Cedi was recently asked to contribute a guest blog to the Portfolio People website. It’s been shared across all social media platforms and has been universally well received.
Whenever I’m asked to share my story, I ask for just a moment or two to contextualise everything that follows as I feel it’s really important, so I hope you the reader will indulge me, and more importantly as you read this, I hope you will agree.
My career story started before I was born in 1957. How so? Well, my parents came from Grenada, in the West Indies in 1955, during what could be described as phase 2 of the Windrush Generation. My father arrived first, and my mother followed 6 months later. Like many who arrived during that period, my parents felt honoured and privileged to be here and despite the many daily personal challenges they faced and through sheer hard work, they built a very good life for themselves and us, their three children. I’ve described my father many times as a ‘Sunday afternoon philosopher’ as Sunday was THE family day, when we attended church together, eat together and the one day of the week when we children were allowed into the front room. Sunday was the only day of the week that my father would allow himself to have a scotch, sit in his chair and share his thoughts on life, the universe and everything with us! His messages to us of ‘Get a job, keep a job’ and ‘Being as good as (a white person) will not be good enough’ and ‘You have to give back and make a contribution to the country that took us in’ were repeated again and again, reflecting his world view, values and experiences and without doubt shaped my career path.
My career started in the London Borough of Camden’s Housing Department where I stayed for 14 years, progressing to a 3rd tier senior management role. Not quite ‘Get a job, keep a job’, but staying with the same employer for 14 years was pretty close! But after 14 years, I knew I had to leave as the spectre of becoming a ‘Local Authority Lifer’ was starting to loom large on my horizon. But by this time, I was totally committed to public service, and ‘giving back’ as my father described it, and while my career path led me to the dizzying heights of becoming CEO of a housing association and then social care organisations, all were in the ‘Not for Profit’ sector, where the term ‘shareholder value’ has a very different meaning to that within the private sector. Looking back on my career, I can now see that the ‘Being as good as…’ mantra from my father led me to becoming a workaholic, the result of a subconscious belief that I had to keep proving myself, to the point that for many years, my role became my identity. I saw myself as a CEO first and foremost, above being a husband, father, brother or son. Work was everything to me. Then, in early 2016, my wife almost died and my whole world, along my view of what was important changed! Since then, it’s been all about balance, priorities and listening to my heart not my head, which has led me to a portfolio career of remunerated Non-Executive roles, running my own consultancy and coaching practice. Yes, I earn a lot less money than as a CEO, but I’m happier, more relaxed and more complete. I spend more time with my wife, family and friends. I enjoyed my CEO life, but I love my life now. I love coaching as I’m able to help people be their own difference makers. Coaching is perhaps the most personally rewarding of what I do now.
At the time, my father’s advice was right on so many levels, and I’m sure if he was alive today, he’d be proud of how my life has worked out, what I’ve achieved and how I’ve at found an inner peace through my portfolio career.