Nuz’s prolific career encompasses being a wellbeing strategy advisor and mentor to wellbeing leads at UK companies.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I have a vibrant and diverse background, which I have come to celebrate. I am of Indian descent, was born in Zimbabwe, and raised in South Africa and then Sweden, before I came to the UK for my Erasmus year abroad during university. I ended up loving it and staying here.
I began my career working predominantly in marketing and communication roles, such as at the Birmingham City Council and then IKEA. During my time at IKEA, I transitioned from marketing towards my passion point of wellbeing, and I was appointed to the role of Head of Health and Wellbeing UK IRL. From there on, I built my experience in wellbeing strategy, people analytics, employee engagement, and mental health awareness.
Today, I work as the Head of Wellbeing Strategy at Govox, a proactive technology platform that provides insights for wellbeing leaders, and helps to save lives, predominantly in workplaces, education institutions, and sports organisations.
My role is to support the internal team and external partners and clients, by being their voice of expertise in the market and provide strategic business direction. This is by navigating upcoming wellbeing trends, keeping abreast of the latest indexes and reports that could potentially impact their businesses, and creating health and wellbeing content for empowerment.
Aside from my main job role at Govox, I have a position on the leadership team for Let’s Improve Workplace Wellbeing, bringing together like-minded wellbeing leads to share and learn from best wellbeing practices. I also contribute to the Global Wellness Institute Wellbeing Initiative on Workplace Wellbeing, further supporting the wider global wellbeing conversations.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
I never planned my career or had a strategy when I first ventured into marketing. Wellbeing was always a passion point of mine, originating from personal experience, but I didn’t map out my career to go into that. But I’m an open-minded, curiosity-driven person and always eager to learn, so I was happy for my career to flourish wherever it led me.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Absolutely and I am so thankful for them as they have made the success even sweeter.
I had my fair share of challenges when I was a young student, trying to get through my O levels and A levels. I had to work twice as hard as I wasn’t considered one of the cleverest in my class. At the time, my mother had fallen very ill and I had to take over full responsibility for my nine year old sister, a small flat, a tiny budget that always ran short, and a full school schedule.
When I was on the career ladder, I also had to navigate many personal and professional challenges, and we often downplay the interlink between our work and personal lives. I hopped into different roles to find my feet, and faced a few redundancies. I also went through a period of very poor mental health, burnout and coming close to giving it all up because I thought life was much too hard.
I slowly overcame this through the support of my friendship network, realising my own resilience, and most importantly, recognising that no one else needs to be more accountable or show up for me, than myself.
Life will give you hard knocks but how you come up from them is what really matters. Challenges are what makes us enjoy and even appreciate the sweet moments of achievement.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Winning the Great British Workplace Wellbeing Award for Lifetime Achievement, as it was the moment that made me realise that all my hard work, tears, struggles, and rejection were not in vain. The award symbolised my passion for wellbeing, my insight, empathy and authenticity.
It also made me take a good hard look at what makes me unique and that in order to move forward in life, instead of trying to be someone else or better, to own and embrace myself the way I am. Of course there will always be some hurdles but staying true to myself is non-negotiable.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
Making myself accountable. When I stopped looking at external factors or other people to make me happy or better, and instead looked at what I myself needed to do to make things happen, success followed.
I live by the mantra; ‘I always honour myself’. When you stop looking outside of yourself for validation, practise gratitude for whatever comes your way, and stand in your own light, you truly shine. It may all sound a bit cliché, but having chased validation and experienced FOMO and imposter syndrome, I decided to stop and celebrate what I brought to the table…and if I wasn’t welcomed at the table, I would build my own.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I am a big advocate of mentoring, having mentored others and surrounded myself with people I can gain mentoring from.
It’s important as we need people to inspire us, and in turn have people that we can teach. When I mentor others it’s not only helped them with their own progression and skills, it’s also given me purpose. I have learnt so much through my journey, so sharing that lived experience is a gift that I give and I receive.
My belief in mentoring is inspired by the South African word ‘Ubuntu’, which means ‘I am what I am because of who we all are’.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?
Openness and acceptance.
I think too often there is no safe space for both genders to be open, to ask or challenge the status quo. I have witnessed male misogyny first-hand and instead of the guilty parties being open and accepting that it was poor behaviour, or that they did not consciously think at that moment, they instead chose to be silent and not learn from the experience.
We need more brave actions and less talk. We need the positive disruptors, and we have to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. I think we also have to celebrate the men that are showing up through male allyship, and see how they can inspire other men to be and do better. I am hopeful of the future though, as we cannot discount the movement and progress in this area in the recent past.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
To just relax and breathe. There will always be obstacles and rough patches through your life and career, but equally there will be moments of exhilaration and celebration. So don’t sweat the small stuff, don’t worry what others think, you do you and the rest will follow, if it’s meant to be.
One of my favourite sayings which has been so apt is; ‘what is meant for you, will never miss you’. I never heard that growing up, but I needed that.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
Through my role at Govox, our mission is to break down mental health stigmas, going from a ‘man up’ culture to a ‘speak up’ culture. We talk a lot about looking behind the brave face. I think with the current tumultuous time, our challenge will be how to identify, connect and support those most vulnerable.
Focusing on young people, we’ll work to inspire them, and help them pass through what seems a bleak time. It is about how we build their resilience as they face many challenges, such as online safety, and having to be ‘always-on’ due to technology.
I also hope to encourage more leaders in the workplace to see that showing compassion, empathy and vulnerability doesn’t make you weak but makes you even stronger. People resonate more with people who are real.
For me personally, the future is to continue to be the best version of myself because when I am, then I show up as the strongest I can be for the role I have.