Episode 3: SLLY Speaks Careers Podcast
From a role in politics - to manager at an event, community and co-working space in the heart of the Peckham community - Mwila interviews Khloe Bailey, General Manager at Peckham Levels and SLLY Mentors William and I'Nyambae.
We talk about the houses we could have bought with student loan and grant money, obtaining that first job after hundreds of interview rejections and how to interview your future employer.
Episode 3 speakers:
Khloe Bailey, General Manager at Peckham Levels and Founder at PRIM Black
William Zhou, Cloud Native Engineer at Fujitsu
I'Nyambae Kanu, Fullstack Software Developer at dunnhumby
Listen to the full episode here: Episode 3 SLLY Speaks Careers
Hey guys welcome to the Success Looks Like You podcast SLLY Speaks Careers, bringing you the best British Black talent, spilling the tea on all things careers. I'm your host, Mwila, Founder of Success Looks Like You, welcome to episode three. Let's get into it.
Who do we have today?
I'm Khloe I am a general manager at Peckham Levels and I also run a platform called PRIM you can check Prim.black for more details but it's essentially a platform for storytelling but the focus is actually storytelling by queer and black people so everything that we do focuses on black ancestry African Caribbean, Afro Latin ex and I'm sure there are more areas of blackness if you want to call it that but for now this is where we focus our energies.
Peckham Levels is an old car park which has been turned into an events venue and co-working space so the building itself is actually about 30 plus years old and used to be an old Sainsbury's car park if you're familiar with Peckham then you will know this car park and it was derelict for a number of years and then the council and a campaign group called Peckham vision, basically, Peckham vision in particular were fighting for the council to not just sell it to property developers to make it into flats or apartments or something they wanted it to be to be used for something for the community so that's where my sort of mother company Makeshift came in and put in a bid to turn it into what is now Peckham levels and what we do is essentially provide work space for people in the local community so you have to be a resident of Southwark or Lambeth Council in order to be able to get a space a work space there and then the other side of that is providing a space where people can come and eat work play drink and we run events there. It's a really great space where you just come and hang out but also to host events and host parties workshops absolutely everything.
How did you connect with SLLY?
so I remember it's definitely maybe a year and a half probably at least a year when I received a reach out on LinkedIn I was completely sold by it like I think the idea of mentoring young people who literally look like me and walk and talk like me is very very encouraging for me and I was really excited to be involved in doing that and also presenting to young people someone who does look like me it could be a different position like fast forward 10 years for them and they might find me and I think that that is great so yeah from then I’ve been really interested and it’s great to be able to meet you and to be able to actually you know get started on on assisting where I can.
My name is William originally from Zimbabwe so I heard about Success Looks Like You through my friend I’Nyambae I think it's 8 months ago now so he told me that you know he's mentoring some young kids from SLLY. Generally I like helping people and giving back to people, so I thought here's a very good platform because there's not actually a lot of platforms like this that allows people like us within the same community to help a younger generation and guide them because there's so much going on at the moment, drugs abuse, all sorts of things so you know I feel like it's a platform for us to help others to become better so that was attractive to me and also you know especially the kids that don’t know where to start I can sort of point them in the right direction because that's something that
I work in IT. I'm a DevOps engineer, it's a bit of software development and a bit of coding yeah as well there's a lot of coding involved but a lot of it involves my upgrading systems. Within IT there's a big push at the moment to migrate systems or applications from a data center to something like AWS so yeah that sort of thing.
I am a software developer. Unlike William I get stuck into the code. I specialise in different languages, C-sharp etc. I am a web developer and that’s my specialty. I heard about SLLY through LinkedIn. I was really excited about going out there and helping someone with their career, especially someone who's black to get into this field because you don’t get alot of black people in IT.
Tell me a bit about the young man you mentored?
When I met him he was kind of confused about whether to go to uni or to go to work experience so we had like a few sessions where we just talked about what side of technology you’re really interested in.
We had a lot of sessions doing career building and looking at the options for him. We decided to go the working route. He got a job working as a junior developer.
