'Make it Happen' - some inspiration for International Women's Day 2015
06 Mar 15

International Women’s Day is a Global initiative where women and men raise awareness around issues that affect women socially and economically. It is a chance for everyone to come together to encourage, support and empower women. The theme for this year is ‘Make it Happen’.

We've asked some of our friends, staff (past and present) and, of course, some of our wonderful Alumni to answer the question: "‘What has been the most courageous thing you have done in your career?"

Ella, Reed SmithElla

Responsible Business, Reed Smith

I recently made the decision to change the direction of my career from human resources (HR) to a role in Reed Smith’s Responsible Business team, focusing on diversity & inclusion, volunteering and environmental programmes. Having just completed a post graduate diploma in HR Management, this was not a straight forward decision, as although there are similarities between the two career paths they are also distinctly different. To help with this decision, I actively sought out opportunities within the Responsible Business team, which provided me with a true insight into a career in this area and allowed me to make an informed decision.

My career so far has been guided by what I enjoy doing and I would definitely recommend this approach.

Samantha, Tindall RileySamantha

Chief Operating Officer, Tindall Riley Ltd

Every time I take on a challenge that I secretly fear may be bigger than me I am ultimately rewarded by a huge sense of relief and sometimes even satisfaction once I have achieved my goal. There will also inevitably be some lessons learned where things have not gone smoothly.

An example for me was when I was asked to run an ACII exam revision course for Lloyd’s of London staff. I realised early on that a) the book had been re-written since I took the exam, b) although it was supposed to be a “revision” course none of the students had even read the new book and c) my face flushed with nerves as soon as I started to present. I learned the new book for myself and over the course of the revision sessions I resolved to “feel the fear and do it anyway”. By the last session my face was no longer flushing with nerves and a high proportion of the students passed. Their success and achievement became part of my reward for being courageous.

Ellen, RBC Capital MarketsEllen

Structured Derivatives Documentation, RBC Capital Markets

Brokerage Alumni Network Member

The most courageous thing I have been doing in my career is to not be afraid. It takes a lot of mind power to not be afraid of meeting new people, learning new things and taking on challenges outside your comfort zone. Facing this fear with courage each time I have needed to has enabled me to learn so much not just for my career, but also for personal development.

Most importantly though, remember to be yourself and bear in mind the positives that will come from not being afraid.

Rosa, The Brokerage CitylinkRosa

Senior Programme Manager, The Brokerage Citylink

The most courageous thing I have done in my career so far was studying for a diploma in fundraising, a subject I knew very little of, while working full time. Working on different programmes at the Brokerage I became really aware of how important funding was for every aspect of the charity however there were so many different avenues to peruse and no obvious starting point!

I was scared of going back into academia after 3 years of not studying and I was the only person on the course who wasn’t a professional fundraiser, I constantly felt out of my depth. I will finish the qualification later this year and am so glad I persevered. Having the courage to step outside of my comfort zone has given me the opportunity to learn a new skill which will hopefully help others in the future and led to me learning things about myself that I didn’t know before.

Madison, HiscoxMadison

Underwriting Assistant, Hiscox

Brokerage Alumni Network Member

Courageous acts are seen differently in each of our eyes and any time when you have pushed beyond what you would feel is the ‘norm’ or ‘comfortable’ I think is a courageous act. Being very early on in my career it was difficult for me to think of the word courage as everything I had done so far was out of my own passion, that is when I had to take a step back and realise that pursuit of the thing you are passionate about is one of the most courageous things you can do and that is evident in anyone that’s successful in work or their family lives.

My passion is the development and engagement of future professionals focussing on the need for diversity in the corporate world, that no matter where you come from or the upbringing you have had you can become successful. The courage comes in when having to convince others of that passion, from standing alongside my CEO to give a speech on the diversity in the City, to organising days and Insight weeks for students from boroughs often described as ‘underprivileged’ within the company I work, to continuing to relay the message of diversity consistently within the Square Mile to raise and keep the awareness that it will remain important through speeches, articles and workshops. My courage comes into play when I’m pursuing my passion and as long as you have that you will have been successful.

