Spotlight on

  • CWN Admin posted an article
    Fatema Orjela, Partner at Sidley Austin on being a trusted advisor and celebrating women in law. see more

    Spotlight on Fatema Orjela

    Fatema Orjela, Partner at Sidley Austin, gives us a glimpse into her career in law, her dedication to encouraging women to join the legal sector and how being a trusted advisor generally is an extension of her profession.

    What do you do/what's your typical day?

    I am a partner in private equity at Sidley Austin. I assist sponsors and financial institutions in M&A, shareholder arrangements and management incentive arrangements. I am also on a number of internal and external committees, e.g. London Chair of Sidley’s global women’s committee, CWN and Oxford Women in Law as well as being a wife and mother, so my day tends to involve a lot of coordination.

    What attracted you to becoming a lawyer and your field in particular?

    I have always loved being a ‘trusted advisor’ to friends and family. Being a lawyer is an extension of this; people look to you for guidance, judgment, and analytical and problem-solving abilities. Private equity, in particular, relies sharply on this skill set being put to effect at a fast pace, to understand people and their drivers to help facilitate parties to agree terms.

    What do you find inspirational/useful about the CWN?

    The exposure to exclusive high-quality events and a network of seasoned peers. I always leave events on a positive adrenaline high having learnt a new skill / perspective or met someone of interest outside of my usual professional circles.

    What was the most challenging experience you've had in the workplace and what are your tips for women to turn similar experiences into an opportunity?

    In 2016, I moved firms alongside 5 other partners and 11 associates. We have since grown our area into 20+ partners and 50+ associates across London and Munich. It was important to learn that there is not one single style of management that is effective. An effective style will depend on the environment. It’s important to be open to push yourself to change as needs be to be able to always be the most effective version of yourself.

    As a lawyer yourself, what do you think we can do to encourage more women to choose a career in law?

    Celebrate the multiple women already in the profession, the varied personalities / backgrounds, and the range of practice areas available. Women should be encouraged to be authentic as, in law, there really is something for everyone.

    How has studying science created opportunities for you that wouldn't have been possible otherwise?

    My strengths at school were sciences (Maths, Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Spanish A/AS levels). I seriously considered a career in medicine. Law and medicine are very similar in mindset. You have a toolbox of knowledge. When issues arise, you need to analyse and evaluate before applying such toolbox.

    Are there any particular issues you have come across working in the legal sector and how should other women overcome them?

    Private practice partnership models can be opaque and it can be hard to commit without knowledge of what might come. But firms are starting to focus on identifying rising stars and increased transparency. It should be noted that the initial exponential ‘learning curve’ is short compared to the length of one’s entire career. Keep on learning and helping those around you. Vocalise your enthusiasm and drive.

    You're leading or involved in several initiatives promoting diversity. What attracted you to the ones you picked?

    It is key that we retain more female talent at senior levels in the legal profession. Their talent is invaluable. Increased diversity makes law firms more interesting and dynamic places to work. The quality of complex legal thinking is better. All the legal diversity related positions I hold involve this focus.

    What career advice would you give your younger self?

    • Focus on yourself and be the best that you can be.
    • Ask as many questions as you want until you feel you understand, as if you’re asking, chances are others also don’t know the answer.

    What's do you like doing when you do have any down time?

    Cooking, travelling, scuba diving.

    What are you reading (or watching) right now?

    Unthinkable An Extraordinary Journey Through the World's Strangest Brains 

  • CWN Admin posted an article
    Jane Olds, Head of HR at BCS Consulting on authenticity, perseverance and what makes people tick. see more

    Spotlight on Jane Olds

    Jane Olds, Head of Human Resources at BCS, shares her journey and authenticity, perseverance and following the mantra ‘keep calm and carry on’ has been key to her success.

    What’s your typical day?

    I’m responsible for HR & D&I operations within BCS and have been with the organisation since January 2019. This role is full of variety and colour by the very nature of what the organisation delivers and on that basis, a day at the moment generally involves me meeting people, learning about them and their roles and responsibilities allowing me to gradually build a picture of how each area interacts, understand the culture, values and how people collaborate to deliver the Company’s strategic goals.

    Why did you choose to work in HR (and have you always been in that field)?

