Nikki Hill is an executive coach passionate about helping professionals find their voice and stride as they step up in their careers. She’s worked in organisational behaviour roles across luxury fashion, telecommunications, food retail and financial services. In her personal career journey, she describes her multi-interest studies in Edinburgh, Cambridge and London, her experiences in the Far East and Europe, and her ongoing self-development. This is Nikki’s story:
“I remember the moment a lightbulb went off in my head and I knew what I wanted to do in my career. I was in a lecture theatre in London, learning about the GLOBE study of leadership, and all of a sudden my interests in culture, psychology, business and careers collided. It was Week 2 in a Foundations of Management course at the London School of Economics (LSE) I’d signed up for after graduating from university and I was hoping it would help give me a sense of direction about what to do next.
Up until then I’d had a whole range of wildly different career ambitions. I’d started university at 18 studying Law at Edinburgh University, with grand aspirations to be an international human rights lawyer. By the end of the first year I never wanted to read another statute again and my two sets of work experience - shadowing a barrister in Brisbane, Australia, and a family solicitor in Oxford, United Kingdom - had only cemented the fact that I loved the idea more than the reality of practicing law.
Take two involved studying English, Drama and Education at Homerton College, Cambridge, and conjured up visions of working as an editor or starting my own theatre company, before shifting to teaching after ten years or so ‘in industry’. Towards the end of my final year I’d been introduced to the idea of management accounting which I thought sounded rather appealing. It seemed to be about understanding the story behind numbers and being able to influence decisions based on insight derived from how a company was performing in different areas. I reasoned I could do that for a theatre and still be connected in that way. And, that was why I signed up for the Foundations of Management course that led to my epiphany - I went in wanting to learn more about accounting, and discovered a love for something completely different!
Suffice it to say I’ve had varied interests along the way, and my falling for Organisational Behaviour (business psychology) as a passion felt notably different... The jobs that seemed most connected to Organisational Behaviour were in Human Resources (HR) and I secured a three month graduate internship at the CIPD - the United Kingdom’s professional institute for HR.
For the first time, the idea of what I thought I wanted to do matched up with the reality of the role. The more I learned, the more I was interested. I definitely struck it lucky being asked by the CIPD to support a research project on ‘How to Attract Top Graduates into the HR Profession’ and I had great freedom in designing and running the study, interpreting the results and making recommendations. I learned how important it is to stay curious and open minded when looking for the right fit for your career. We spend far too much of our lives at work to not care about what we do or settle on a path too early based on what seems to be a good idea, even when experience tells us otherwise.
Prakash Chandramohan is an experienced executive who has implemented several transitions in his career, across industries and countries. An authentic leader, he’s also recognised for his strong sense of purpose and principles while working in the corporate world. As a Protagion mentor, he guides individuals on how to manage their own transitions successfully. And, he’s implementing another transition himself at the moment too! This is his personal journey:
“Early in my career I had a mentor who gave me advice on how to go about building my career. His advice was to look for “wide-open spaces” to carve out a niche, where there was the complete absence of competition. This is harder said than done of course. It involves a lot of exploration along with a fair degree of risk and uncertainty. But the prize at the end is becoming one of a few with the ideas, skills & experience for solving a certain type of problem.
I’m now two decades into my career, and the advice still resonates with me. Having most recently spent eight years at a UK wealth management firm, I left my executive role at the beginning of 2020 because I wanted to get more closely involved in how to empower people to understand their financial world better. I was struck by how much value there is in financial advice yet how few people seek it or even consider it. I had several hunches as to how this problem could be solved but there was no way to investigate them properly without leaving my full-time job. This “middle Britain” challenge has become my passion.
The bigger and bolder you are in the transitions you seek, the greater the surprises will be for you and the more unique you will become.”
What I have found, by making transitions in my career, is that opportunities have been given to me that weren’t afforded to others and I’ve been able to crack a number of problems along the way, as a result of knowledge & skills I acquired in a completely different field. This has really kept me going and given me the confidence to stay nimble in my career...
Sumit Ramani is an independent consultant with a strong focus on InsurTechs and non-traditional areas. Based in India, he has actively stepped out from his comfort zone from childhood, through graduating as an engineer and later switching professions and qualifying as an actuary, to starting on his own as an actuarial consultant as well as recently launching another venture that aims at helping customers identify their insurance needs. In his personal journey, Sumit shares the four key ingredients that have worked for him so far:
“I realised at a very young age that I have a thing for numbers and puzzles. I can vividly remember the morning walk when I was 6 and my dad, who is a medical doctor, introduced me to the concept of the time value of money. Since the earliest moments I can recall, he has been pushing the envelope. Hence, I believe that moving out of one’s comfort zone is possibly something that I have inherited. It also happens to one of the key ingredients of my success.
The second ingredient is taking charge of one’s life (and of course career!), which I first learnt the hard way during my formative years. Up until age 8, I was everything but meticulous. Every day after school, I would throw down my school bag and go out to play with my friends without even changing from my school uniform. Doing homework was out of the question and hence the mornings were the most painful part of my day. I would beg my mother to do my homework and she would agree after a lot of persuasion and my false promises to do better next time. But one particular day, she chose to turn down my request... Naturally, I was reprimanded at school. However, since then I have been taking care of my own work and have never blamed anyone else for anything that was my responsibility!
Perseverance and Personal Branding are the remaining two ingredients that have been helpful in my career. Let me talk about these and the first two ingredients as I share my life journey.