Charity Mhende’s progress has soared inexorably since attending the Powerlist Foundation/Deloittte Leadership Programme in 2013 because she is working in New York at present thanks to meeting one particular mentor then.
She graduated from the London School of Economics with a history and international relations degree in 2014 and it’s been a whirlwind of excitement since. She joined investment bankers Anthemis in January in the SoHo district of New York, an opportunity even seasoned bankers would savour.
Anthemis specialises in investing in financial technology start-ups, which is one reason why they are in a district best known for its Bohemian culture.
She is on a year’s global marketing exchange certificate exchange and after getting through the interviews found herself in the Big Apple working for a public relations company initially. She didn’t settle there and grabbed the chance to join Anthemis in January. Happy at her new employers, she hopes to stay with Anthemis, either in New York or at their London offices when the programme ends.
Mhende is grateful to have attended the three-and-a-half day Leadership Programme at Deloitte’s offices in the City.
Many of her under-graduate friends were already committed to projects that summer but Mhende hadn’t made her mind up. When she became aware of the Leadership Programme it had instant appeal. One particularly memorable workshop was on body language. “It was not something I knew much about before,” she says. “That was really useful, like the hidden messages that you’re giving off, being in an interview…and I thought that it was really great.”
Her first job after graduating was working with one of the Powerlist Foundation trustees, Janet Thomas, where Mhende was her assistant and met some “fantastic” people. Thomas was the director of funding at Bank of America then. Mhende says, “That was great, building my network, building my skills set and also helping me to find the job I’m in now.”
Thomas is now managing director of Infinity Capital Partners, a corporate finance firm specialising in international banking. She gushes praise for Mhende describing her as “extremely hard-working and an excellent strategist”. Thomas adds: “I personally would never have to worry with my business if it was in Charity’s hands. She is extremely entrepreneurial and thinks extremely fast on her feet. I would always welcome her back with open arms if she wanted to return.”
She adds that Mhende is also very bright “not just academically but in life-skills”. Thomas says, “I will tell the whole world to watch out for her. She is an ambassador for all black women in business.”
Mhende reciprocates the sentiment and is incredibly grateful for the skills and knowledge imparted from Thomas.
Mhende emphasised that attending the Leadership Programme was extremely useful in learning networking skills and mixing with “industry professionals”, such as Powerlist Foundation creator Michael Eboda and Ken Olisa, OBE, Powerlist Foundation chair. She praises Eboda for starting the Powerlist Foundation and contributing to her career success thus far and for the inspiration from Olisa.
Her mentors on the programme were Susan Taylor-Martin and Edwin Broni-Mensah. Claud Williams was her ‘buddy’ and is now a mentor.
“I was a buddy last year with Afolabi Adekaiyaoja and the assigned mentors for the delegates were Charles Sekwalor and Rachel Owhin,” says Mhende.
She “definitely recommends it” to anyone considering attending a Leadership Programme. “I am waiting for my brother to become eligible, but he hasn’t started university yet.”
She advocates African-Caribbean students networking more and cites as an example the fabulous success of Timothy Armoo and Ambrose Cooke, who met on the 2013 Leadership Programme, created the website Fanbytes and in a short space have become extremely successful.
She feels that the Leadership Programme helps attendees meet “positive black role models, something which we don’t really have in the UK”. She adds: “It’s something I would advocate for anyone to join, because that’s the power of the network.”
Mhende, 23, arrived with her family from her Zimbabwe homeland when she was 10 and settled in Birmingham.
She sees herself doing something entrepreneurial in communications in the future and has already been working on creating something online. She feels that there are now “more opportunities for women and minorities” as entrepreneurs and is aware that for millennials there are fewer long-term corporate job careers than previously.
For her, the Powerlist is extremely relevant “because we have a network of collaboratives” and the mentors have a “generation of those they can inspire and people who they can work for and learn from them”.
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