    I’ve always been in HR; for me, human behaviour and what makes people ‘tick’ is fascinating. HR allows me to work with people, interact, support, coach and encourage everyone to grow and ultimately become great people managers.

    What is your background and was there a defining moment/person that helped you achieve your goals?

    Whilst at college I worked part time on reception for a local hotel.  I was asked to help support some of the HR activity that was taking place and the exposure to this experience was the initial spark that ignited my interest in working with people.

    What do you find inspirational/useful about the CWN?

    CWN has opened my eyes to the benefits of networking with other likeminded women. I have met some great people and try to be an ambassador of CWN when speaking to my colleagues and friends.

    Which achievement are you most proud of in your professional life and what are your top tips for our members looking to succeed in a similar way?

    I was extremely proud when I passed my Masters as it was a goal I had been working towards for some time. My top tips would be to remain authentic, be true to yourself and persevere. Determination and the mantra to ‘keep calm and carry on’ truly has worked well for me.

    Like many companies, BCS has more than one office – do you work across its sites and how do you make that work?

    I cover the two sites the Company operates from in London and Peterborough. I have great travel links where I live and therefore I'm able to reach both offices within an hour. The commute time for me is valuable as it allows me to reflect on the day’s activities. My daughter also tells me that I am a ‘better mum’ when I have had time to digest my day, before I walk through the door!

    How do you balance the challenges of being a working mum?

    I’m super organised and have the best network of friends and family that support me. I’ve also been open and honest with my employers and requested flexibility. This has benefited both me and my employer as I have remained committed and maintained levels of work whilst being able to attend school plays and parents’ evenings.

    What do you like doing when you do have any down time?

    I enjoy going for long walks in the countryside with my Norfolk Terrier, Ruby. It really helps me to get some exercise, whilst clearing my mind and taking in the fresh air. My daughter will often join me which makes for a great opportunity for a ‘girly chat’ too.

    What are you reading right now?

    I’m currently reading ‘The Joy of Work’ by Bruce Daisley which is a great read with some excellent tips – I would recommend it.

  • CWN Admin posted an article
    Pinar Ozcan, Professor of Strategy at University of Warwick on patience, networks and role models. see more

    Spotlight on Pinar Ozcan

    Pinar Ozcan, Professor of Strategy at the University of Warwick, shares her journey and the importance of patience, networks and encouraging women to ask questions as well as her passion for tango.

    What do you do/what's your typical day?

    I start by reading business technology news, and then thinking and writing about research, which provides a nice segue in making my research relevant. Then I take breaks for answering emails. If I am teaching that day, I reserve the two hours before for meditation and reading for the topic in order to immerse myself deeply in it again.

    What attracted you to specialising in technology/strategy?

    My PhD at the Stanford Technology Ventures Program at Stanford School of Engineering really inspired me. Every week, we would hear from amazing thought leaders ranging from the founders of Google to the first biotech start-ups in Silicon Valley. I used to host these speakers, which was so eye-opening.

    What do you find inspirational/useful about the CWN?


    Two things: I love the way they promote and champion their members and inspire others while doing so. I also really love the opportunity to exchange ideas with the other members at the events.

    Which achievement are you most proud of in your professional life and what are your top tips for our members looking to succeed in a similar way?

    My earlier career was really challenging. I did not have the network nor the expertise to publish my research studies and there was a long waiting period for the world to see what I could accomplish. I had to keep working without any positive feedback while juggling two small kids. I am glad it paid off and it matured me greatly.


    Having studied at an engineering and science faculty, what can we do to encourage women to enter these fields?

    There are many ways to get into science and engineering. Inspiring women from early on to ask the questions and not be afraid of not understanding all the technical details is important. I myself have a Bachelor of Arts degree and it took me a while to build the confidence that you can do great things in science and engineering with such a background. 

    What career advice would you give your younger self?

    Be patient, build your network, and don't lose your confidence when you receive negative feedback. Your moment to shine will come if you don't give up.

    What’s your hidden talent that others don’t know you have?

    I am a ballroom and tango dancer. My dream is to spend a month in Buenos Aires dancing tango all day.

    What do you like doing when you do have any down time?

    I recently discovered yoga and it has been amazing for my mind and body.

    What are you reading right now?

    I recently read this beautiful book by Karen Foxlee called Lenny's Book of Everything. It brought me to tears.

