Sonia Brown launched the National Black Women’s Network (NBWN) in 1999, to promote networking opportunities on behalf of women within the wider professional and business environment. Her passion and dynamism has seen the network grow and develop and branch out into social networking.
Sonia talks to the3rdi magazine.
What do I do?
Basically I help people to live their dreams whether it’s in the workplace or in business. I want to share my experience, expertise and talents to make things happen and I have a great time in the process. I get to work with a diverse group of people up and down the country who have one thing in common – Passion for what they do!
There is something to be said about the power of obstacles and I am a great believer when everything appears to be against you, you are just looking at the issue with the wrong lens! Hindsight is a wonderful thing but people seem to tackle life’s challenges with a distorted imagination and a bucket load of emotions instead of being still and not being overwhelmed by what is happening around them. I came to a point in my life when I realised that i was having professional mediocrity rammed down my throat and told that something was wrong with me because i didn’t want to be mediocre.
Don’t get me wrong, for some people this is fine, but for me I always knew that there was more to life and i wanted to experience it. Whether it was good or not what i expected, i wanted the experience and i thought it was wrong of my boss to tell me that it was OK for him to experience the best that the organisation had to offer and not me. I looked at my VP at the time and to this day I say that man had VISION but he played safe and surrounded himself with autocratic managers who expected staff to be content operating in a mediocre framework. It was a recipe for unrest! He built a dynamic team, had them managed by traditionalists rather than transformational and visionary leaders and the department sunk into discontent and was disbanded. He should have been bold and followed his vision!
I came across a motivational tape where a woman said she was being denied opportunities within her department so she ‘marketed’ and ‘networked’ outside of the department. I took her advice and it paid off dividends. Based on all the negativity that i was facing in the workplace it inspired me to create my ideal way of working which involved me doing the things I loved. Project and event management; training and meeting interesting, intelligent people who are all living life passionately doing the things that they want to do! Motivation is infectious when you are doing the things you love no matter how tough it is out there.
I never looked back. I created the network and took a leap of faith that has provided me with the most incredible life journey. It’s not been easy and it’s not for the weak hearted, but the rewards are unlimited if you have the right frame of mind. I am very proud of my parent’s achievements because they always did what made them happy professionally, took risks, irrespective of what people told them they should do. I know now they were trailblazers and I am proud of the lessons they taught me about life which I have been able to transfer into my business practices and not allow other people’s fears and prejudices to stop me doing the things I want to do in life.
1. Never look down on people because you have never had to walk in their shoes!
So be grateful that life has dealt you a good set of cards and make it work for you. Stop complaining, we are living in the best time of history and have so many opportunities to do YOU! Be happy, content and generous. Be authentic and always give people more than they expect; it all comes back to you whether it’s in your professional or personal life.
2. Don’t try to fit in for the sake of fitting in.
Understand the environment or culture you are operating in and make sure that you bring something to the table. Be confident enough in yourself to know that you are talented, intelligent and disciplined enough to get the job done. Don’t make people make you feel bad about yourself or ideas because you don’t come from a certain background, culture or gender – you have a right to do what you want to do in life, as long as it’s legal!
3. Make a difference!
Whether it’s in the home, in your community or society at large. Make your life mean something. We are here for a short time, don’t waste the opportunities and the time you have here. No matter how grand, lofty or simple your aspirations – just do it!
4. Education is not to be wasted!
A lot of tears, heartbreak and blood were shed over history for us to have the opportunity to have an education. Even today many people across the world would be happy to have the right to a decent education, so don’t waste the knowledge. There is nothing more attractive than an educated person with a sound opinion even if I don’t agree.
5. Don’t allow people to define you.
Take control of your views, opinions and behaviour because if you don’t someone else will. Take responsibility for creating and living your life. Listen to your inner voice, take action and stop making excuses!
6. To have friends you must learn to be a friend.
When you are in business you face a lot of obstacles and challenges that hits your most inner vulnerabilities and fears. If you have good people around you they are great to sound things off, they don’t judge and just by listening and understanding where you are coming from, will help you get through any issue. You know who you’re friends are in difficult times and simple acts of generosity and kindness go a long way when you are in a tight spot. Crap happens, it’s not personal!
7. Learn to say ‘Please’, ‘Thank You’, ‘I need help!’ and ‘Sorry’ and mean it.
You will be surprised how far it gets you in life.
8. Learn to let go and flow!
More times than not when you finally let go you will be surprised what the universe has to offer in its place. How many times do we say I am so glad that ‘I didn’t do that!’ or ‘That would never have happened if I had stayed’ you have to trust that the Universe has your best interest at heart and there are lessons in every obstacle!
9. Everyone has a story!
You don’t have to do all the talking. It is good to listen to people and find out who they are, what they do and what drives them. You can learn so much by just listening. Why make mistakes or reinvent the wheel when someone has told you what happened to them. I also want to hear what worked well, so I can make better choices and use of my limited resources.
10. Read! Whatever you do in life, become the specialist.
Ignorance is not attractive especially if you have a big mouth. Be a guru, ambassador, champion for what you do and not only will you be inspired but you will inspire others through your commitment to your passion.
Whatever you chose to do in life professionally or in business, trust your own instincts and inner voice to guide you; but always find the right person to help you turn your dreams into reality.
Sonia Brown launched the National Black Women’s Network (NBWN) in 1999, to promote networking opportunities on behalf of women within the wider professional and business environment. In 2008, Sonia launched www.sistatalk.co.uk an exciting corporate and social networking forum aimed at women looking to create a strong online professional presence and provides an extensive and useful resource for anyone serious about attracting the attention of who’s who in industry and business.
Sonia designed, implemented and facilitated a number of very successful meetings under the “Let’s Talk Business” banner on behalf of the NBWN since 2002; which has provided the business community with an opportunity to discuss a diverse range of issues on how to successfully run and manage their businesses. She has worked with the Small Business Service (now Department of Business, Skills & Innovation); Business Links London & West Midlands; Lloyds TSB Bank, ITN, BBC, Jaguar Cars, Birmingham City Council, Women’s Enterprise Centre of Expertise to name a few. Sonia continues to work with private, public and statutory sector organisations to support and develop initiatives which promote career and entrepreneurial opportunities for women.
Sonia writes for a number of newspapers and magazines which have included the Voice, the New Nation, Engage, Happiness and Aspire to name a few and is currently pursuing her PhD. She sits on the Greater London Enterprise / oneLondon Loan Fund and the Ministry of Defence Diversity Champions Panel.
Sonia is a NLP Practitioner and delivers a number of workshops under the ‘Brand You!’ banner.
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Since this article was first published in 2009, Sonia has been awarded an OBE