What is your career history/journey?
I attended the University of Hull and completed an undergraduate degree in English with Law, focusing on how literature and the Law can influence each other. I went on to focus on completing a Masters in English Literature at Royal Holloway, focusing on representations of women and minorities in Renaissance literature. I am currently a Wellbeing and Development Coach working in education. I work with students in further and higher education, focusing on student mental welfare and raising awareness for social issues.
What key challenges did you face in your journey?
I was born to an Irish mother and a Sri-Lankan father and grew up being quite confused about my cultural identity. I had faced racism and discrimination not only from members of society but also from my own extended family. My best childhood memories consist of going to a Hindu Temple with my dad on Fridays and going to a Church with my mum on Sundays. To me, this was completely normal. However, when I shared this with peers at school, I was ridiculed for it. I often had comments such as “you’re adopted” and “that’s not your real mum” whenever my mum picked me up from school because she was white and I was not. My peers and I were never taught about dual heritage, or even what racism and discrimination were. It was only in secondary school when the topic of racism and discrimination was addressed, however it was not discussed enough.
I have experienced discriminatory comments and acts due to my race throughout my education, including at university. When in university, however, I began to find my voice. Instead of seeing my two heritages as two separate beings, I united them. My dual heritage is a part of me, and I am blessed to be able to be a part of two cultures. My newfound confidence made people uncomfortable. I was the only woman of colour in all my literature lectures and seminars, and I always felt eyes on me. When I decided to own the power that I had and made all my presentations on topics of race and minorities, my peers were often quiet. It was not conversations that they had engaged in previously and often avoided the topic. It made me hurt to see that some people did not want to learn how to grow and expand their mindsets. However, this gave me the motivation I needed to speak up and share my experiences as a woman of colour.
What solutions worked for you?
A lot of self-love and reflection. There is a calmness in knowing yourself and what works for you. When I was at the peak of being confused surrounding my cultural identity, I was concerning myself too much with societal norms and standards placed upon us. I tried so hard to fit in, I almost forgot who I was. I started to research both of my cultures and spent time with both of my parents doing various cultural activities. I embraced the fact that I was of dual heritage and I was blessed to be so.
Key lessons & tips?
The main key lesson is to be yourself, despite the crowd. Embrace your uniqueness, there is power in difference! Pursue your passions, and never stop learning. Keep in your mind that there is always room for improvement and you can always expand your knowledge.
What do you love most about your job?
I love how I can help others. By using my experience, I can relate to and support the younger generation. I am always able to teach others by raising awareness around social issues. I am always learning on my job, and I can pass this knowledge onto the students and my co-workers. I absolutely love working with my co-workers, and meeting new people from all walks of life!
How do you define success?
I define success as being happy. By having the means to balance your time and pursue your passions. Work-life can be a major part of your life, and if you can intertwine your passions and work, I believe you have found success. Success is waking up on a Monday morning, excited to start your week.
Who inspires you?
The most inspiring figure in my life is my dad. From a young age, my dad always told me that education should be the most important thing in my life. When he came to England, his country was in the midst of civil war and he had no money to his name. He worked long 24-hour shifts at times just to make ends meet. Throughout my life, I have never been without food or a roof over my head. His main lesson to me has always been to keep learning and keep growing. He raised me to be the woman I am today. I am the first person from both sides of my family to go to university, and it is all because of the lessons that my dad has taught me.
If you could choose anyone as a mentor, who would you choose?
Definitely Jameela Jamil!
What’s the last book you read and what’s it about?
The last book I read was Brick Lane by Monica Ali. It is about a woman from Bangladesh who is transitioning to life in London whilst also facing racial tensions.
What’s your favourite food, where’s it from and why?
My favourite food is enchiladas from Mexico, because it’s full of flavour and can be spicy!
Connect with Natasha HERE