  • CWN Admin posted an article
    Jayne Berkye, Global Talent Lead at Wipro, on perseverance, role models and women in digital. see more

    Spotlight on Jayne Berkye

    Jayne Berkye, Global Talent Lead at Wipro, inspires us with her drive to attract women to the technology sector and shares how she motivates herself to keep persevering.

    What do you do and what does a typical day look like for you?

    As Global Talent Lead, I wear many different hats. From engaging with our internal talent to negotiating contracts, no two days are the same. My typical day will be liaising with our various studios across the globe, reviewing our demand and mapping out talent strategies. Having a unique Talent Acquisition model where we are integrated into the wider team means we are not seen as a service line. As a result, we are involved in all discussions around the growth of the business.

    What attracted you to working with in the technology/digital sector?

    There is a distinct lack of females in the tech/digital sector and I was attracted to working in this industry in the hope that I would be able to encourage women to move into these types of roles. With the drive for STEM programmes we will hopefully see a new generation of females wishing to get involved in the tech/digital space. Working for an organisation that wishes to support and push this agenda is really important for me both professionally and personally.

    What do you find inspirational/useful about the CWN?

    CWN is an excellent organisation that is really focused on the ‘betterment’ of women. The previous events I have attended have focused on uplifting and developing female leaders and as a new member I have been really impressed. What’s more they have created opportunities for the members to interact with real life individuals who are happy to share their journey. I have found this extremely inspirational as there so many stories of how women have battled through adversity to reach where they are today. It inspires me to really want to encourage and share my experiences with other females also.

    What was the most challenging experience you've had in the workplace and do you have any top tips for women going through something similar?

    I have been in an environment where women had to work twice as hard but were not valued. My tips for women in this scenario is don’t let this get you down. Ignore the fact that you are challenged even when producing great results. Let the results you bring, tell their own story and do not be afraid to highlight you great achievements.

    What motivates you to develop women in the workplace? Are there any particular women who have helped you that spring to mind?

    As a female, I think it is extremely important to develop other females in the workplace. I find sharing your experiences with others can really help those in similar situations. I have had a limited number of female leaders to look up to, but there are two that stood out for me. Their strength of character and their determination to uplift other women along the way, thoroughly resonated with me as a person. It also made me realise the gift of having people to look up.

    What career advice would you give your younger self?

    Stay focused and whatever rocks life throws at you, grab it with both hands and run to the finish line. Even if you drop anything along the way, don’t give up.

    What’s your hidden talent that others don’t know you have?

    In my spare time I like to hit the turntables and DJ!

    What are you reading (or watching) right now?

    The Coaching Habit Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way you Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier – the art of listening is a powerful thing.


  • CWN Admin posted an article
    Spot light on Sue McLean, partner in the IT/Commercial Practice Group at Baker McKenzie see more

    Spotlight on Sue McLean

    Sue McLean is a partner in the IT/Commercial Practice Group at Baker McKenzie. She has been named in the Women in FinTech Power List for three years and is on the editorial board of the Journal of Digital Banking. Get the inside scoop from Sue as she shares her career insights and tips.


    What attracted you to specialising in working with clients in the technology/digital space?

    It certainly wasn’t planned. I wasn’t focused on STEM at school and my tech knowledge was pretty limited. In the late 90's, I found myself working on a strategic IT outsourcing deal for the government, plus various e-commerce projects and I found the work fascinating. This was the beginning of the Internet age and I knew I wanted to be part of it.


    What inspired you to join the CWN?

    I joined CWN a few years ago. I was keen to network with other senior women in business and after a quick internet search came across CWN. I went along to an event at Mansion House. I signed up and within a few weeks found myself on the organising committee for the annual conference. It was great fun working with a really, terrific group of women.


    Which achievement are you most proud of in your professional life and what are your top tips for our members looking to succeed in a similar way?

    I'm most proud of becoming a partner in one of the world's leading law firms. Partnership came late for me. I worked a reduced hours schedule for 8 years after having my family. Life was comfortable, but I was frustrated and felt I wasn't achieving my potential. So, I pushed myself outside my comfort zone and it led me here. Sometimes to move up you have to move on.


    What motivates you to develop women in the workplace?

    To be the mentor that I didn’t have. I feel strongly that all senior women in business have a responsibility to 'lift as we rise'. I mentor some really fantastic young women. I've also got so much out of their "reverse mentoring".


