Developing Resilience and Moving Forward

We have reached out to university of Brighton alumni and asked them to share their stories and ideas on how to stay resilient in this challenging time. Here, Sahar Tobir, Legal Counsel/Data Protectiion Officer at APSIS International AB, describes her journey from Brighton student to law professional and gives advice to current students on how to move forward in a positive way, despite the uncertain times.

Dear current students and future alumni, I am Sahar, Brighton class 2015, I have been asked by the university to share my story with you so that, perhaps, my experiences and advice can help you in finding some peace and guidance through the strange times that we are currently going through.

I was born and raised in south of Sweden with Persian parents, I moved to the UK to fulfil my inner 9 year old’s dreams of studying law. Cultural changes, adapting myself, and being flexible has always been a part of my life, but it doesn’t mean that I am an expert on it nor immune to the hard work which comes with it.

During my time at Uni, I completed vacation schemes, mini pupillages, was the VP and President of the Law Society, worked during orientation week, did moot court and was the Course Representative. At times, even I was tired of myself. But I kept running because the thoughts of “you have to stand out”, “you must show uniqueness” “ you must do this and that”,  “if you want to be successful to get a training contract or BPTC” – so I did just that, kept on running.

So, what happened when I graduated – fresh out of Uni, ready to take on the world? I decided to move back to Sweden. To a judicial system which is polar opposite to the UK, a tiny country which meant more competition and fewer jobs, a country that has no idea what moot court, vacation schemes, orientation week is, and quite frankly, absolutely no interest in letting me sail through an easy process for justifying that my UK law degree, was in fact, a qualifying law degree.

I have pondered many times – did I do all that hard work for no reason? It sure felt like it at times. But I can assure you that it wasn’t for no reason. I just had to come to terms with the fact that I had to go about this differently than all other graduates from Sweden. I had to change my narrative and grow my resilience.

I started with taking on a two months non-paid internship within the marketing department at a luxury car dealer. Why, you may ask? Because it was a territory, I had never experienced before. Learning something new.

To be honest, at the time, it was really boring and mundane work like filling in information in their CRM system. But, today, however, I understand that I have learnt so much more from that experience – the importance of customer relationships and how a business, like this one, is extremely dependent on loyal and regular customers.

Because let me tell you, in a country with ten million citizens, there are not that many people who can afford a Ferrari. Hence, superb customer service is vital.

Moving on from there, I was offered a low-paid job at the sister company of one of Europe’s largest Intellectual Property firms. It was a new business venture, so there were no set structures or directions. We treated it as a start-up and we had to commercialise IP.

Months went by and we faced a lot criticism because we couldn’t demonstrate a “proof of concept” ie. the business was flawed, and no IPs were being commercialised. But we pushed through, and almost five months into this job, I managed to, independently, sell my first client’s IP to one world’s largest electronic companies – Samsung!

This was all a great success, but I was missing the law. I understood that for Sweden to “approve” of me, I had to study in Sweden. Said and done, I was accepted to the master programme at Lund University for a one-year programme of European Business law. At this stage, I was working part-time and studying full time.

It was extremely tough and at one point, I was sent away for a business trip for ten days to Shanghai, and when I came back, I had three weeks to start (?!) and complete my master thesis (do not adopt this advice, it is extremely bad, and I don’t recommend it to anyone – but I had no choice. We are all humans and I just had to roll up my sleeves, work through the night, cry a little in the morning due to sleep deprivation, and get up again. Resilience.).

I graduated with an AB (equivalent to a first in the UK), and I started to understand that I actually know more than a thing or two. I just have to believe in my own skills, intuition and knowledge.

Fast forward to 29th of April 2020, as I am writing this post, I have been the sole in-house legal counsel at an IT company with 4000+ customers worldwide for the past 2,5 years, and I am also the company’s DPO.

The road here has, in no shape or form, been easy, but when you come to terms with that you are further today than yesterday, the only thing that will ever be able to stop you from growing – is your own limitations on yourself.

Dream big, dream far, and do the work that no one wants to do. Good luck – you will ace life!

Six tops tips from an alumnus about Covid-19:

  1. See the opportunity to learn commercial awareness. What is happening at the moment is extremely devastating and heart-breaking, but it is also a super interesting time to understand how a pandemic affects the global economy to the micro-economic levels. The world is changing for good, and now it is your time to understand the roller coaster ride.
  2. I know it’s tempting, but don’t, never ever, try to portray yourself in being someone who you are not. It is just simply not sufficient nor organic in the long run.
  3. It is ok to feel worried and stressed. Emotions are ok. Embrace them, understand them and learn what exactly is making you feel the way you are feeling – and then address it. Can you change it? Then change it. Don’t have the power to change it? Let it go. Simples.
  4. Be curious, seek challenges and push your limits to levels which you never thought you could reach. It is outside of the comfort-lines, you truly start to understand who you really are and what fantastic skills you have for just being yourself.
  5. Start using LinkedIn properly. My last two jobs were found through LinkedIn, either by contacting an interesting person that I wanted to connect and/or by finding the job advert for my current job.

The last and my most important tip;

Read the “Richest man in Babylon”- it’s shorter than Factortame. Understand the notion of “snowball effect” and learn the value of investing your money today. Your future, debt-free, self will thank you.

Ps. My legal counsel life is hectic, challenging and not glamorous at all. It’s nothing like life in Suits yet. But we keep on striving!

careersemployabilityemployabillity skillsemploymentgraduate

Christina Keiller • 25/06/2020

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