At the end of my first year at the University of Birmingham, in the summer of 2015, I was fortunate enough to be selected as one of the 60 delegates on the annual Powerlist Foundation Leadership Programme. This invaluable experience meant that I entered my second year of university with a newly revitalised boost of confidence and an unwavering attitude towards achieving my goals.

The PFLP was the first time I had ever been part of a project that was tailor made for the well-being and personal development of young people. For the team competition, we were organised into groups of ten with two mentors assigned to each team. My mentors were Tunde Bello, Executive Director of Clinical Pharmacology Oncology at Bristol-Myers Squibb and Florence Adepoju, Founder of MDMflow, their drive and diligence as leaders in their field continue to serve as an indispensable source of inspiration and motivation.

As a black woman aspiring to have a career within the political sphere (as you may have guessed from the photo below), visual representation is an issue I am all too familiar with. The Powerlist Foundation, as a platform for black excellence, restored my confidence in the myriad of career opportunities available to my peers and I, even within spaces that are notorious for their lack of diversity. Receiving guidance and expert knowledge from well-established professionals who look like me was beyond enriching.

The biggest lesson I learnt during the programme is that many successful people were not actually expecting to be leaders, it is something that happened due to the magnitude of their contributions to their field. So even if you do not feel like you are a leader yet, I guarantee you that by the end of the PFLP you will no longer be doubtful of your ability to lead. Contrary to society’s definition, leadership is not about being the figurehead of a project or company, it is about going out of your way to empower your peers to reach their full potential regardless of your position. Do not let your comfort zone dictate your future.

Since completing the PLFP I’ve gone on to be listed as one of the UK’s top black 100 future leaders, have a discussion with Ed Miliband on the political participation of young people, chair a class centred on leadership with Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Education and receive my MSc offer from the University of Oxford. These are just a few of the milestones of which I owe to the network I gained through the Powerlist Foundation Leadership Programme.

Do not make the mistake of not applying.

Thank you,

Yolanda Kisenyi – PFLP 2015 Alumni