Inspirational Woman: Julie Chakraverty | Non-executive director for Aberdeen Asset Management & Co-Founder of rungway

Julie Chakraverty serves as a non-executive director for Aberdeen Asset Management where she is Chairman of the Innovation Committee and for the insurance company Amlin where she is Chairman of the Remuneration Committee.

Julie ChakravertyJulie is also a Trustee for the Girls Day School Trust, and co-founder of rungway, a mentoring app where anyone can ask and respond to questions about work life challenges.

During her executive career Julie was a Board Member of UBS Investment Bank where she held a number of global leadership positions with a specialist background in digital platforms and fixed income. She also chaired the UBS Women’s Network, “All Bar None”. In 2006 she was named in Management Today’s ‘Top 35 Women Under 35’. In 2013 she was recognized in The Times newspaper as the youngest female director of a FTSE-100 company, aged 41.

What inspired you to start a business?

Over my career, challenges around mentoring and self-improvement have always fascinated me. I had to take a complete career break to create the space for fresh thinking and to seek out the more diverse network that would take me where I wanted to go. I decided that technology could play a much bigger role in mentoring at the “micro” level – enabling people to offer and receive bite-sized, relevant advice about work life challenges. So I set up a company to build it.

What is the greatest challenge and the greatest reward in being your own boss?

The sheer number of decisions needing to be made can be exhausting – changes in strategy, product, people, marketing – the list never ends. It needs a certain mindset that “done” is better than perfect. You need to keep moving forward without having all the information to hand, sometimes in the face of doubts and cynicism.
The best part is every hour counts. All your effort makes a difference. Plus I can take my daughter to work! For me it’s a unique opportunity to be a different kind of role model, having worked for large corporations for 25 years.

What motivational tips can you give to our members about goal setting and managing both successes and failures.

The biggest mistake is not to set your goals high enough. Or to assume that just because you haven’t done something before, you shouldn’t ask for that job. I’ve seen more women than men fall into this trap. Lack of confidence leads to missed opportunities – I urge people to take more chances! Managing failure sensibly is so important. On my journey to holding a number of non-executive board roles, of course there were rejections and mistakes as you might expect. That’s how we learn. Everything happens for a reason.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a business owner?

Keeping up your optimism and sense of humour when things don’t go to plan. You do need 100% support from your family and friends otherwise it would be very lonely.

How have you benefited from mentoring or coaching?

I don’t think I would have achieved my career milestones if I hadn’t sought out insights and short-cuts from people outside my immediate circle. Starting my career in a male dominated (trading floor) environment meant female role models were few and far between. Then I had to re-invent myself from executive to non-executive at a relatively young age (late 30s) which required lots of advice – from how to get noticed and hired in the first place to how to influence and add value around the board table. Now, as a founder of a start-up, I make sure I keep learning from other entrepreneurs.

What advice can you give about the benefits of networking?

Without networking nobody knows who you are or what you have to offer. Yet it clearly worries a lot of people. I see this topic come up frequently on rungway with people asking of how to network well if you are actually quite shy. I think the best networkers are really good listeners who are genuinely interested in other people and leave themselves open and relaxed for opportunities to come their way – they will. Shared interests and outlooks that spark from simple conversations or from being connected with someone amazing via a friend will lead to new partnerships.

You’re a mentor yourself, what common hurdles come up for the people you help?

People of all ages are still struggling to find their voice and have impact. They might not know the best way to negotiate their salary or title, or they may be at a cross roads deciding on a career change.

What does the future hold for you?

I love the variety across my non-executive roles and my start-up. The world of work is changing and I feel privileged to have the chance to make a difference and launch a new concept to transform how people manage their careers. There is still so much to learn and experience.

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