Hafsa Patel | Financial Conduct Authority

Hafsa Patel | Financial Conduct Authority

Meet the Incredible Hafsa, who fell into the wonderful world of tech unexpectedly, through trial and error throughout her career so far. Hafsa argues that "it's the journey that matters", using failures and critical feedback as her compass for growth, and proving that there are lots of opportunities and pathways for a successful career in tech that might not be expected.

Hafsa is now leading the Salesforce Administration team at the FCA, and highlights her experience as a visible Muslim in the tech space, sharing the prejudices and challenges she has faced in her career, which has fueled her commitment to encourage more diversity in tech. This interview is a tribute to the women in Hafsa's life who have played a pivotal role in shaping her career and why finding your values and staying true to your beliefs is important.

In a world driven by data and AI, diversity is not just a virtue; it's a strategic imperative, and Hafsa highlights the importance of investing in a diverse workforce, where diversity of thought from a workforce of individuals with differing experiences and backgrounds, will lead to real progression and development for organisations. 

Hi Hafsa, thank you for taking the time to speak to us. Firstly, please can you start by talking me through your position at the FCA? 

I’ve been at the FCA for a record (for me) 5 years, I currently lead the Salesforce Administrator team, for those that know Salesforce would know we configure! The team works on a variety of support, change and processes in a highly complicated tech eco-system, as is the case in any large organisation. We are a relatively small team but hugely effective and the role has helped me learn so much more about technology than I had ever imagined.

Tell me about your story so far. How did you get into the wonderful world of tech? 

I landed in the world of tech accidentally. There was no planning, and I didn’t initially have the educational background for tech, but it somehow worked out…

After finishing my Economics degree, I decided to continue my studies for an extra year and discovered Accounting wasn’t for me (good thing I discovered this early on), but I had some decent excel and data skills so landed in a Reporting and Data Role in the Financial sector. This was followed by a Data Analyst role where I was thrown in the deep end of Salesforce configuration and technology change. 

Throughout my previous roles there has always been some level of technology change, from testing for a new software being launched, supporting the rollout of software, or configuring changes to user needs - and I took full advantage of these opportunities. I immersed myself in the tech change, learnt a huge amount and adapted to the tech world I was finding myself in, and built a career in technology. 

You are a big fan of “trial and error”. Please can you tell me more about why you value critical feedback and why failing is important? 

I think I learnt early on that unless you try something you won’t realise what you like or dislike, and unless you fail you cannot grow as an individual. 

You hear a lot of people say, “it’s the journey that matters” and I truly believe that. When I look back at the memories I cherish from my journey, it’s not just what I achieved in the end, but the struggles I went through and overcame, and of course the people I met along the way. I realised early on: the more I failed at new things, the more I learnt. For me, learning is one of the most important aspects of job satisfaction – If I’m not learning I’m usually bored!   

Alongside failing, feedback is hugely important to me, as to grow you need to be able to ask for and be willing to receive feedback, which is a skill in itself! It’s hard to hear what you need to change or improve on, but as with anything, to grow you must adapt. If you limit yourself and don’t take onboard feedback, it can be really hard to see your blind-spots. The things I love doing today are the things I was terrible at when I first started. Had I given up on them due to my failures or lack of expertise and not listened to those who were willing to advise and help, I would not be who I am today.

You mentioned that your religion has influenced your career, choosing to work for companies where you can make a positive impact. Please can you tell me more about the role religion has played in your career so far, and how the prejudice you mentioned you have been met with has shaped your experience in the tech space.  

My religion is the basis of my values, and this has been pivotal in me choosing what I do and who I work for. I ensure whatever role I am working in aligns with my values and I’m making a positive impact on society, and this all comes back to the values that my religion has helped instil in me: being a good person through kindness, charity, justice and respect. Most of all my roles and the organisations I work for had some level of positive impact to others, which limits my options but also makes my work all the more valuable to me.

Being a visible Muslim (I wear a headscarf) has meant there has been a number of prejudices I have had to overcome, especially very early on in my career but as I gained confidence and my career expanded to technology I realised that those pre-judices helped me become more resilient and helped me gain the skills I needed to bring more diversity in the world of technology

Why is it so important to have a diverse workforce and how can companies do better?

Invest in people! I can’t stress enough how ensuring we have a diverse workforce means we have diversity of thought, ideas, and leadership, and to achieve this we need to be willing to invest the time and effort into people so they can progress within organisations and careers.  

It takes a lot of time and effort, and we are now in a workforce where we are so stretched that’s it’s easy to just hire someone who can do the job today rather than invest the time and train people. But from my experience I have found it so rewarding to see individuals grow in skills, confidence, and so much more, to achieve not just their day job but add value with new ideas, concepts, and better ways of works!

I do believe we risk our future by not investing in a diverse workforce – in a world where data and AI are the buzz words, technology change is pivotal for the survival of most organisations. Without the diversity of thought, which comes from diverse experiences and backgrounds, changes to the way we work and the way we can make the most of technology can be hard to achieve – for real progression and change for organisations diversity through investment is key! 

Who have been/are the most influential people in your career?

Women! 

I don’t have a specific role or had even thought about it until recently but looking back a few of the key people that have influenced and inspired my career are women, they saw potential in me, believed in me, pushed me, and inspired me to do what I love. 

For specifics I’ll start with the cliché and say my mother; her resilience, adaptability and unshakeable faith inspires me every day - she began her life in the UK in the 80’s from a rural village in India with limited education for women, and achieved more than most could imagine. She also pushed me to follow my dreams by studying courses that I loved and she had never heard of, and importantly she has also ensured happiness is a key part of my definition of success. 

Another inspirational woman to me is a former manager of mine: ECP – an incredible woman and influence who inspired me to want to achieve more from my career and continue learning. Her exceptional management skills are something I strive for as part of my line-management journey all the time, including the ability to invest in people. 

And lastly the amazing friends, colleagues and comrades in my life whose different life journeys, support and wisdom have helped me set and achieve some exceptional goals – had it not been for these wonderful women in my life I would not have even imagined being where I am today! 

Any last words of inspiration? 

Find what you value and stay true to it!   
And remember everyone is on their own journey, there’s no need to compare yourself to others – do what you love, be willing to learn and achieve! 

Interviewed by Bella Snell

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