Bridget, The Brokerage CitylinkBridget

Executive Director, The Brokerage Citylink

Substituting the word “risky” for courageous, I asked my corporate employer if I could work part-time after my second child was born, having always worked full-time up to that point. Financially it was a difficult decision, and professionally I was worried about slipping down the career ladder, but equally I had a two year old with another baby on the way, and I felt the children needed to take priority over my ambition. I was not treated well, and in fact had to stop work completely. Having one baby was just about acceptable - I was the first senior manager in the company to do so. But having two…Anyway, the story has a happy ending, because as a result of all this I ended up doing some voluntary fundraising and marketing work for a small charity a few months later. My eyes were opened to a new sector, offering interesting managerial jobs with flexible work conditions. I have never regretted the move.

Katie, CatlinKatie

Casualty Claims Assistant, Catlin Underwriting

Brokerage Alumni Network Member

I started working for Catlin Underwriting Agencies Ltd, the biggest Lloyds syndicate in August 2014 only 2 months after finishing Sixth Form in June. I felt very apprehensive on my first day of work as I had no experience whatsoever in Insurance and did not know what to expect at all. Everyone on my team was very welcoming and assured me that by asking plenty of questions to my colleagues I would pick things up quickly and would soon have an understanding of what they were referring to – sure enough they were right and I have now passed my first insurance qualification which shows that by asking plenty of questions, being confident and showing that you are willing to work hard I now have a solid grounding and understanding of the insurance industry and how it operates.

Personally, the most courageous thing since starting my career in insurance has been travelling to various different places to visit other companies as I have never experienced this before. I recently visited a company that do work on behalf of us in Cardiff, Wales for two days meaning I had to stay over in a hotel for the night. This was a massive thing for me as I hadn’t met anyone there before this visit and I had to ensure I was polite, friendly and made an effort with the team that I was job shadowing for the two days. I now believe I have demonstrated to myself that working hard and being able to communicate with people, you can be put into any situation like this over and over again.

Chelcie, Transport for LondonChelcie

Employment Communications and Engagement, Transport for London

Brokerage Alumni Network Member

The most courageous thing that I’ve done in my career is made the decision to leave a consulting job at one of the Big Four because I wasn’t enjoying it and didn’t feel challenged. I took a gamble and moved into the public sector (TfL) and it has turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made as I enjoy the work, am given significant responsibility and have learnt so much. Many people told me I was mad to leave my old job because the name looks so good on my CV and they pay well but I now know that money isn’t everything and you spend most of your time at work so it’s definitely worth enjoying what you do.

Fiona, PRIFiona

Managing Director, Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI)

The most courageous thing I have done is resign from my role as CEO of the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees, a job I loved in an industry I loved and knew well, to move to the other side of the world away from my family, friends, and support networks to London where I knew virtually no-one.

I moved to take the role at the PRI, but it was a huge step and a big gamble. Moving countries and industries when you are well established in your career is not easy.

Reha, QBEReha

Wordings Consultant, QBE

Brokerage Alumni Network Member

Many people will agree that going straight in to the working world from sixth form is a daunting experience. In the 2+ years I have been working at QBE, one of the most courageous things I have done thus far, is stepping out of my comfort zone to deliver training to a group of people in a different office – in the end verifying that it was my own doubts that held me back. From this experience (and countless other experiences at QBE), I managed to a gain a lot of confidence in dealing with difficult situations, as well as difficult individuals. Having done so, I have achieved a huge amount personally, professionally and socially and I continue to step out of my comfort zone in order to aid my development.

If I were to advise myself when I first embarked on my working life, I would encourage myself to ask as many questions as possible regardless of how ‘silly’ I think it may be and to go ahead and step out of my comfort zone – no matter how self-conscious you feel about a situation, do it anyway. There is, and will always be someone supporting you.

Vanessa, The BrokerageVanessa

Senior Programme Manager, The Brokerage Citylink

The most courageous thing I ever did was start my own business full time in 2011 which I had been running part time since 2008. At the time I had just moved to London and started my Masters and I just stepped out on faith.

It was HARD. I learned during that time that the business model and the type of work we were doing wasn't really for me and my passion wasn't there anymore. I learnt how to manage staff, promote my work and services and also increased my network. Most importantly I realised I needed to gain more work experience in my sector which is what lead me to The Brokerage! I am glad I did it as I survived and have no regrets.