Just to say that actually young man you mentored was referred to us by Jobcentre Plus.He didn't have work and the fact that he came out the other side and having a job in the field he wanted to get a job in and if I remember correctly he ended up being like one of the top earners in his household after getting that job, for me, that's the motivation for why we do Success Looks Like You and why we're connecting young people with black back professionals and black business owners who can really show them the way.
So let's jump straight into younger self advice?
what would you tell your younger self when it comes to careers professional development and just carving out their own kind of path?
I came to the UK when I was like 17 but I knew what I wanted to do because you know back in Africa there's not a lot of opportunities and I knew that as soon as I get to the UK I'm gonna focus on this because initially I didn't want to get into IT but for my brother try and convince me because I wanted to be an Architect, actually did that for a year and then after one year started getting more into IT. I probably say save money, whatever job you're doing whether it's I was delivering McDonald'sor whatever money you're getting just save it.
While at uni, try and figure out where you want to go so you can stop paving your way as quickly as possible. I did a placement year, so that gave me a good idea what I wanted to be even.
I think that Google is and should be everyone's best friend like there is I can teach myself to code through Google and that's just for YouTube through Instagram there are so many people that are doing things that they will show you literally how to do something show you how to get connected and who to connect with there are a good deal of free events that just provide learning and information that's done by big corporations to smaller groups and it's really just having curiosity that's gonna actually allow you to propel yourself forward.
I think also just staying committed I think is a big one to me in that for myself I think one thing that I've probably even just seen in myself it's like once I decided that I wanted to do something whether I stuck with that thing or not now it's very different but I just saw it through and in seeing it through allowed me to build up an experience which then actually contributed it somewhat positively to the next thing I wanted to do.
We talked about what you tell your younger self but actually thinking back when you guys were coming out of college or uni did you know what you wanted to do or how you got to the place you are at today?
Now I work in co-working but I didn't know what coworking was when I started uni it was not something that was ever my radar could care less about it didn't know what Regis was and I got into coworking about three and a bit years ago now and I started working at we work and the reason why I started working at we work was primarily because of the amount of money that they were paying which is a lot and secondly because I had a friend who was working there and when she would tell me about the things that they did as part of this job it just felt like the perfect mix.
Mwila - So the job you're doing now you didn't actually go looking for it? How did that happen?
Someone that I know had seen me at Wework running a pub quiz and they were then looking for a general manager Peckham levels and so they came to me and were just like would you be interested in this and I was a it looked at Packham levels and I looked at my current job and I was just saying I don't feel that there's anything that you know but the more I read about Packham levels and what they're trying to do, I realized that actually my skills and my experience and my understanding of the world would actually serve more the type of people that are Peckham levels as opposed to the people that are in Wework. I feel like I could take more and I could give more to that space than I could that Wework at that time. Since I’ve moved it has been really great.
Mwila - What were you doing before you got into Coworking?
I went to uni. I studied English and then I did a masters in politics then I worked in Parliament I worked for an MP, I worked for the Liberal Democrat Party for about two years and then my MP lost his seat so when the MP loses a seat, you lose your job. I gained so much from that experience working for an MP being in Parliament was actually really fun. The building is insane.
Then I worked as a headhunter for just shy of a year and then from that job which was literally boring as hell, I realized that I'm such an eclectic person I cannot legit come into the space and say a desk for eight hours so I just knew that I was getting really frustrated and that was affected my performance of course because you're not happy and so I really wanted to move on and that's only opportunity Wework came.
Mwila - Let's jump into I’Nyambae, your career path?
It had it’s rocky times. I went to uni but at the time I didn't know, I was like yeah you need a degree to become a software developer but now you don’t. You’ve got Youtube, Google and other resources. My parents wanted me to go to uni get a good degree and a job. But for me, when I went to uni I realised there were so many different things I could do in IT.
Mwila - How quickly did you have to come to a decision?
I think once you start doing a few modules you know what you like and what you don't.
I knew quickly that I wanted to become a developer. I think that also comes from you having an entrepreneurship mindset - you can sit down write some code and actually build something and you know you can actually pitch it to sell it.
When I finished uni I worked at a small company called Kelbury. I actually turned down a job that offered me more money, it was for the Greenwich Council actually. I took the job where I can get to write code everyday and make mistakes and correct them, so it's important to do those kinds of things early. I did that for about a year and a half and then got another job at Don Homby which is my current job.
