How to hit the ground running
Newly promoted Area Manager Neelam Hanif joined Enterprise only seven years ago. She also succeeded in achieving a promotion, getting married, moving house and starting a family during the pandemic. What is the secret of her success?
What made you choose Enterprise?
From my first Enterprise interview the whole process was so different from other employers. I felt genuine interest, I wasn’t just another interviewee. I remember walking out thinking that was too good to be true.
What do you think makes Enterprise a good place for ambitious women?
Enterprise opens doors for ambitious women because there are no ceilings and everyone starts out on the same programme at the same level. I think many females don’t like to label themselves as ambitious. They worry they may be perceived as aggressive. At Enterprise you are encouraged to be autonomous without being judged. Plus our CEO is female.
From MT to ARM in seven years is amazing! What are some of the factors that have led to your success?
This is probably super cheesy but the people around me have been the biggest factor in my progression. From day one I found people at my branch and area I could identify with and reach out to. I networked with senior management at diversity and training events. Fast forward a couple of years and I built myself a panel of advisors across the business to advise and help in any situation.
PIE is a great model. PERFORMANCE is always at the top. IMAGE means building profile with managers and people who can promote you, and EXPOSURE means reaching out to people outside of your comfort zone and getting involved with extracurricular activities.
"Enterprise opens doors for ambitious women because there are no ceilings and everyone starts out on the same programme at the same level"
What are some of the best decisions you’ve taken?
Some of the best decisions are when I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone and tested my management and business skills. You really learn to overcome adversity!
Looking back seven years, what would you have done differently?
I would have asked for help more often. I can be quite a proud person and reaching out for help was a weakness for me unfortunately. I understand that I wouldn’t be successful without people to help me and guide me.
How important is it to have a clear career goal?
Initially I had no career goal. Looking back I really understood what motivated me and I made that clear to my managers which helped me map out my career. There is a natural progression within Enterprise. Working towards the next step consistently helped me step into each role.
"Being a parent can only help me be a better leader."
How would you advise women just starting out on their Enterprise career?
- Hit the ground running. My first manager allowed me to dive in from day one and learn on the job. You will learn when you make mistakes and understand the “why” behind every task.
- Get a mentor. The company has a great programme where everyone has an assigned mentor. Plus there is such a big network it is easy to reach out to anyone. I like the monthly female focus groups. Learning from the best and hearing other people’s stories is invaluable. It gives you a sense of belonging.
You’ve had a busy year! How has Covid, getting married and being about to have a baby shaped your plans?
What a year – praise the lord! I am truly blessed that I managed to get married just before lockdown, move into our new home and look forward to my first child. I feel like I have grown up with the company and this is just a natural progression. My leadership will never change. I understand what motivates me and my team and that’s how I achieve results. Success for me is based on discipline and that’s the same with parenthood. Being a parent can only help me be a better leader.
Covid was a time of reflection. It helped me understand myself and recognise my strengths and areas where I needed help or direction. I was more confident to ask for help because we were all going through the same thing. I feel confident that I have the best people in the best positions doing the best job and I will be able to walk back into my role when the time is right with the support of my partner and management team.
To what extent has your ethnicity affected how you think about your career?
I’ve always considered my ethnicity to be an advantage. The stereotypes mean I have more of an impact as people often do not expect me to hold a senior role or deliver the results that I do.
Do you have any thoughts or advice for people from diverse ethnic backgrounds starting out at work?
Be willing to educate those around you regardless of seniority. As a BAME female employee I expected everyone around me to have knowledge about my gender, ethnicity etc. This isn’t the case. Some of my colleagues and managers won’t have had any experience with someone like me. I encourage my colleagues to ask questions so that I can help them understand me and our customers and other colleagues.
How does being a person of faith affect your leadership style and approach to work?
My faith empowers me to know my rights and those of others which allows me to be a fair leader. I have always been a woman of faith though when I started with the company, I wasn’t practicing to the extent I am now. A couple of years into my career I embraced wearing a hijab. I realised the more success I had at work the more I increased my faith.