“Success is not defined by my role title or money in the bank. It is measured by the number of mindsets and lives I can change, for a better tomorrow.”
Sharma’s childhood taught her the importance of mentoring and guidance. She states: “There is no doubt that no matter how much experience we have, we always have room to improve and do better. But it is more crucial that we start with the young if we really want to see change.”
Ranu Sharma is an Ambassador for the young London-based charity, ‘Working Options’ and a mentor at ‘The Girls’ Network.’ She carries out motivational talks across the country on various issues, ranging from career/education to life skills. Her passion to help young people has grown over the years and meant she produced and released her own Podcast series, ‘Getting Through Adolescence’ in July 2020, which with the help of some great guest speakers, aims to help navigate youngsters through typical issues such as social media influences, drink/drugs, peer pressure and so much more.
Ranu is a qualified Management Accountant and works as a Finance Director. With a wealth of experience in Finance Business Partnering, Sharma continues to carry her voice at major conferences across both London and globally, on the importance of diversity and why relationship building is the backbone to being a successful business partner.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role.
I am a mother of 2 and work as a Finance Director. I graduated from Brunel University and went on to qualifying as a Management Accountant (CIMA) 4 years later. After qualifying, I worked my way up to more senior positions, particularly in the Finance Business Partnering arena. My career spans over several different industries, from Pharmaceuticals, Hospitality, Airlines, Recruitment, FMCG and Fintech.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
I did and I didn’t. Having a very strict father from a young age meant that I almost felt obligated to have some sort of career path in mind. Being from an Asian heritage, career paths would often be limited to professional careers such as doctors, dentists, accountants, lawyers etc. I knew I wasn’t a science person and was more numerical, so I stuck with that. As I grew and had more and more autonomy in my job roles, I decided to make the roles ‘my own’ and naturally gravitated away from being a ‘pure accountant’ to a commercially savvy finance business partner. It was more enjoyable and played to my strengths of presenting, communicating and working well as a team with non-finance professionals.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Gosh, where do I start with this one? Challenges just don’t seem to get away from me!
From a young age, around my mid-teens I was very much left to my own devices when it came to education and life skills. My father was incredible at so many things, but I felt that his strict nature meant he had such high expectations. I was aiming too high, higher than my potential and instead of embracing my ‘average joe’ brain power, I found myself mentally exhausting myself to be as good as him (he was a PHD – I could never be as clever as him). Every time I failed, I felt a huge knock in confidence and felt like I could never be successful in anything.
In 2019, my father was diagnosed with a deadly brain tumour and before you know it, he passed away. From that moment on, my life just did a 360-degree turn. Instead of academic books, I started to read more spiritual literature as a way of seeking the real meaning of life. It was from here, my mindset slowly started to change and I was able to find my true self and aim for goals that were actually within my reach. I slowly regained my confidence and started to get bigger better roles and build my CV the way I wanted to.
My most recent challenge was after I gave birth to my son in January 2022. At 5 weeks old, he was on the brink of cardiac arrest and almost passed away twice in one night. I have been caring for him ever since and have been out of work for just over a year. Corporate life was my happy place, where I was able to be confident, drive decisions, and manage a team that enjoyed being managed by me and I felt valued. To care for my son full-time and be away from work for so long (not to mention a 2-year lockdown prior to this) has been extremely challenging both mentally and physically.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
I am a true representation of how you can be a working mother and still land senior positions. All the work I have done in the past is to inspire mothers that we can call make a career for ourselves and still be hands-on and fantastic mothers to our children. Therefore my biggest achievement for me is being able to become Finance Director before the age of 40 and have my two children at the same time. I’ve never had to choose between one or the other which has shown I can have it all.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
Being honest and authentic. I have never shied away from being true to myself and never compromised myself in any shape or form to become successful.
In 2022 I received my FD promotion whilst being pregnant with my son. For a split second, I became quite concerned that whilst I was in the running for the position, I was also going to go on maternity leave shortly after. I kept fixating on how this would be perceived and scared that if I told the hiring manager I was pregnant, it would cost be my promotion. However, I quickly reminded myself that I represent working mothers! To lie or conceal the fact I was pregnant wasn’t and should NOT be the way. Promotions should be given because a person is good at what they do, not based on whether they are about to have a child.
So I had the meeting and came out with it. It was the best decision I made and the level on honesty and professionalism was well received. The role became mine.
I later on learnt that life works in mysterious ways, as never in a million years did, I ever imagine I would need the level of support I have received to date with regards to my son. Being authentic and honest really is the backbone to any kind of success, from jobs to relationships.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I love to mentor and help others. It’s my passion and one that I take very seriously. Knowledge is power and if you can pass on valuable life experience to those that need it most, you’ve won. I carry out motivational talks to young youths as part of my charities ‘Working Options’ and ‘The Girl’s Network’ and it is the most satisfying experience, knowing that I have impacted another person’s life.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?
Change young girls’ perception of what is required of women in the workplace. I say young girls and not women, simply because as each generation of girls that come and take the stage, are growing into women based on what they see, hear and read. This has a massive impact on how they perceive women to be and we will only be able to change the narrative if we re-tune their thinking and help change their perceptions. This is the only way we will see a new generation of women flourish and continue to break the glass ceiling.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
Never be trapped by dogma and live life according to other people’s expectations. Set your own goals and get rid of any toxicities that stand before you. When the runway is clear and you’re ready, tap into your passion and you will get the drive. Once you have that, you will always be happy in whatever you do.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
My next challenge is to go back to work after almost 18 months of caring for my son. I’m hoping that my son’s health will return to normal and I can continue my career.
I have faith in the unseen and know that with my determination and strength, anything will be achievable. My future will be full of so much more and will continue to inspire young women everywhere