This week we met with Farah Dehalvi. Whether it’s providing financial consultancy, gaining experience from 3 of the largest law firms in the World or spending 2 years in Compliance for one of the World’s leading banks, Farah has shown in a short career span that she is not afraid to seek out opportunity. If one door closes another one opens.
Farah has felt the wrath of being rejected and has consistently bounced back. Despite gaining several law placements and working as a paralegal, Farah did not go on to qualify as a lawyer. A major drawback for most, it wasn’t an obstacle for Farah who we believe has what it takes to reach the top.
We asked Farah about letting the law go, the importance of young professionals seeking all opportunities offered to them and the benefits of mentoring. We also find out about her view on whether challenges still exist for young female professionals from minority backgrounds.
Farah, you realised that you were perhaps not cut out for a career in law when you did not gain a training contract, so instead you sought other opportunities. Have you been put off a career in law or do you accept that you are made for different things in your professional life?
FD: I have always been a firm believer in there being nothing more detrimental to success than the inability to ‘bounce back’ from failures. Everyone will experience some sort of ‘failure’ at some point in their life, what one does after this happens is the difference between being successful or not.
It is, for this reason, I chose to look at career paths outside of the just law. At law school, many students always get given very limited career options other than the typical Solicitor/Barrister route, but what happens to those who cannot obtain a TC or realise earlier on that this is not their passion? The law gives you the foundations to a variety of skills you can take into almost any profession, this combined with resilience is what made me realise that no matter what profession I go into if I work hard and ‘bounce back’, I will be successful in any career I decide to undertake. The key is to never give up.
You’ve been at Barclays for a few years now. Within that time you’ve worked across both the Legal and Compliance departments. Tell us whether there is any one in particular at Barclays that has had a positive impact on you as a mentor? As a young professional why is it important not to rush things but to understand about where your strengths lie and how have you played to them?
FD: There have been two people who have had a big impact on me at my time at Barclays. The first is Judith Shepherd. Judith gave me an opportunity despite all the knock backs I had. She gave me something no one else was willing to give me at that time and that was the chance to show what I could do. She understood that a student may not necessarily do well in interviews but that didn’t mean you should give up on them.
I remember one quote of hers ‘If you can’t come through the front door, let’s try and find ways to get people through the back doors even the fire escape! Let’s pull people through all the doors to get the right talent in’. This is exactly what she did with me, I was always good at interviews but never case studies, for this reason, I never obtained a TC, Judith gave me several chances with different departments at Barclays and I finally got into the Investigations department. From there, I worked on several high profile and interesting cases which I couldn’t have done without her or the opportunity she gave me. She just didn’t give up on me and that’s so important to someone young.
The second would be Hannah Ellwood, Hannah worked with Judith and she searched through the bank to look for different opportunities for myself and presented me with more than one option to choose from. She also understood that sometimes giving someone only one opportunity to make or break is not a true reflection of ability. She would regularly meet with me and give me career advice and interview practice. She was genuinely an incredible woman who I have to thank.
I have learned the hard way not to rush into anything and to play to your strengths as it allows you to hone in on your key skills and develop your weaker skills. People are human and make mistakes, rushing into something which may not benefit you will only be detrimental to your career and happiness in the long run if it is not meant for you or is not the right thing. It is important to be genuinely interested in the field you go into and to make sure you are constantly developing.
To most on first glance, you are a young Asian woman. Is it a myth that this poses a challenge to attaining a successful career in some professions, or in reality does prejudice against female ethnic minorities still exist in the City?
FD: Being a female and ethnic can cause some social biases but it has definitely got better and there will always be room for improvement. Intelligently operating companies are at least attempting to create a diverse working environment because they understand that the benefits are crucial to success. If for no other reason, the mere inclusion of different perspectives, opinions and backgrounds can have unquestionably positive knock-on effects.
The only hard part is getting yourself in, or your ‘foot through the door’; this is where the real difficulty lies for me. How does an Asian woman or any other ethnic minority get himself/herself that one chance they need for interviews or to lead projects? With increasing social mobility charities, this is a barrier we are trying to break down first before we can even talk about becoming ‘successful’.
Since your University days, you’ve been closely involved in helping others to find placements and opportunities. You’ve also been involved with the BLD Foundation as a participant before you became trustee and ambassador. Why is paying it forward important and how has networking from a young age help to shape your career path?
