Leaning in with Zara English
Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In book was a huge success, and we are not talking about sales. In case you had never heard of it, go to the nearest book shop and get it, you’ll recognize yourself in many of the chapters if not in all of them. The book and the Circles that were later set up around the world by anonymous women have made a great difference in many women’s lives and Zara English, executive search professional and founder of the first Lean In circle in Barcelona, is one of them. She knows first-hand what empowering women on a daily basis is; she has experienced personal growth from it and the best thing is that she is happy to share it with us.
Tell us a little bit about your life story.
I was born and brought up in Kenya and I count myself lucky to have been exposed to all that Africa has to offer. We would go for picnics to the National Game Park in Nairobi where we would see lions, elephants and cheetahs. My school shared it’s sports fields with the game park so we would often have animals paying us a visit! Growing up in such a contrasted world also helped keep me humble and grounded.
I moved to the United Kingdom for my university degree at 18 and before starting my Masters there, I decided to spend 3 months in Barcelona, learning Spanish. However, I never left Barcelona. The city captivated me as it does to most visitors and I learnt Spanish, did my Masters here and started working here. I met my Northern Irish husband here in Barcelona and have never looked back. Staying in Barcelona was one of the best, but definitely not the easiest decisions of my life so far.
Where are you working now and what brought you to this job? What do you enjoy best about your job?
I work at Loftus Bradford Executive Search. We are a boutique search firm specialized in identifying and placing top talents in some of the best brands globally. I am responsible for looking after our key clients and in particular delivering diversity to their teams, which usually means – gender diversity; great talented women, ethnically diverse talent, and candidates with international experience all with the non-negotiable being that they are the best talent in the market.
The best thing about my job is that I can truly say I have a passion for what I do; not one day is the same and every day I learn something new about myself, people and life!
How did you decide to start leading the Barcelona Lean In chapter?
I read the book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg and was totally inspired. I identified with some parts of the book for sure and felt I needed a circle for my own development. I was also shocked to read the stories of what women go through from the book as I have been lucky to not have experienced all of these situations. This made me want to use my experience to help others around me as well as therefore helping myself.
Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg
Zara English and Sheryl Sandberg
In what ways has the Lean In book changed your life?
In so many ways! I have grown immensely as a person; a leader, a boss, a partner to my husband, a daughter, and overall as a woman. I have learned to trust myself more and to face my fears. I have made some life-long friends and just last week, my dream came true; thanks to Lean In I had the opportunity to be invited to meet Sheryl Sandberg herself! I never thought I would have this opportunity before I set up my LeanIn circle.
If you could only choose one piece of wisdom from the Lean In book, what would it be?
‘Taking initiative pays off. It’s hard to visualize someone as a leader if she is always waiting to be told what to do.’ Sheryl Sandberg. This quote relates to so many parts of life; essentially for me it means that my life is in my control and it is my responsibility to be the leader of my own life.
What do you think are the characteristics of a successful woman?
Someone who is humble, authentic, driven to succeed regardless of the obstacles in front of you. Also someone who is open to feedback and gives back to those around her, to society, and to this precious planet we live in.
How can we help empower other women around us?
Let them have a voice, listen to them, give them that step up when they need it. And share. Share our experiences and power. A good African Proverb that I love is: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together’.
Something you do every day that makes you happier?
I have just started doing this since I read Sheryl Sandberg’s most recent book, it’s something she talks about in the book Option B and it definitely makes me happier: I write down 3 moments of joy every day no matter how small. It stops me from focussing on all the mistakes I made or what I did wrong and helps me centre more on the good and small things that make a difference!