Mwila - have you made it back to Greenwich Council money?
I’d say I have. But obviously in life there's always something to strive for but I look back and I'm like you know I made the right decision.
Mwila William let's get into your own career path...
When I was young I wanted to be a pilot. I'm still fascinated by planes but anyway so I decided my second option will be architecture because I like drawing buildings that kind of stuff which is what I did when I came here as I mentioned earlier so I was doing construction and architecture making plans designing building stadiums and that sort of stuff and then so when I moved here my brother had been already here for like ten years and he was in IT already and he was like no forget that don't worry about architecture. I was like no you don't know what you're talking about architecture and then I did it free for a year and then when I was in college he bought me like a gaming PC and then from there on that's when I started being fascinated by computers. I decided to do like a two year diploma yeah completely focused on software engineering. I did that for two years and you do 18 modules full on programming yeah and that's where I started learning about you know computers more getting into detail about you know like programming making apps that sort of thing.
But it's when we got to placement year, we applied for placement and then I worked for a pharmaceutical company but I wasn't actually doing a lot of programming because at that point you just want to be on placement and get some work experience yeah so that really helped in sort of solidifying the field that I was in because at that point you meet a lot of people been in the field for 30 years 40 years and they start telling you know this is what you need to do this is how you should see things yeah and it's about crafting so you've actually forget more about the technical side yeah because the technical aspect is a fraction of the real world.
We started in 2013, 4-year degree, finished in 2017. The placement was around 2015/16, the third year. I used to get £400 every week and I wasn't used to getting that kind of money.
After placement, it becomes so much easier to get interviews, yeah as I remember when I finished University when I was actually in university I was the first one to get an offer of £24,000 which is a lot of money as a front end developer.
I was kind of looking for a job that allows me to like a technical consultant so what that means is you're still technical you can still do the programming but you can also be consulting, working with customers.The opportunity came and I got the job, 28k salary, working in London.
Mwila what's been the hardest assessment or recruitment process that you've gone through?
I think for me it was working applying to work for the this headhunter role that I was doing I was doing is I would work on behalf of big NGOs so people like Planned Parenthood or something and they'll be looking for a chief executive or someone and like the senior management team and we would create a list of people that we could reach out to you for recommendations of people and also people to apply and the interview process for that particular job I'd never seen anything like it so it was just it was just a long like they just will have you there for a whole day and it's like there are certain jobs where they really want to pick at your competence level and like they want to really test you and see you know because you're gonna because I was gonna be speaking to people who are like high up in their field would you be able to manage those conversations would you be able to engage and communicate effectively with people like that if someone asks you a technical question how would you respond so a part of the process was it was three stages for one so I came back so many times I was actually tired.
I think for me with that there's sometimes little preparation you can do because you don't know what questions you're gonna get but what you can do is make sure that you have a really clear or just good knowledge and understanding of how to speak to people how to communicate and how to even confidently say that you don't know the answer to that but these are the steps you would take to find out that was one thing that I found and in that particular process.
So, I think it was the fifth interview in Camberley, everything absolutely went fine. Usually the recruiter will say to you they're goin to interview and the interview will be divided into these sections like the get to know you sections the answer some questions and then the technical aspect so that day the recruiter didn't tell me that there's going to be a technical aspect so I literally just went to the interview unprepared thinking they're gonna ask me the usual questions like what do you do how long have you been programming for and then suddenly the guy gets a pen and then he stands at the whiteboard and then he gives me a scenario basically it was a box of ones and zeros saying how would you find the efficient way of moving them around. I came with an answer but it wasn't the one that he was looking for.
Mwila what keeps you motivated? Those questions that feel like they're maybe asking a bit about your personal self. How do you answer that? Do you go professional or do you go honest?
I’d say honest because for some people it's like keeping fit and going to the gym that gives them confidence to attack everything in life. For me personally it's learning new things.
