Basirat Razaq-Shuaib is a Chartered Accountant, Business Strategist and Social Entrepreneur. She started her career at Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Nigeria, as an Executive Trainee in Financial Control back in 2004 and, until recently, was the Deputy CFO at UBL UK- A UK retail bank.
She now runs her own firm – Actify Consulting Limited where she helps small businesses move from emerging to established, by developing their business and financial plans; and implementing business processes.
Basirat Razaq-Shuaib is also the founder of The Winford Centre for Children and Women- a charity supporting children with developmental challenges both in Nigeria and the UK. She shares on how to excel in a male dominated sector.
How were you able to cope in a male-dominated sector?
Firstly, I was assertive and very resolved about what I wanted to achieve by working in the first place. I was able to learn very early in my career to speak for myself, and speak to the ears that matter. This means you can’t afford to be intimidated by anything or anyone.
Secondly, I supported my assertiveness with technical competence and that helped me to stand out. You have to be so good at what you do that your name precedes you. You must be able to establish yourself as an authority in your chosen field; but without sound knowledge or a genuine interest in the business, this is going to be very difficult.
Thirdly, I ensured I was personable. It is important that people are able to connect with you emotionally and not just see you as a work machine with no feelings. You cannot do all the work by yourself, and without the support of others, you will end up being frustrated. Lastly, I had female mentors at work. These are people who have walked the path before me and were positioned to guide me on my own journey.
What do you think young women are doing wrong in this area?
There are three things I see happening a lot:
- The first one is that young ladies just starting out tend to not have a definite goal, and therefore do not have a strategy. This makes it difficult to position yourself rightly so that your achievements can be noticed.
- The second one is underestimating the power of standing together with other women especially those who are higher up on the career ladder.
- The last one is not adding value to your life outside of the workplace.
What are your tips for them?
- Have a plan- a game plan, a strategic plan, whatever name you choose to give it, but have a plan- a realistic one. Never take your eyes off the ball. When you have a plan for your life and career, it will be easier to spot opportunities and take advantage of them. I always say to people, “You can’t get where you are going if you don’t know where you are going”.
- Be confident in yourself and in your abilities. Learn to speak clearly and dress appropriately. Your look also matters.
- Learn from other women who are senior to you. Women pull other women up.
- Don’t expect things to be handed to you on a platter of gold because you are a woman- NO. You will have to go and claim your spot in the limelight.
- Add value to yourself at all times. Always remember that your technical competence alone will not take you to the top. As you start to rise, your social and leadership skills will become important factors as well.
What has been your most significant career achievement?
My most significant achievement would be Heading and Managing an entire finance department in a UK bank successfully just 6 years into my career. The regulations are a lot stiffer in the UK and it was a huge responsibility. Besides, there were only a couple of us (women) holding senior positions.
A lot of focus seems to be on entrepreneurs these days. What would you advise a confused career woman?
Don’t just join the bandwagon. First, know where your destination in life is and then assess your current journey. If where you are now is not on the way to where you ultimately want to be in life, then you don’t have any business being where you are now.
There is a price to pay for everything in life, success inclusive, and when your current journey is not in sync with your final destination, you will never be able to justify the price you are paying. Remember that not everyone is going to be an entrepreneur and being an entrepreneur is not just a walk in the park.
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What is your tip to live a balanced life as women in the workplace?
You must always remember that if you pass away today, the business will run very well without you, so it is not a do or die affair. However, to ensure that you live as close to a balanced life as possible, you need to:
1. Prioritise the things that matter to you in life and assign your time accordingly. Family, friends, spirituality, health etc. are areas of our life that should not be neglected.
2. Be disciplined with your time. Plan your time and practice the art of sticking to your time allocation. It is not easy but with practice, it gets better.
3. Delegate tasks that are not critical for you to do by yourself.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I would like to be remembered as the person who overhauled the provisions for children with special needs in Nigeria. I think this is an area that is currently not receiving the right level of attention and I would love to change that story.
Do you have any career tips for working in a male- dominated field?
Let us know here.