EP. 18 Shaking off societal expectations will unlock your full potential | Sophie Adelman, CEO of The Garden

“I think people assume you wake up at the age of 16, and you set up a lemonade stand outside your house, and suddenly you’re an entrepreneur, and that’s what you’re going to be for the rest of your life. I don’t think that’s true.” – Sophie Adelman.

Sophie is the co-founder and CEO of The Garden, a community that brings together people who love to learn for the simple joy of learning. Before that, Sophie founded and led Multiverse – a UK and US start-up business building an outstanding alternative to university through apprenticeships. In addition, Sophie is an active angel investor, mentor, and champion of the UK Tech Community.

In this episode of the leadership podcast, Griselda engages Sophie Adelman on how shaking off societal expectations unlocked her full potential.

The Journey To Starting  Multiverse 

Growing up with a family full of health practitioners, Sophie was never exposed to the entrepreneurial world as no one in her family had run their own business. She ended up going to university, and there was not a lot of career advice at the time. Most people left the university pursuing accounting, law, consulting, finance, charity, and civil service, which was the standard route.

Sophie did several jobs through her 20s and dabbled in a few different things. Looking back, she saw threads where she had picked up specific skills and experiences that led her to the point where she could confidently lead her team. She decided she wanted to start her own company when she began working for a US tech company called hire.com. A tech recruitment platform for tech talent, where you could go on there and find a job, or companies could find candidates.

Sophie stated, “I was launching the UK business for them and growing that team, and it was a bit like running your own company within a bigger company – a risk-free version of being an entrepreneur! It was a very entrepreneurial business, giving me that taste of “Oh, I like this. I want to do something myself. That is when Ewan and I met and co-founded Multiverse.”

How To Handle The Pressure Of  Drifting And Dabbling In Low-paid Jobs

Sometimes people feel that you need to have everything figured out in your 20s and 30s. Women especially have this pressure about things they should have achieved in their 20s and 30s. Sophie is no exception to this, but she did an excellent job overcoming all these expectations.

She did not know what she wanted to be and is still not a hundred percent sure. We are all figuring out the next thing to do.

Sophie shared that her first job after university was as a conference producer, where she had a fulfilling experience. Sadly, her ego got the best when she realized all her friends were in more standard milk round style industries. She thought she should be doing the same and so ended up applying for the milk round of graduate schemes. She got a job in investment banking. Six weeks after she started banking, the markets crashed, and this experience was the low light of her career. She began at Goldman, this was an exceedingly difficult environment to be in. People were getting laid off in rounds of redundancies, creating this very intense and pressured environment. She did not know what she was getting into and did not know anyone who had worked in banking. She ended up leaving after 16 months which was a tough decision because, at that moment, she thought she had failed by leaving. This affected her confidence, which took a long time to rebuild.

Sophie shared, “It’s interesting when you reflect on it, that ‘failure’ allowed me the opportunity to go on and experience other things, opened the door for me in different ways.”

She did not have it all figured out, but that experience taught her that she should be doing what she wanted and what she felt good at. It is okay to feel pressured but never allow societal expectations to direct your path, wherever you find yourself always plays a role in building you up for a great future.

How To Build Back Your Confidence After A Dip

After leaving banking, Sophie started working for an executive search firm surrounded by amazing people. Though it was not something she planned to do, the working environment was nurturing.

Sophie was one of the juniors in the search team led by incredible leaders. She learned a lot about how to make decisions about talent, how to build leadership teams, how to think about Board compositions, how CEOs and Boards think about hiring, and how to create good recruitment processes.

Sophie shared, “What that experience gave me apart from these skills was confidence because it was a team of wonderful, kind, thoughtful, nurturing people who saw something in me and wanted to build me up again. The more they supported me and encouraged me, the more I blossomed. The lesson I’ve taken away from this is the importance of the people you work with in everything.”

She advised, “When people say, ‘Should I take this job or this job?’ I say, ‘You should choose based on the people because if you find people you can learn from, people who will mentor you, people who believe in you, people who grow you and give you opportunities, it doesn’t matter what the company is, or what the role is, you’re going to grow. I think that’s important early in your career.”

Listen to the full episode of Sophie Adelman’s career and leadership journey.

Download the transcript here.

Listen to more inspirational leadership interviews with female leaders on Apple PodcastsGoogleSpotify, or your favourite podcast platform.

About Griselda Togobo:

She is also a multi-faceted entrepreneur, engineer, and chartered accountant. Her experience as a black woman in the corporate world drives her to help progressive global companies create inclusive workplaces. She works directly with CEOs and business leaders to embed a culture of inclusion at the heart of their talent strategy.  She is a respected and impactful speaker and is known for her high energy and engaging style. Griselda offers a fresh perspective and approach to developing leaders https://www.wearenovi.com/about/griselda-togobo/.

Griselda is passionate about supporting female leaders through the professional women’s network wearenovi.com.

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