Sonia Silva, Team Head, Financial Markets
I grew up idolising my mother. I still do. She worked for the UN World Food Programme in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa. I witnessed how she balanced raising a family with her work commitments and it inspires me to keep driving my career forward. Maybe this is where I got my tenacious spirit from. As I was growing up, being the middle child made me feel like I had to fight for attention among my siblings. I wanted to be recognised as the brightest and the best, and this competitive spirit propelled me to becoming a good student.
When I’m passionate about something, I won’t let it go – whether it’s work-related or not. Having joined Standard Chartered initially as a contractor, I was made a permanent employee within six months and had three internal promotions in quick succession. I’m never happy staying still, so I need to work for a company that can keep throwing new challenges my way. After a change in management, I felt I needed to raise my profile as I was at risk of blending into the background. I gained attention through my positivity, as I believe a good attitude can help you stand out. After being with the Bank for over two years, I was offered a secondment position working at our US office. It didn’t come without sacrifice, as it meant three and a half months largely away from my family and building up the air miles and flights back and forth to New York, but it gave me the extra challenge I was looking for.
"When I’m passionate about something, I won’t let it go”
I’ve noticed that, as women, we can sometimes struggle to speak up for what we want. But making sure my voice was heard as a child has always helped me in this respect. I wanted to ensure that the African talent in the office had their voice heard, so I founded the Africa Forum in our London headquarters. It’s open to everyone – no matter they are from – but our purpose is to shine a light on the extraordinary talent we have working in Europe who are originally from the African continent. It’s also a great opportunity to promote our unique footprint. We focus on learning and development opportunities, social mobility community work and partnership with other employee resource groups across the business. I’ve met some wonderful people through the Africa Forum, but it nearly didn’t happen. Initially, it took some time to build up support, but now we have sponsorship from senior leaders and I can see the traction we are making. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved.
Being passionate about something and believing in yourself are values that one should never compromise on.