Welcome to the June 2018 edition of the Sarah Ellis Coaching Career Inspo Blog!
This is a monthly interview with someone who has followed their passion, dreamed big and now has a successful and exciting career. Whether you are searching for your passion or looking for guidance and insight from those in your chosen industry, the Career Inspo blog will have something for everyone. From Chief Executives, to inventors, from property moguls to artistic entrepreneurs, the 2018 line up is certainly set to provide plenty of inspiration and motivation!
This month I interviewed Bijal Majithia. Bijal works at EY as Business Change Manager for the EMEIA wide Advisory Consultant Network. Outside her work at EY, Bijal is the Director and founder of Veda London, a non-profit organisation which shares mindfulness, meditation, conscious leadership and wellbeing in the workplace.
Sarah Ellis: Thank you so much for being interviewed for the Career Inspo Blog. Please can you share an overview of your role and what you do?
Bijal Majithia: I work at EY as the Business Change manager for the EMEIA wide Advisory Consultant Network which consists of new consultants across Europe, Middle East, India and Africa. I also champion Diversity and Inclusion for the firm and lead the Hindu Network.
Outside of my day job I am the Director and founder of Veda London, a non-profit organisation which shares mindfulness, meditation, conscious leadership and wellbeing in the workplace. I am a mentor for ‘The Girls Network’ and an ambassador and educator for ‘Binti,’ an international charity set up to provide dignified periods for girls all over the world.
I lead a team of 100 plus volunteers to serve various charitable and community projects across the UK and India. These include cooking for and feeding 9 homeless shelters, supporting ‘Binti Period’, an abandoned animal sanctuary, spending time at several dementia care homes across the UK, collecting toys for Great Ormond street Hospital, helping at a sanctuary that serves autistic children and adults, free blood pressure checks for the elderly, maintenance work at schools and building care packages for the homeless.
I lead various experience areas with thousands of visitors, and most recently created the ‘Veggie Steady Cook’ experience with a team of 100 which serves to educate on the benefits of conscious eating and cooking through an interactive multimedia experience, including live cooking demonstrations and tailor made recipe books.
SE: Why did you choose to do the work that you do?
BM: I have always been interested in people and what makes them tick. Therefore a role that is focused around relationships, working with people and managing change processes was a natural fit. My additional activities around Diversity and Inclusion have always been an interest of mine and therefore felt like a very natural fit! I am lucky to also have extra curricular activities that keep my fire alive and help me to stay close to the causes that are close to my heart!
SE: What was your route into the role?
BM: I was never one of those people who knew exactly what I wanted to do at first. I knew I wanted to do something that added value to the world and I knew I wanted to work with people across cultures, but I wasn’t sure how that translated in the ‘real world.’ Therefore I chose a degree that I was interested in and decided to worry about the rest later!
My undergraduate was a BSc in Sociology. I then did a MSc in Project Management which was sponsored by Network Rail who I then worked with for 5.5 years. My roles at Network Rail focused around Stakeholder Management, Programme Management and Business Change. Whilst working at Network Rail I stared to help run events for one of the Networks at EY in my spare time. This gave me a feel for the company and culture so when a role as Global Diversity and Inclusion Assistant Director came up, it felt like a natural fit!
SE: What makes you jump out of bed in the morning to come to work and what are your favourite things about what you do?
BM: Encouraging people to bring their whole identity to work means so much to me. Knowing that my heritage is diverse and I am made up of my culture, values, traditions and experiences, I know I can bring something unique to the workplace. Similarly, my colleagues have their own set of distinctive experiences that allow us to collectively be better because we can bring a varied perspective to the table. Companies that make diversity and equality a priority have stronger teams, more engaged employees and happier clients. It’s been proven that having women in at least 30 percent of leadership positions adds six percent to a company’s net profit margin – so it’s not just the right thing to do, it’s also best for the business!
I am lucky to work for a firm that actively encourages Diversity and Inclusion. As part of the firm’s approach to Diversity and Inclusiveness, EY is delighted to sponsor a number of networks within the firm. These networks support their members in many ways, including connecting people across the business and empowering them to achieve their full potential. Our networks are a valuable resource to the firm and our D&I strategy relies on harnessing their power to achieve our wider strategic objectives.
I feel empowered and encouraged to bring all of my skills to work and I enjoy helping and encouraging others to do the same!
SE: What have been your biggest challenges/learning curves? And what reignites your passion on the tough days?