FD: Networking is essential in any career. It provides you with the opportunity to meet different people who you may normally never meet in the office. These can lead to the most important thing for any young person – OPPORTUNITY. I was at a networking event when I met Judith Shepherd who used to work as Global General Counsel for Barclays. After speaking to me, she offered me a Paralegal role within the Litigation, Investigations and Enforcement department. This was the opportunity I was looking for as all other applications for TCs had failed, so I can’t emphasise the importance of it enough in playing a pivotal role in career enhancement.
We’ve established that you champion social mobility and have sought to tackle your career opportunities in the face of adversity. How are ambitious young students from disadvantaged minority backgrounds being affected and are social mobility programs changing the face of the professions?
FD: Social Mobility programmes are advantageous because they provide information and opportunities to those from disadvantageous backgrounds. It is difficult to get into most lucrative careers, but not having the right background, grades, opportunities to succeed etc can add to those hurdles. The BLD and other programmes provide Students with networking events, interview workshops and some have work experience weeks to fully maximise an ambitious young students potential to succeed. It is these opportunities that are the hardest to get through the normal route. It allows an individual to learn how to present themselves at interviews, get advice from some of the best people in their profession and have real life application of what it is like to work in a Corporate Law firm or Investment Bank before applying for graduate schemes. This provides them with further tools to become successful and is one of the most important things I have been involved in.
Many individuals stick to one career path and try to stay with one company if they can. Is this the right approach and is loyalty in a business important, or if you were offered another role tomorrow through a networking event why might you be interested in taking it if it was the right opportunity?
FD: I am a firm believer in opportunity and passion, therefore if the right opportunity were to present itself and it was something I find interesting I would take it. You should never be afraid to start again if it means long term you will be happier, as to me, you are more likely to succeed quicker. New challenges also pose an opportunity to test yourself. One step at a time, try various things. Don’t be disappointed if you fail once or numerous times, get up and make the change that is needed to move on. Experience makes you wiser so try lots of things.
We have asked the BREXIT question to a few of our ALFIES FOLK now, but we are keen to hear your point of view from a young professional’s perspective? In that respect, do you think BREXIT will make the market more or less competitive for UK graduates?
FD: That’s a tricky question and to me, the answer depends on what the terms of Brexit will be. Much would depend on the economic impact and whether a move to leave the EU would, as many international financial organisations have warned, trigger an economic reversal in the UK.
If Brexit does prompt a recession, it is young people who are most likely to suffer. Companies may reduce the intake in the number of graduates if they feel the economy will do badly. However, if UK companies were unable to freely hire EU graduates as a result of Brexit, some employers may be likely to increase recruitment of British graduates. It would depend on the industry you go into.
ALFIES is a new professional network with a major difference. It focuses on individuals solely from the key core city professions and aims to bring back the trust and integrity infused with reward and opportunity for every eligible member that joins. What is most important to you about this network and why do
FD: ALFIES contains a vast network of some of the most talented and successful individuals in their fields. It provides you access to interact with talented and experienced individuals, which allows you to capitalise and leverage on these colleague’s ability to guide you in the right direction and share their knowledge, wisdom and experiences.
Further, I like the exclusivity of ALFIES. Unlike other networking social sites, ALFIES is the world’s only members network for those similar to the industry I work in or could be interested in. You, therefore, have a gateway to like-minded individuals and exclusive events in a closed professional environment. You get deeper access to a pool of talented and incredible individuals no other networking site can provide.
ALFIES is a complimentary exclusive membership only network for individuals in the accountancy, law, finance and insurance professions.
Over a thousand of people from four business critical sectors are already able to benefit from:
- Focused industry updates from leading periodicals in a dedicated newsfeed;
- Access to upcoming events with industry thought leaders and influencers;
- Superb offers provided by our lifestyle and hospitality partners; and
- A bespoke private marketplace to buy and sell to fellow colleagues in your marketplace.
Request your free membership at alfies.com and start building your professional circle.
What are your plans this Christmas? Become an ALFIES member to enjoy 15% off an enchanting evening in the glittering gardens at Kew this Christmas.
Read more from the series:
- ALFIES Folk : a series of interviews with our members. #7 Vikas Shah.
- ALFIES Folk : a series of interviews with our members. #6 Chris Benarr.
- ALFIES Folk : a series of interviews with our members. #5 Tim Allen.
- ALFIES Folk : a series of interviews with our members. #4 Suzi Sendama.
- ALFIES Folk : a series of interviews with our members. #3 Kienda Hoji.
- ALFIES Folk: a series of interviews with our members. Indre Butkeviciute.
- ALFIES Folk: a series of interviews with our members. James Gordon.