I think as well you can you can assess the room you know if you're also question think about the type of company is you've done your research didn't you understand you know a little bit by that company you might even get an insight into the ethos of the company and and what the company values are so you know even if you were to talk about something that is more personal you know how does that link into your work life so there you're really given a full-bodied answer and if anything it will just look like you're thorough and well thought out yeah because certain roles if you give something that's a little too playful a little too personal then depending on who's in the room they might just feel like you're not focused and it's unfair for them to think that especially if the question is very open but you want to cover all your bases so I would say maybe just cover all the aspects.
I'd say a good way of checking the culture and the ethos of the company even before you arrive is like check company websites check LinkedIn you know on company websites a lot of times I think you can tell what whether a company is that super professional or like semi playful by the BIOS like if you go to the staff by what's on my website I watch Netflix and my favorite series at the moment is so you know that he determined that the whole person and so maybe you can afford you know a bit more personally if I can totally agree with you around I always think in in interviews make sure that what you're saying makes sense for them in terms of you and the role so the examples are like if you've had a career pathway or an educational pathway that's like meandered quite a lot what I always say is create a common thread across all of that so that it makes sense you don't look like you don't know what you were doing so I would take them for me and research shows actually that most people have four or five careers now in this generation were having four or five careers in in one lifetime and so for me by the time I reach like 30 I'd had quite a few different jobs but in the similar thread is that I'd always worked either with communities who had faced social disadvantage or causes that we're working towards social disadvantage so there I always in my cover letter that's the one thread that runs through all of my career and I say that interviews explicitly said people that you've moved about and there actually is because there was always a growth or progression but I always say within the social disadvantaged.
When you go to interviews remember they're not just interviewing you, you’re also interviewing them so make sure that you are asking the right questions for yourself, be honest with them because you don't know walk into a job and then one week later you realise that this is not what I wanted.
I think questions like company culture and progressions are really helpful to get a good idea whether a job is for you or not.
I think one question that I ask a few times of the people in the room on an individual level for them if it's to you or one person whoever might be being like what do they find is particularly challenging or pressing right now in their role and that's just a personal one just to get them to speak honestly perhaps about you know what they face as a company but also maybe even as an individual in their department or team and I think that that's really great because it allows it to just show that you're you're thinking more widely so it's not necessarily about money or you want to know about the ethos right so you can tell if someone's giving you really honest answer or if they are kind of beating around the bush in the way so it gives you a sense of what that individuals like what the senior management team is like even but then also you know if it's something that's more market-based like if you're looking coworking space right you go and do an interview at Regis you should ask who are your primary competitors and what have you done to kind of combat the competition, how do you set yourself apart as a company bearing in mind that there are so many of you know this offering in the market or in the industry so those are questions that really can go across all industries and it will definitely give you an insight into how they do things.
I really want to do this money talk, you know it's a common point of discussion that maybe sometimes in our communities that we don't trust one another so you can't tell people the ins and outs of your relationship or your whatever because they'll wish you bad. I've been interested in how we become more transparent particularly around the issue of money so really want to know quite quickly, what can somebody earn if they were doing a role like yours at the start of their career and then at the peak of their career?
As a developer, starting salary straight from uni you're looking at 28-30K and that can rise fairly quickly to 60 at a mid level, 100k at the higher end and if you become most established you can become a contractor which means you're self-employed that can rise up to 150k
In coworking you expect 20-24k starting depending on which company you work for smaller co-working companies are probably a little bit less but you're looking at least 20s and top end for a really large company, you can, in my specific role earn 60k to 70k. As a general manager you're looking at between 35 and 45 depending.
Coming out with uni if you're working in London you're looking at 28-30K, outside maybe 25K and then within a year depending on how quickly move around because I moved around as well you're looking at like mid-level 35 to 40K and then as you go up you know you're looking at like 60-70k yeah and from there on the you know the ball is in your court.
Mwila - do you want to do one piece of advice to finish off
my advice will just be stay committed to like whatever you choose to do just try and see it through to the end and then you can decide what you want to do from that but if you can show that commitment to yourself then you're just gonna put yourself in a better position for what you do next.
Work hard, love what you do and stay committed.
Save money. Surround yourself with good friends and people who are interested in the things that you're doing. And try to finish one thing, focus on one thing at a time, get it done before moving to the next.