Working across time zones is not always easy, especially when you are working to tight deadlines. In a previous role I was working with colleagues across the globe and it meant that I was working very unsocial hours, often 12-14 hours a day for a period of 18 months. This was not ‘normal’ for me given that I use a lot of my own time to drive my philanthropic activities. During this time I was on a steep learning curve as I was new to the business and I was also working with colleagues who had a very different working style to me. I worked hard to learn the business, deliver to a high standard, flex my style to meet the needs of my new colleagues and also continue to drive my own projects outside of work. Working outside of your comfort zone helps you to grow and the analogy of the caterpillar to the butterfly is still one of my favourites. When I think about the times I have grown the most, it is nearly always when I have been in the deep end of a situation I did not think I would be able to survive in. It is in these moments that we learn our strengths and see ourselves flourish because we are always more capable than we think we are.
In my interest to learn about what makes people ‘tick’ I have become accredited in Traycoms Social styles, which allows us to understand ourselves in relation to how our colleagues see us, and think about our default behaviours in situations of strength and discomfort. I truly believe that knowledge is power, and when we take time to understand ourselves holistically, we can achieve the version of us that we are proud of because it allows us to be authentic to our values and our best selves.
SE: What are your key moments/most memorable experiences in your career so far?
BM: I recently featured in the Financial Times as number 8 in the EMpower 50 Future Leaders list. This was an unexpected achievement for me, especially because of the many inspiring people on the list. Published on Thursday 31 May, 2018, the EMpower Ethnic Minority Role Model lists are a powerful reflection and celebration of the incredible achievements of the ethnic minority leaders and future leaders in the UK, Ireland, US and Canada.
CEO and founder of EMpower, Suki Sandhu: “Our lists exist to drive the empowerment of ethnic minorities within business. Role modelling is fundamental to ensuring equality of opportunity and more inclusive workplace cultures. Those who have achieved personal success have a responsibility to inspire the next generation of ethnic minority leaders, and those featured on our lists are more than living up to it.”
I was also honoured to win the 2017 Consulting category of the ‘We Are the City Rising Star Awards’ and be named in the consulting.uk ‘13 female role models in professional services’ list. This year I was recognised by EY for a ‘Better Begins with You’ award as well as an ‘Inspiring Role Model’ award for my endeavours to build a better working world.
SE: What key strengths do you have that make you great at what you do?
BM: I am a people person and luckily for me, good relationships are crucial to my role! A good relationship starts with strong communication. I have been running events for over 10 years and I make it a point to get to know everyone that I will interact with, from the receptionists, security and catering teams because they are essential to the smooth running of any event. The ability to talk to anyone has opened many doors for me and helped me to have good relationships across the firm.
My family and friends will also tell you that I am OCD and I love a solid project plan. I pay a lot of attention to detail to ensure that attendees of events feel cared for and have a seamless experience. I’ve learnt that people will always remember how you made them feel and therefore the small touches leave a big impact.
SE: Do you have a role model/mentor? If so, what have you learnt from them that has helped you in your current role/overall career?
BM: I am inspired by so many people on a daily basis so it’s hard to name just a few! My role models include:
Malana Yousifazi, for her fight for young girl’s education in all corners of the globe.
My mother, for showing me what it means to come from extreme poverty, work hard to become the version of yourself you want to be, and to always be kind to others.
Operah Winfrey for her survival of a tumultuous life and using her success to enhance the wellbeing of millions every day.
Sylvia Plath, for her courage in talking about mental health issues at a time when it was taboo.
I have mentors in and out of work who I go to for different things. Each of them adds so much value to my life and I am forever grateful for the experience they bring. I believe in paying it forward, so I mentor for ‘the girl’s network’ and for colleagues at EY.
SE: What advice would you give someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
BM: My first piece of advice would be to study a subject you love. I work alongside people who have all sorts of degrees, you can always streamline later on.
SE: What are the top 3 things to consider when choosing and pursuing a meaningful career?
BM: If you look for the signs, your purpose will be very clear. Your nature is that thing you do when no one is watching, or that game you kept playing as a kid that others may have found repetitive or annoying! Never limit yourself or think small. As cliché as it sounds, the world is your oyster and with hard work and tenacity there is so very much you can achieve!
If you would like to learn more about Bijal’s work at EY and in the community, you can follow her on Twitter @Bijal_Majithia. You can also follow Veda London on Twitter @VedaLondon and Instagram Veda_London.