Sara, Legal & GeneralSara

CSR Manager, Legal & General

A courageous act I feel I have faced early in my career was public speaking. Conscious of being red faced, stumbling words and shaking in front of groups of people filled me with dread.

I took the challenge to go into training. Taking the time to face my fear and beat it, has been one of my greatest rewards.


Kathy, Task SquadKathy

Business Development Manager, Task Squad; former Brokerage team member

After 4 years of building my career in the private sector and working my way up the ladder into a leading multinational firm, I decided that I’d prefer to take my developed skills into the charity sector.

Did it take courage? Yes! No one understood why I was willing to give up the salary and the lifestyle. But I love my job, and knowing that what I do is making an impact certainly makes coming into work on a Monday morning a whole lot more exciting!

Sana, Allen & OverySana

Litigation Support Assistant, Allen & Overy

Brokerage Alumni Network Member

Being courageous in a professional capacity under pressured moments can be difficult to adopt, but it is definitely worth a shot! Ask yourself ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ Whether it’s approaching a partner of a magic circle law firm to help with a job application, making a request on stage to a room full of 500 guests for work experience, or knowing when the time is right to leave a job for your development– have faith in yourself, I certainly did!

Set yourself targets, build on your experience, make use of your network and get the timing right!


Partner, DWF LLP

I went to school in North Yorkshire, on the edge of the North York Moors, so starting my legal training in a major London law firm was very daunting.

It was a good decision, however, as I am still working in the city 20 years later. I have been able to achieve Partnership and have a family.

Nadia, PwCNadia

Audit Associate, PwC

Brokerage Alumni Network Member

The most courageous thing I have done is stand up for myself when it came to the jobs I would work on. In my first year, I was seconded to a commercial department within my firm. That department worked 15 hour days and I didn't enjoy the type of work at all. As this was my first year, it also meant that I would miss the opportunity to work on government jobs within my own department. I pushed through the secondment and in the end produced high quality work. For this reason, the manager tried to bring me back on the audit the following year, but that would mean I would have to leave my department again and miss the opportunity to work on roles which matched my preferences. So I stood up for myself and explained to the Manager that I didn't enjoy the type of work I was doing on secondment and wanted to gain experience in my own department. This was courageous for me as a first year associate might not say anything contradictory or explain their negative experience of a job to the senior member of staff they were working for. I knew he could have still booked me on the job in the following year, but I decided to stand up for what I wanted to do in terms of my career progression and not let the fear of people's reactions get in my way.

It taught me that sometimes you have to be honest and stand up for yourself (politely!) in order to achieve what you truly want.

Abigail, Casa BrasilitoAbigail

Site Director, Casa Brasilito (Costa Rica); former Brokerage team member

It may sound contrary but one of the most courageous things I have done for my career, is quit my job!

There was no imperative to leave; I had a good job, which I was confident in, with nice colleagues and was generally enjoying London life. Nothing was pushing me to leave except the slight nagging feeling I was capable of achieving more and getting closer to the longed for ‘international development’ charity job I had once dreamed of. So, in May 2013 I handed in my notice, sold my flat and went to volunteer in Costa Rica for six months.

It wasn’t an overnight decision, I spent a lot of time researching, eventually finding a placement where my skills would be useful but where I also felt I would learn a lot - I had been studying Spanish for several years and wanted to put it to use. The gamble paid off and after six months volunteering I received a surprise offer of full time employment, as Director of a joint community development project between three charities in the region.

I now manage staff and volunteers from all over the world and am responsible for ensuring the effective delivery of a variety of programming from English classes and sports coaching, to psychological and social services. An important part of my role is building relationships and trust with the community too, so at least 60% of my week is spent communicating in Spanish.

It was a huge step up for me; the job has really put my strengths to the test, made me confront my weaknesses and learn some tough lessons. The last six months have been the hardest and most challenging of my career, but I am learning and growing every day and I do not regret for one moment the decision I made to step out of my comfort zone.


UK Equity Capital Markets, JP Morgan Cazenove

Brokerage Alumni Network Member

I was recently given the opportunity to do a short rotation in the UK Real Estate team, having been in UK ECM since starting almost 4 years ago and having interned in the same team. This was a fantastic opportunity but it took me out of my comfort zone as it would mean coming into a team at the Associate level with limited sector knowledge and facing a steep learning curve. I am also the sort of person who likes to take time to consider things but I had limited time to make the decision as I moved within a week.

