Inspirational Woman: Ruth Kudzi | Founder & CEO, Optimus Coach Academy

Ruth Kudzi

My name is Ruth Kudzi and I am the CEO of two businesses: Optimus Coach Academy where we train people to become professionally accredited coaches and Ruth Kudzi Coaching where I work personally with leaders as a coach.

My background is varied: I have been studying Psychology & Neuroscience for over 27 years with a BA in Psychology & Management and a MA in Psychology & Education. Equally I have been coaching for well over a decade both within my roles, with corporates and individuals and am a MCC level coach (one of around 75 in the UK) with well over 10,000 coaching hours and over 500 hours of coach specific training including a PGCERT in coaching (psychology).

Prior to starting my own businesses in 2016 I worked in education and was a senior leader for 7 years as well as being a consultant. Before this I worked in recruitment and sales.

Now I combine everything in my role: teaching and training people to become great coaches and supporting my team to develop and be their best. I love what I do and am passionate about supporting people to become great coaches.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No! I never really knew what I wanted to do. I took a couple of years out before university and worked in the UK and Australia: everyone I met said university would be the best days of my life which in part was why I went, and the fact that I could see there would be a ceiling for me in certain roles.

At university I got offered a graduate training contract as a management consultant: I went travelling and September 11th happened so I had to have a rethink: I knew I was good with people so fell into recruitment. After a few years I wanted to do something different and make more of a difference so I decided to retrain as a teacher. During all this time I had this idea that I wanted to be a coach however I lacked confidence : it was only after a lot of practical experience and training I had the confidence to go out on my own and start my own business.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Yes, at every step. I found recruitment to be a hard environment and there were lots of sales targets : even though I met mine the majority of the time I still used to worry about my job. In education I loved my first job, my second one was not a good fit: I was commuting a long way and my dad was seriously ill I remember being signed off with stress and it was one of those times where I reflected and revisited: I went back to work as a consultant and soon became an assistant head working with a leadership coach.

Running my own business has had many challenges: I have had to learn a lot along the way and have sometimes got the balance of work / life completely wrong. I have invested money in things which didn’t work out as planned. I have found building a team challenging at times as I tend to see the best in people and see strengths first : this has meant I have sometimes had the wrong people for the job plus the fact I didn’t always give myself time to lead! 5 ½ years in I would love to say I was now challenge free – there are still things which challenge me every day and I am definitely always building and growing because of this.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I think having a business that now employees 24 people is pretty amazing and reaching the ICF MCC level as well. I feel like I have only just started although when I look back I can see how much progress I have made.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

The fact that I have always got support around me and I ask for help – so when I am stuck I have other people I can bounce ideas off. Equally, I know what my strengths are and am able to see that there are gaps in the market which we entered: we always look at how we can be different and I think this has stood me in good stead.

Finally, my resilience : there are always challenges and I think that the fact that I  have risen to these and learned from everything has meant that I have grown and the businesses have grown too.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I think mentoring is great – I am lucky enough to have worked with some excellent mentors as well as coaches and I have equally mentored people too. Mentoring is part of my business role in the way that I support and develop my team and I often work with clients as a coach and mentor. I equally am a fan of more informal mentoring and have a number of trusted contacts that I turn to when I need support.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

I think that we need to have proper transparency about pay and we need to break down these stereotypes that there is only one way to succeed – this idea that success comes from being in the office the longest and putting in the hours often discriminates against women. Lets look at creating workspaces where everyone is judged on their merit and given autonomy to work in a way that works for them.

Equally, having more supportive networks makes a difference: when I was growing up I didn’t see many female business owners and it meant I felt that it wasn’t really an option for me: I wish that there had been networks that I could join and more visibility of female business owners as “you can’t be what you can’t see”

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

To go for it and not to worry what other people might think or say. I often stopped myself doing things as I was worried about judgement now I wish I had just got on with it!

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I am to double the size of our company over the next two years, to go back to some more coaching and to have my third book released. By doubling the size of our company we will be reaching more people and will be having a positive impact on others.

On a personal note I am looking at setting up a charity to work with young people embedding coaching skills and having access to pro bono coaches.

A few things planned!

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