Finding my voice: Yvonne’s story

Yvonne is proof you don’t always have to shout loudest to make yourself heard

Yvonne Nagawa, Specialist, Client-on-boarding

United Kingdom 

You don’t need a loud voice to make yourself heard. Because I was quiet and academic at school, as opposed to loud or disruptive, I began to think that maybe I would be overlooked. But I found my voice when it mattered.

My parents were first-generation immigrants who moved to London from Uganda. They gave me and my three siblings everything they could by working multiple low-paid jobs that were far below their qualifications. My mother, in particular, taught me the value of hard work and how to be grateful for what you have.

I went to a strict Catholic school run by nuns in South London. I was shy and studious but during assembly one day, I felt a sense of injustice. Some of the pupils were wearing a badge to recognise Ugandan independence. The headmistress ordered them to remove it, saying it didn’t comply with school uniform regulations. But when it was St Patrick’s Day, the girls were allowed to wear shamrocks and green clothing. It was a double standard. Quietly, but determinedly, I wrote a letter to the headmistress, pointing out the rule discrepancy. As a result, she addressed the entire school the next day, admitting her fault and changing the rules for the future. I had won a small victory and made a big difference.

“Because I was quiet and academic at school, I began to think maybe I would be overlooked. But I found my voice when it mattered.”

During my university years I worked part-time in a retail bank. It was a competitive market to win a graduate placement, so I looked for other ways to make my mark. I decided the best option was to do my research and then write to the chief money laundering officer with a proposal. As a result, she offered me a place in a project team with 40 others. From these 40 people, she then chose two to give a permanent role – and I was one of those two. Once again, my determination had got me through.

Three years ago, I joined Standard Chartered. My job involves running background checks on clients for corporate regulatory requirements. At the Bank, I have learnt my worth, which gives me an inner confidence. I’ve even written directly to the Group CEO to express my support and ideas for our work culture and I was pleased to not only have a response but a follow up too. It feels good to have my voice heard.

I know that I’m not a finished product. I still have lots more growing and discovering to do. But I’m looking forward to making the most of the opportunities that come my way.

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