I wanted to be a paramedic when I was at school, probably because I watched a lot of Casualty! I’d always loved the sciences and knew I wanted to help people. When it came to picking a university course I opted for forensic science and I was offered a place. However, this was followed by a moment of crisis, I asked myself - What are you doing? Do you really want to do this? So I took a gap year and declined the place.
My results showed that I was outstanding in art and design but I also loved maths, science and thinking about the way things work. Having that time to think about a career in architecture really helped me.
I have no family connection to the construction industry. My parents are both migrants, my mum is a school dinner lady and my dad a carpenter. Education was always really important to them and I feel very fortunate to have been able to choose a career that I love. I’ve definitely got my strong work ethic from my parents.
I got a place at Westminster University to study architecture and loved that it had such a diverse student population. I grew up in East London, in Manor Park, where I was born and raised and I’ve always wanted to stay in London and contribute as much as I can to this incredible place. I have a fierce loyalty to the city.
At the end of my degree course we had an end of year show to exhibit our work. Sheppard Robson Architects saw my work on display and offered me one of only 6 places on that year’s intake and, I was the only girl! I worked on education projects because it was a time when lots of academies were being built and we pushed boundaries and came up with some really great projects. I left feeling inspired for my Part 2 at Westminster University.
After a year in Toronto working for a small husband and wife run practice doing country houses and cottages by the lake, I went to Paul Clark Architects in Putney as part of a small team of four for my Part 3. The projects were mainly extensions and renovations, so lots of planning applications, but then a really sad thing happened. Paul passed away very suddenly and the practice had to close. Projects were passed on to other practices and I was offered a job by one of them but turned it down. I needed some time out.
Around then Sheppard Robson were hiring and the wonderful female mentor I’d had in my Part 1 was still there. It was lovely going back to a familiar place. It was also at this time I received my part 3 results and qualified as an Architect.
This was October 2015 and I’ve been here nearly 4 years. It’s a place that has allowed me to grow and experience different scales of projects. I now work on school designs, something I really love. I’m also more involved in the practice and the CSR side of things. It’s been a nurturing environment but I want to push myself to get more confidence and become a project leader one day. This is why I applied for the Fluid mentoring programme.
I am part of the 2018/19 Fluid cohort. Fluid came highly recommended by a university friend who had been mentored on Fluid a few years ago. She raved about it and told me how good it would be to have an external mentor. I got in on my third application. I persevered because I saw that my friend was doing very well in her professional career.
I wanted to be a mentee because I felt I needed a role model, someone to look up to- who would look at where I am in my career and give me guidance. I work for a big company and it’s possible to get lost in the size of it, plus my internal mentor had left so I no longer had that backing and support.
I was paired with Pooja Agrawal who works in the GLA Regeneration Team, overseeing strategy, policy and projects in North West London and citywide initiatives around culture, diversity and inclusion and small sites.
One thing she’s really helped me with is dealing with interactions at work that don’t feel right. Learning to steer conversations in a way to communicate what I want to say has been really powerful. Body language changes and you no longer feel side-lined or defeated. Asserting yourself a bit more helps to grow confidence and to say what you need to say. By doing this I’m more aware of my own value and contributions and to take ownership of my achievements.
It’s also been incredibly useful to have Pooja help me learn how to be more critical. This is something that’s never come easily to me. She gave me a list of practices that are different to where I work or have worked before and have different approaches. She tasked me to critique why some of them would be better to work for than others. In some instances I loved how diverse the staff are and their approach, but maybe I didn’t like the designs so much, maybe they could have injected more colour etc. This was a constructive exercise that has given me the confidence to say positive things, but also to say what needs to be said.
It’s important to have role models and it’s inspiring to see people who are like you in senior roles. I’ve found it rare to see people of colour and from diverse backgrounds in senior roles, doing well in architecture. Working with Pooja has given me more confidence to push myself and it has encouraged me to promote diversity in architecture by getting involved in more outreach projects myself, to empower others to be the best they can be.
I highly recommend Fluid and I’d love to be a mentor one day. I found Fluid when I was at a cross roads in my career - I had the choice to be content to carry on as I was, or, to challenge myself to be the leader I want to be.