Finding your way and tipping the balance

I found about Northern Power Women through a very good friend of mine, who has always encouraged me to be true to myself and follow what I believe in.

Although I can come across as a very self-assured and confident person in work, life and in social situations, I think I was at a point in a relationship where I had lost belief in my ability and had someone putting me down for the choices I made, and who clearly lacked respect for my career. This had a detrimental effect on me. Nothing I did was good enough, even to the point of enjoying the gym on a regular basis and any time for self-care I was taking.

I’ve always been fiercely independent, and career driven. From an early age I had been taught the value of working, including working in the local fish and chip shop every Friday at 14 for £12 per shift. This was likely the by-product of an upbringing by a fantastic single mother who worked relentlessly to make sure my brother and I always had everything we needed. Not only will I always be incredibly thankful to her for that, but also for teaching me how to be strong, determined and resolute in all that I do. She’s definitely my Power Woman!

After I attended Northern Power Women Live, in July of 2017 with colleagues and the ever growing issue of diversity in the workplace was becoming more prevalent, I decided I really wanted to make a difference; encouraging young women into careers that they might never have thought possible.

Through hard work, I was promoted after 2 years of creating and launching the Sky Betting and Gaming graduate scheme, to head up the Early Careers proposition. This seemed like the most opportune moment to start pushing boundaries and thinking about how I was going to encourage more young women to come and work for us.

At the same time, I was engaged and unhappy and even at the news of this promotion, there was minimal support or encouragement. I really wanted to make something of this!

As a business, we are really invested in improving the female intake overall and also with a particular focus on a pathway through early talent. The first 2 years had a low female intake, 17% overall, not surprising given the industry is largely “male dominated”. But just because that’s how it was then, is that right for the future? Why weren’t women applying to come and work for a fantastic digital and tech business that has tripled in size in the last 3 years? Why should women feel like they can’t make a difference? This year’s campaign was my mission to find out.

In the midst of being more front facing at universities, talking to young women, creating a campaign that was more attractive to a female audience my engagement came to an end. I moved back in with my best friend and I got a handful of nominations for a Northern Power Women award which I couldn’t have even dreamed of at the time. I was beginning to feel like I was making a difference.

I also had the opportunity to start working on a fantastic new project with UA92 – the brainchild of the Class of 92’. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a stalwart Red through and through and I had to present to Gary Neville, one of my footballing heroes, just 2 days before I moved out of the alleged marital home. Only the biggest meeting of my life! It was a career defining moment for me and I don’t ever think I’ve been as nervous in my whole life going in to talk about the Early Careers proposition here at Sky Betting and Gaming. I settled when I got in, I know what we have is fantastic and am confident in the fact as I realised when I got out, I made it. I did this. It was definitely a moment of clarity and potentially even self-gratification. Through this I was lucky enough to meet Yvonne Harrison (of the Power List) who is a constant source of inspiration and support to me, despite how incredibly busy she is with Project 92.

It’s always important to surround yourself with people who make you the best version of yourself and that includes your relationships both inside and outside of work. I can honestly say that I have become a better person due to the work I do and for learning to let go of relationships that were detrimental to my well-being and move forward towards where I want to be. I was lucky enough to have a fantastic support network both in and outside work in order to empower me and support me to do this.

I’m now on the Leeds Digital Board for skills, the Advisory Board for 4 Northern Universities including my own, Leeds Trinity, meaning I can really help shape the offering for future generations and try and work towards retention of talent in the North. This year, 63% of offers on the graduate scheme were made to females which was an absolute record breaker and more of an improvement than I could have hoped for.

In addition, I very much enjoy my role on the gender work-stream at SBG and some of the fantastic outcomes we’ve had, including the first International Women’s Day at SBG and our very first Leeds Pride Parade.

The one thing that has stuck with me, is how much I have enjoyed my role, how I have grown as a person and how much I’ve learnt that it’s important to stay true to what you believe in and who you are, even when you feel like you’ve lost your way a bit. Authenticity is something I value in the people I work with and in myself, which is why I felt it was important to be as candid as possible when writing this.

Exercise and restful time out are crucial from your day to day and for your mindfulness. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that I don’t need to take my laptop home every night and it would be silly of me to think that the more work I do at home, will be a better reflection and will support or propel my progression. That’s a myth in my opinion, that you must expel from your mind and any company who enforces that culture isn’t somewhere I would necessary want to be. Each individual is different, but I work better early in the morning, so that’s when I start my day in the office and try and take an hour over lunch to go to a spin class and I feel like I’m more productive then in the afternoon.

The last year for me has been a complete upheaval and I’ve experienced some of the biggest changes I’ll ever experience, but also had some of the best life experiences as a result of it.

I set myself a goal this time last year that I would at least be nominated for a NPW Award, and not only did that happen, but I made the Future List in March.

Hopefully now I can be the person that inspires a young woman to follow her dreams and career aspirations, because anything is possible with the right people around you.

Yasmin Ahkter

Yasmin was added to our Future List in 2018. You can check out other members of the future list as well as Northern role models here

Read more blogs here

Leave a Reply