Radhika Patel, a Laidlaw Scholar at London Business School, on taking a step back to assess a situation, determination, and breaking down barriers through education.
I was born and raised in Leyton, east London, and grew up in the same house that my family moved to in the 1960s. As a second-generation British citizen, my parents emigrated from east Africa to London as children, instantly having to adapt to a new environment and culture. I am eternally grateful for the sacrifices they have made in order to give my brother and me better opportunities in life, and from a very young age, they instilled in us the importance of education.
Working at an Infrastructure Fund for five years, I have started to make a positive impact by investing in assets that are essential to the functioning of global communities and economies. I am now determined to go further, and directly fund companies that are disrupting conventional models. I wish to create a more sustainable planet by encouraging the development of new renewable energy sources and grid stability; building confidence in the electrification of transport; and expanding circular economy businesses.
I decided to go to business school to help slightly pivot my career and expand my network, and I landed a place at London Business School thanks to the support of the Laidlaw Foundation. Post-MBA I wish to work at a Fund that invests in early-stage Infrastructure assets that intrinsically make a positive impact.
What is the biggest life challenge you overcame, and what did you learn from it?
January 2022 was probably my most challenging period to date when I went through a period of trauma in my personal life and concurrently received disappointing professional news. This was the exact moment that I realised I needed to make a change, hence started studying for the GMAT (six weeks prior to my exam) and ultimately applied to London Business School’s MBA programme days before the Round 3 deadline. To those sceptical about whether they are leaving their GMAT / application prep too late to apply to business school, my advice is to give it a shot – you have nothing to lose yet everything to gain by trying. A few months later, I was over the moon when receiving a phone call telling me I’d been awarded a place at LBS with a full scholarship. From this experience, I’ve truly learnt the lesson of determination, resilience and courage.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
Most of the time, the only person holding you back is yourself. As a female having worked in many male-dominated industries, I know it is easy to get intimidated, suppress your confidence and even develop imposter syndrome. At times you can end up second-guessing yourself by thinking you’re not good enough. In situations like this, it is very important to take a step back, and remind yourself how far you’ve come and how credible you are in your position.
What is the worst piece of advice you have been given?
Marriage and children define your success as a woman. I haven’t explicitly been told these words but have constantly felt these societal pressures around me. I feel it is expected of a woman, when she gets to her 30s, to put her career on a back-burner and focus on marriage and kids whilst this same pressure is not put on men. I disagree with this archaic view and feel that as a society we need to swiftly change the message that we pass on to future generations of brilliant, independent and powerful women.
Top 3 tips that will help someone become a better leader
⚡ Promote transparency: Regularly ask those around you (including subordinates) for their view on new ideas and share the vision you have. Also, be ready to deliver bad news in an honest and constructive way.
⚡ Be kind to all: Be empathetic and respectful towards everyone, no matter their background or seniority.
⚡ Never stop expanding your network: Regularly get out of your comfort zone, speak to new people and gain new perspectives.
Which leaders in the world inspire you the most and why?
It is difficult for me to just mention one, but it would be a combination of those that have paved the way for women and minorities today such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, those that are vocal about societal issues and not afraid to go against the status quo such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and those that are trailblazers in business such as Indra Nooyi.
What does it mean for you to be a Laidlaw Scholar?
To me, the Laidlaw Foundation epitomises social mobility, equality and opportunity. Being a Laidlaw Scholar means being a role model and trailblazer, for your network, your industry or society and thus enabling future generations to achieve whatever they wish to. I am honoured to have been awarded a scholarship by the Foundation and will strive to pay this generosity forward throughout my life, particularly through advocating diversity within Private Equity. I aim to use my platform to help increase the number of women and ethnic minorities landing front-office roles in the industry.
Briefly describe a scene from the future you are striving to create.
A future I want to create involves diversity and equality of all races and genders within the Private Equity industry. Where one can walk into any Private Equity and Infrastructure industry event and see others in the room from their background and no longer feel like they are an outcast or the only one from their ethnic, gender or socio-economic background. Some great organisations such as Level20, SEO London and the Infrastructure Industry Foundation are promoting diversity and social mobility within the industry - thanks to these and others, I’m hoping this scene becomes a reality in the not-too-distant future.
📺 Currently binging: The Office (US)
🎵 My current anthem: Essence by Wizkid
📚 My top book recommendation: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
🎧 Podcast obsession: How I Built This
🌈 Something that made me feel joy recently: Celebrating my grandma’s 92nd birthday.
Radhika is a Laidlaw Scholar at London Business School. You can find Radhika on LinkedIn. The Laidlaw Women's Business Education Scholarship aims to help build a pipeline of future women leaders through access to best-in-class education, resources and global networks by providing full and half scholarships to women who would not otherwise be in a position to reap the benefits of attending an outstanding school.
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