being different

The Joy of Being Different

We talked about :

  • Mentors
  • Personal Qualities for Success &
  • Being Different

Karen is a strikingly elegant 5ft 9 Afro Caribbean from Doncaster who has recently made partner at PwC.

Despite the hard work of achieving this whilst juggling the single mother role she has not lost the ability to smile at every opportunity, we talk and are never far away from laughing.


One of the factors which has helped her on her staggeringly successful journey has been having mentors, and one in particular.

Karen met Rob Wilmot when she took on a board role as Chair of the Audit Committee at Doncaster College.

Although they hadn’t formalised their relationship as a mentoring one, Karen describes the discussions they had as being:

  • Insightful
  • Honest
  • Wise

And perhaps most significantly:

  • Provocative

Whilst Karen had all the technical experience and knowledge to becompetenton the board she became increasingly aware of the importance of understanding the dynamics of relationship as a key to being effective on a board

Rob challenged Karen and urged her to:

Learn to be yourself with Skill 

This insight enabled her to deal with the dynamics of relationships, how to negotiate and how to take people with you.

Karen describes Rob as refreshingly honest at times the honesty of their discussions being the key to their effectiveness.

 I value people who challenge me and help me grow and develop as a person.

Its obvious that she also has a willingness to improve and accepts that she makes mistakes but it is the desire to develop which has made the relationship most successful.


Karen considers her greatest strength to be the resilience she has been gifted from her mother

I was told I would never get a job in a big 6 accountancy firm

I was told I was never going to achieve at school

I’ve been written off more times than a Ford Escort


But Karen has been undeterred She has dug deep and proven the doubters wrong.

The times she has failed she considers to be the times she has learnt the most and believes that whatever life throws at her she will have the resilience to deal with.

Developing over time a “what’s the worst that can happen” attitude Karen is now

  More scared about Not trying than I am about failing

Despite not having a traditional academic background her resilience means that Nothing is going to stop her from

Doing or being who I want to be.


Karen is not always striding powerfully forward but gives herself time to reflect and improve her own self-awareness.

Having this ability to reflect and learn Karen considers to be another critical success factor

She doesn’t dwell on the past in a negative way but rather revisits the previous challenges overcome to enable her to find ways of hurdling over current barriers to success.

Everything that happens good or bad she uses as a learning experience to make herself a better person, and builds sufficient self awareness toreflect and adaptso that the same patterns aren’t repeated.

On being Different

Karen is a conspicuously tall, black woman in the professional world and is

  Conscious of being in the minority every day, but I don’t let it hold me back

Karen has taken the much more positive route of using her various minority positions to stand out and be different and thereby break a few glass ceilings,

  Embrace being different

Karen has let nothing stand in the way of her success but this has been done with great humility and consideration for others

It is perhaps no surprise that three of her unfulfilled ambitions are centred around others,

  • To continue to be a good parent
  • To inspire and motivate others
  • To do something Philanthropic – creating a well-being centre where people can go for support and mentoring “A Spa for the Mind”.


Talking and laughing with Karen has certainly left me with the feeling that with the right mind-set and the right support anything is possible, however wild the ambition might seem.

We can always find reasons not to do something but instead let’s power forward to success but have the humility to laugh at ourselves along the way.