Ultimately, the decision was completely worth it but it did involve me challenging myself to do something different.

Kayleigh, The Brokerage CitylinkKayleigh

Workshop Facilitator, The Brokerage Citylink

I think the most courageous thing I have done in my career so far was identifying exactly what I wanted and taking a huge risk to get it! After graduating University there were several things I knew wanted to do; things that I was extremely passionate about and I wanted a way to combine all the things I cared about but I knew this would be challenging. Firstly I knew I really wanted to work with young people, I came out of University extremely passionate about education and how it should be accessible to everyone and not elitist, I also really wanted to travel and see the world. Travelling had been a burning desire for as long as I can remember- but I had no money and didn’t want to jeopardise my career by not gaining experience after graduating University.

So I decided to combine all of my desires and move to Thailand to teach English- I completed my TEFL qualification, packed my backpack and headed off to the other side of the world at 22. It has been by far the most courageous and beneficial move I ever made, not only did it help me gain work experience overseas- I ended up being gone for 3 years and learned so much about education, people, the world and myself.


Sales Support Associate, State Street

Brokerage Alumni Network Member

It has been just over a year since I began my career in the financial services sector and what an amazing experience it has been so far. My career has included travelling across the Atlantic, collaborating with different departments and studying for professional qualifications. Nonetheless, I would say that the most courageous thing that I have done in my career so far, was to face my fear of public speaking and get up on stage to give a TED talk in front of hundreds of people! It took an amount enormous courage to step outside my physical and psychological comfort zone.

Click on the link below to watch me ‘make it happen’ in spite of my fears!



Graduate Recruitment Officer, Teach First; former Brokerage team member

Knowing when to leave a job to pursue something new!



PA to Director of Graduate Recruitment, Teach First

 The most courageous thing I have done in my career - is change career!



Programme Manager, The Brokerage Citylink

The most courageous thing I have done in my career so far is taking time out of my career to travel. It’s a daunting prospect to leave behind a stable job and wonder if a six month gap on your CV will affect your opportunities later down the line, but I learnt this was not the case when I returned. Over six months in South America I challenged myself in lots of different ways, learnt about new cultures and saw some of the most beautiful sights in the world.

The experience pushed me out of my comfort zone and built my confidence. It gave me a fresh perspective and some time away to think about what I really wanted to achieve when I got back. Make it happen ladies!

Alexandra, AFEXAlexandra

European System Specialist, AFEX

Brokerage Alumni Network Member

The most courageous thing I have done in my career is single-handedly planning, organising and presenting training sessions for over sixty salesmen only 3 months into my first graduate job. It was quite a daunting experience not only because it was the first time it was being rolled out within the company but also because I was new to the industry.

Being quite a reserved person I had little time to adjust but since delivering these sessions on a quarterly basis across all European offices it’s now become second nature.

Daisy-Rose, Fabian SocietyDaisy-Rose

Research Fellow, Fabian Society

Brokerage Alumni Network Member

It might not sound like much, but leaving home to head to university at the age of 19 is probably the most courageous thing I’ve done so far. I was overwhelmingly supported by my family, but as an only child from a single parent family leaving home was an absolute wrench, especially to go and study at a university over 250 miles away! Having grown up in London, living at home and studying at a London university would have undoubtedly been the ‘easier’ option – and yet I knew that I would also be missing out on a whole load of other experiences over those three years. I struggled for the first few terms of university to settle in to my new surroundings, both being so far away from home and, coming from a North London comprehensive, studying with some of the most affluent people I’d ever met…! Three years later, I graduated with the highest Arts and Humanities grade, and the second highest across all subjects, at my college – and I know that this experience has been integral to my subsequent development.

It taught me the importance of trying things that initially seem terrifying or impossible, whether it’s leaving home, delivering a speech or having a job interview for an ideal position – you’ll soon prove to yourself that your options and horizons are much wider than you might have thought.



BAME backgrounds

91% of candidates joining us last year were from BAME backgrounds

Over 9,000

young people participated in our programmes and activities in 2016

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