What is your professional title, purpose or passion?
My professional title is CEO and Co-Founder. What that means in real life (especially in a start- up environment) is that I get stuck into anything and everything. It could range from small admin tasks to hosting key strategic meetings with partners we want to collaborate with. No two days are the same.
My passion is working with the KIDS!! If I’m having a down day or making slow progress I always think about the kids we’re impacting and the difference we’ve made with our programme. I see my role as being their voice. Asking for gender parity on their behalf. I want them to focus on finding who they are, and not worrying about what girls and boys ought to be playing with/ feeling.
What did you want to do when you were a child and what changed?
Funnily enough I wanted to be a teacher. The reason I used to give was because I wanted: ’to have tea and biscuits in the staff room’. I was also obsessed with standing in front of a class and helping others to learn. I even used to force my younger brother to play ‘school’ at home. It consisted of sellotaping an A4 piece of paper to the door and scribbling the times tables down.
I think as I grew older, and being influenced by glamourous shows like Ally McBeal, I wanted to become a lawyer. I think the biggest reason for my change of heart was simple: there wasn’t enough role models/ teaching wasn’t publicised enough as a prestigious career. I also didn’t have a lot of teachers that looked like me as I was growing up. I think that affected my eventual career choice.
What's the best career advice you've ever been given?
Staying authentic, understand who you are and pursue what you care about. Sounds obvious, but loads of us follow the career we think we SHOULD do. I used to do the same. When you find what makes you tick, your passion becomes visible and people will naturally want to know about you/ your venture.
What is the best thing about your current working environment?
I can work my own hours and work from anywhere that has wifi and a desk. This has resulted with days in a cat café which was my particular highlight. or at home. There’s also room for creativity and making new connections by just hanging out in co- working spaces like The Conduit. I’m also my own boss—so I can dictate what my day looks like, and make sure it doesn’t get monotonous.
Where do you see yourself in five years' time?
I see myself continuing to grow You Be You into a global programme that is positively impacting children all over the world. I would love for the programme to reach Bangladesh (the mother land) and reaching people from all walks of life. I also seeing our work grow across the wider parent/ community and influencing government policy around gender equality within education. I’ve also given myself five years to choose my perfect dog ☺
Tell us more about a charitable organisation or project you think is great.
The Malala Fund. What I admire is that she’s taken her negative experiences and turned it into something positive. She’s successfully cast a light on such an important issue and done so in such a humble way. Education for girls is so important, I have seen this first-hand through my grandmother. It highlights how lack of education can limit a person’s life opportunities. I love her work and her ability to think about others in the most genuine sense. She doesn’t just talk the talk, she truly delivers. She’s a true inspiration.
What drives you?
The children and knowing that we’re opening up a world of possibilities for them is my biggest motivation. The best is when they know you, smile and wave. Small things; but big in the grand scheme of things and confirms that I’m doing the right thing.
Any final comments?
Our mission at You be You is simple: to break down gender stereotypes -- for children of all backgrounds -- starting from primary school. Head to our website to find out more.
What does a normal day look like for you?
I wake up at 7am and usually hit the gym (if I can muster up the strength), but I’m also not hard on myself if I don’t get round to it. I will either work from home and start at 9am, or if I have cabin fever and need to be around humans, I pop into my local café. I’ll either have a catch up with my Co-Founder, usually consists of me bombarding her with Whatsapp messages or just calling her. Every day is different, but I always set myself a couple of goals each day. It varies; from setting up a meeting with the key players in the education space or even going for a walk (my best ideas happen when I’m not chained to a desk).
What have you achieved that you feel most proud of?
Setting up You Be You in the first place. I left a pretty reliable career with a steady income to do what I’m most passionate about. I’m really proud that I didn’t listen to everyone telling me it was a mistake/ career destroying move. I followed my heart and well the rest is history.
Tell us about a a woman who inspires you
Everyone probably says this but my mother/ Oprah Winfrey. The commonality I see between both is that they made the most out of very little.
My mum had me at 17 and went back to university with two toddlers in hand. She had resistance from the South Asian community and her own family; often demonising her as a bad mother. My mother was the first woman who actively demonstrated what following your passion and being brave looked like. I see the same with Oprah—a woman of colour who defied society’s and even her own family’s expectations, whilst remaining authentically herself.
What was your biggest failure?
Forcing myself into roles and careers that didn’t play up to my skillset. It left me demotivated and feeling like a failure. I think closely tied is not understanding my own ‘superpower’ quick enough. I don’t believe in regrets, but I do feel that it led me down career paths that didn’t really lend themselves to my personal and professional growth.
What do you like most about yourself?
My charisma. I’m really good with people and love making people feel valued. I genuinely love listening and learning about people’s stories. You can always learn something from people’s experiences.
How can we make the world more inclusive and accepting?
By being your authentic self, and not just tolerating others. For true inclusivity we need to accept others and celebrate the differences. Also a little self- awareness goes a long way. Understand that everyone has their own personal story and form of discrimination that they’re facing. Listen and be an ally; don’t let stereotypes propogate. Call them out—in a constructive way of course. We’re all human and bound to make mistake, but if you’re open to learning that’s half the battle.
We also need to teach diversity and inclusivity from a young age, so we’re exposed to different people/ likes/ dislikes from the ‘get go’. Role models are also key to a more inclusive world. If you can’t see it, you can’t be it. The Dove ad campaign is an example of how this can be done well in the beauty industry.
What skills have been key to your journey so far?
Resilience and perseverance. Don’t take things to heart when you get a no… or even worse complete silence. Resilience has been crucial, especially when you’re starting something and people don’t necessarily get what you’re doing.