    You have a strong following on Twitter, what benefits have you seen from using social media and any guidance for those of us who haven’t taken the plunge?

    I joined Twitter about 5 years ago, because I was advising clients on their use of social media and I thought I really needed to be ‘walking the walk’. I then got the bug. I've found Twitter to be a terrific tool for business. It's the first place for news. It's also a great place to network and raise your profile. I'd encourage everyone to give it a whirl. Follow key people in your sector, follow CWN, share interesting articles; get the feel for how it works. And don't be afraid to show your personality.

    What career advice would you give your younger self?

    I would tell myself "Face the fear and do it anyway. Be more comfortable with being uncomfortable." One of my key takeaways from reading "Lean In" a few years ago was the Facebook mantra that Sandberg mentions: "What would you do if you weren't afraid?" I love the sentiment behind this. I have been so much more successful since I started to embrace the fear – fear of networking, public speaking, change. When I started saying yes, and worrying later, it boosted my profile and my opportunities. I wish I had started earlier.

  • CWN Admin posted an article
    Spotlight on Monica Fisher, founding member see more

    Spotlight on Monica Fisher

    Monica Fisher, founding member of CWN and former executive with Bank of America and First National Bank of Chicago, shares insights from her career and tells us what inspired her to become a founder member of CWN.


    What inspired you to become a founder member of CWN?

    Back in the late ‘70s, banking was still a man’s world. Most women were secretarial or clerical, so there weren’t many professional women in any one organization. I was invited to join a ‘Little Ladies of London’ lunch. This tongue-in-cheek name was our spirited response to the all-male clubs  and Old School Tie Networks. Joni Nelson had arrived from New York - she was the driving force behind establishing the informal monthly gathering of women accountants, bankers and lawyers who worked in the ‘square mile’. It wasn’t long before the CWN was born.


    How has being a member of CWN helped you achieve your career goals?

    The talks and networking no doubt helped me to mature in the business environment and progress in my banking career – a far cry from my zoology degree. However, the true benefit to me, of being a member of CWN, came when I started my portfolio career. Three of my first four external roles were directly attributable to my CWN membership including being appointed as a NED on Watson Wyatt’s Board and a Trustee, later Chairman, of a regional Children’s Hospice Charity (for which I’m still an ambassador and mini bus driver!)


    Which achievements are you most proud of in your professional life?

    Early on, I was proud to be the first woman and the first graduate in Bank of America London Branch’s trading room, and helping to set maternity policy with regard to company cars, as no woman entitled to a car had gone on maternity leave before.

    Whilst at First National Bank of Chicago, I worked mostly in Eastern Europe which was a brand new market following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet era. I spoke at key conferences in Bratislava and in Siberia in January, which was a shock to the system!

    However, perhaps my best memories relate to continuing to keep satisfying customer orders in a chaotic market, be that caused by a US helicopter crash in Iran in Operation Eagle Claw in 1980 and speculation about enemy fire; the hurricane and power cuts in London in 1987; or the earthquake in San Francisco in 1989. Also putting together what might have been the first cross currency interest rate swap (13yr USD/NOK) in 1980, long before ISDA existed, still brings a smile to my face.


    Are there any particular women you have helped, that you remember to this day?

    Being involved in a CWN programme where members visited school sixth forms, and encouraged girls to aim high, meant I was lucky enough to witness light bulb moments such as when an attendee smiled and I saw a change in attitude.


    What career advice would you give your younger self?

    Do not act in a role in the way you think others are expecting; be true to yourself not to their preconceptions. In my experience, maximizing the positives even if there are limitations, results in the best outcomes.


    What’s your hidden talent that others don’t know you have?

    Not many people know that I have climbed the Matterhorn before I went to Oxford. Sport has always been important to me and I still enjoy hill-walking, playing tennis and of course, watching the boat race (having rowed in the blue boat for three years).


    What are you reading right now?

    I’m reading ‘Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier’. This story of Mary Anning, the fossil hunter, gave me useful background to the ichthyosaur I saw last month, when I visited the Natural History Museum with my 3yr old granddaughter, Naomi. I hope that if she becomes a third-generation banker, CWN will be there to provide her with the support, education and friendships that I have enjoyed through being a member.