

We’ve all heard the horror stories of women being forced to accept a lower level position when they return to work after maternity leave, or of women in Italy signing resignation letters in advance when getting a new job to make the exit from their existent job immediately effective if they decide to start a family.

Will these issues still persist ten, fifteen or thirty years from now?

VC John Greathouse Shows that Success is Male

In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Mr Greathouse decided to give some grand advice to women about how to best make it in the tech world: use your initials online. His advice made me pause for a moment. It made me think. Women are oftentimes – if not always – given the same advice about self-advancement: be more like a man.

I will admit that I am not entirely sure what is meant by this. Is this a request for women to be more like the stereotypical male?  

Nevertheless, what I find really confusing is the narrow definition of success that is propounded here. The yardstick of this success is male, middle class and white.

Mr Greathouse suggested that women in tech should refer to themselves only by their initials in order to hide their gender online. He basically asked women to ignore and suppress who they are to fit in, to assimilate to what is considered the norm, instead of breaking the barrier to make the “norm” more inclusive.

The guy has since apologised (and I am sincerely hoping that it was sincere). But he is not the only one to give such advice. Saddeningly, that advice has been repeated time and time again. It is reinforced every time we ask women to stop being themselves if they want to be successful. It is reinforced every time we coach women to act like guys in order to get that investment, or that job. It is reinforced every time we ask women to let some things slide at work, to stay silent when they are given office housework or are not included in meetings. It is reinforced through the micro-aggressions and through the comments and advice given to women everyday.

It is reinforced when we tell women that the only way to make it is to play by the rules and affect change when you’re at the top. It is evident in the way women know that they get paid less for doing the same job men  do and there is nothing that can be done.

That “it” is a sign of resignation. That “it” is the “I’m sorry love that things are so bad but there is nothing we can do to change them. Deal with it.”

And when I think about all this, I am always reminded about something someone said to me at my first ever internship. It had been organized by my school and lasted only a week. I was told I came across as “matter of fact”. I was advised that I needed to be careful because people thought I expressed a “this is not up for discussion” tone, and it could  ‘rub them the wrong way’.

I’m sure this advice was trying to be helpful and had my best interest at heart. But it didn’t stop me from sitting in my bed thinking about that conversation over and over and asking myself what it meant, and what was wrong, with being too “matter of fact”.

Now I’m older, and possibly wiser, and l I wonder whether the same thing would have been said to a man. Whether his tone would have been perceived too unaccommodating, or just accepted as confidence.

We ask women continuously to change who they are. That is a product of power used upon women. It is power that should redirected towards changing the way business is run to make women part of the norm, instead of actively encouraging and forcing them to be something they will never be – in their eyes, or those of others: men.