Empowering future female leaders in our firm with Elevate
We hear from Associate Director Golnaz Bahador about how our firm-wide Elevate programme has equipped her with the skills and knowledge to continue striving forward as a future female leader. We also hear from her coach, Karen Robb, who tells us more about the programme, how it benefits the firm and our people and what the coaching role means to her.
The Coachee: Golnaz Bahador, Digital Forensics Associate Director
I was born and raised in Iran, moved to the UK in 2003 and completed a master’s degree shortly after moving. I’ve always been interested in connecting with people from all kinds of cultural backgrounds and enjoy developing and maintaining good relationships with my connections.
Growing up as an only child and raised by relatively strict parents, I learnt to be independent and accountable for my actions from an early age. I apply this mindset to the way I work on daily basis. Strategic account management felt like a natural career path for me in the long term because it provides me with an opportunity to play a significant role in business growth.
I work as Head of Engagement Management within the Digital Forensics Group, which means I’m responsible for growing and retaining client relationships both in the UK and overseas. I oversee and provide expert consultancy on a range of services in this role and I also co-chair the firm’s Sports Advisory Group, which was set up in 2019. My job focuses on delivering successful engagements and communicating the value of my team and the work we lead to our stakeholders and clients.
It took me few years of trial and error before settling on the right career path. I see my brain as half creative and half academic, so it’s always been important for me to find the right balance between the two to fulfil my natural skills and interests.
The Elevate programme has helped me build my professional network on organisational, personal and strategic levels. I’ve also found external speakers who have participated in the programme to be monumentally helpful.
Joining the programme has boosted my engagement with colleagues and helped me clarify my future goals. Before starting the programme, I lacked clarity about my career progression but now I feel that I have a clear path ahead of me, which has resulted in me feeling less pressured and stressed about the future. The programme has enhanced my personal growth, raised my profile amongst colleagues and boosted my self-confidence.
Elevate has given me the knowledge, tools and practical skills I need to be a successful leader. I’ve been able to connect with more people like me who I can learn from and improved ‘soft skills’ in areas like communications, critical thinking and teamwork. One key take-away has been learning about my purpose in life, thinking about what liberates me and helps me pick myself up again and again.
I wish that I had received coaching earlier in my career. I didn’t know much about how coaching worked before joining the programme and how it differs from mentoring. In many cases, women lack connections with senior leadership who can help them progress in the workplace. The Elevate programme, alongside mentoring and sponsorship, can help to break down these barriers.
I’ve found workplace coaching particularly helpful in finding my voice. My coaching sessions have helped me to unlock my potential, raise my awareness levels and improve my performance in analysing and adapting my professional and personal behaviours. Coaching is invaluable for women who are aspiring towards senior positions.
The best part of my job is the people I get work with every day. From clients to colleagues, everyone comes from different walks of life and I enjoy learning about their experiences. As an engagement manager, no two days are the same, which means I’m always learning new things and exploring new opportunities.
Through the joys, fears and messiness of life, achieving work-life balance can be really challenging. There are times when I feel like everything in my life is in order and then there are times when I feel everything is out of balance, but I’ve learned to accept that this is okay! Like most things in life, achieving balance is about our decisions we make and priorities we choose.
I lead a very active lifestyle which helps me to keep focused, disciplined and motivated. I’m very selective with how I spend my time and how I prioritise tasks. Working flexibly allows me time to invest in my mental and physical wellbeing, which for me means more time playing tennis (when the courts open again!) and taking my camera out.
My motto in life is, “If someone doesn’t know which port they are sailing to, no amount of wind will help”. I’ve learnt that developing defined goals helps to keep me heading in the direction I chose for myself and driven to accomplish what I’ve set out to do. My short and long-term goals focus on growing my skills and moving into more of a leadership position. After learning about the firm’s coaching program, I also hope to become an accredited coach one day.
My personal goals are just as important to me as workplace goals. As a photographer and artist outside of work, the goals I’ve set are challenging but realistic and will involve travelling and taking part in exhibitions in the coming years.
My advice for women who want to progress their careers is, as Angela Ahrendts says, “just listen, just learn, just feel”. From my experience, quick wins boost confidence and advance career goals. I’d also encourage other women to make the most of opportunities that exist within our firm, like the Elevate programme and coaching, networking and mentoring initiatives which can provide women the skills and confidence they need to realise their potential.
If I had to describe my Elevate experience in three words, they would be… encouraging, positive and insightful.
The Coach: Karen Robb, Tax Partner
I have a coaching role within the Elevate programme and facilitate peer group coaching within our Action Learning Set. I help to coordinate the Elevate team to work together as an Action Learning Set to ensure it flows, people gain rapport and we have insightful and open discussions in a safe space.
As a partner at the firm, this role is very much part of my job and something that I really enjoy being a part of. The team meet every six weeks during the nine-month programme. We’ve built a relationship with one another in just a couple of sessions of the programme starting so that we can coach better and share our ideas, experiences and feedback openly with each other.
The Elevate programme aims to develop our future female leaders and support them in their ambitions and progression. It offers them opportunities to collaborate, share experiences, receive coaching and create a support network with like-minded females in the firm.
I think it’s really important that we continue to create an environment where women can thrive, especially where the outcome is that we have more female leaders and role models in the firm.
Since I’ve started coaching, I’ve learnt how quickly trust can be built in a peer group, simply by sharing stories and life experiences.
The most rewarding part of the job is seeing the openness, trust and care we all have for one another, despite the fact that we’ve only being established for a short time.
A great leader is someone who will stand beside you, work alongside you, encourage you to be your best self and be an advocate for you.
I think our Elevate programme shows that we as a firm are taking gender imbalance seriously and want to make a difference in overcoming barriers in gender imbalance for our people. This programme provides a way in which we can start bridging that gap. Our Women in Business report is a great example of us starting to see change happening more widely in the senior leadership sphere, but we still have some way to go.