Zeinab, Associate Consultant
Zeinab Ozigi is an Associate Consultant of a Financial Services Consultancy firm in London. The firm places her with Tier 1 Investment Bank clients on a project by project basis for a minimum of 6 months. This gives her the flexibility to work when she wants, prioritize her family or discover new joys such as Corporate Styling.
Tell us about you and your background.
When it was time to pick my GCSEs choices my mum proceeded to tell me I had four options ‘You can be an accountant, a lawyer, an engineer or a doctor. Pick one’. I went with doctor so that I could help people. Based on this decision I picked my GCSEs choices and I worked towards being a medical doctor, kinda. Years later at university, I took my first class in Organic Chemistry. I looked around and just knew this wasn’t for me. I got through university thanks to the most amazing female support system ever but once real life hit me, it took about a year to figure out what I wanted to do.
While my friends were embarking on their first graduate roles, I was languishing at home, wondering what I was going to do with my life. I looked through job adverts online looking for what roles were in high demand and looked interesting. Working on projects spoke to my need to get things delivered, as well as providing real change. By chance, I met a few people working in Finance. I remember the first time I visited two mentors in St. Paul’s, London thinking ‘It’s so clean’. After many questions, I felt like I’d found where I’d like to be career-wise. During that time, I swatted up and took professional qualifications in project management, software testing and businesss analysis, and after a lot of networking, I got my first role in a project team as an Inter-dealer Broker. Since then I specialised in Business Analysis on large scale Business Change projects. I progressed to becoming a Director at a Fixed Income Exchange in London before working with my current consultancy.
I say all this to encourage anyone reading this to lean into what inspires them, and not what others say one ought to do. If I stuck with my mum’s idea of success, I’d still be paying off my student loans. Seek counsel, but make your own decisions and go for it. Today, I have flexibility whilst still developing my career because I’m working with new top tier clients regularly. There’s always a risk I could not perform well with a new client, but that risk drives me to perform. I encourage you to also lean into your intuition, it’s the gift that keeps giving!
What is the story behind Corporate Style?
Some time back, I walked into a meeting room with new stakeholders accompanied by my male middle aged colleague. Whilst doing the customary introductions, I realised that most people assumed my colleague was my superior. After the meeting held, I took a good look at myself in the female toilets and realised I too, would have assumed the same.
Most offices have an informal dress code of business casual. However, how this code translates to everyday wardrobes is based on an individual’s interpretation. This interpretation is informed by many factors including their gender, age, background, ones natural inclination to look for convenience, to name but a few. In my industry, most men translate business casual to smart trousers, a white or pastel blue or pink shirt, usually from Charles Tyrwhitt with the top button undone. A suit jacket will never be too far away, and each man may show off their personal style with their choice of sock. There’s no way I could describe the work uniform for women in The City as succinctly. There are so many options, hence I was bound to make mistakes, and I’ve made many.
Research shows that it takes 7 seconds for someone to make their first impression of you. I realised for my career to remain client facing, I couldn’t afford and didn’t have the time, to re-engineer everyone’s first impression of me. My time was better spent sorting out my look rather than trying to have a coffee meeting with everyone I thought I needed to have a great impression with. I realised personal style is like an aroma that creates lasting impact on people I may never meet. At first, I became ultra aware of my appearance and aimed to dress ‘like a professional’. Getting dress focused on what others thought a professional should wear soon became a chore and lacked authenticity. Over the years, I’ve used getting ready for work as a tool to communicate my worth to myself and people around me. I wanted to share my understanding of style, and its impact in an office environment on Instagram because when I was searching for advice on social media, I couldn’t find many women working in an office environment that looked like me.
Let's Talk Business
What makes you feel powerful, where do you get your motivation and who inspires you?
I draw inspiration from the journey my mum has gone through to raise me and give me the opportunities I have, with little education and opportunity. I have faith in God and believe He has a great future for me when my circumstances say otherwise.
It’s always been difficult for me to feel powerful, so I’ve learnt to find books, watch encouraging talks and look over how I’ve overcome life’s challenges to remember that I’m powerful.
What is one book you'd suggest people read?
This is a hard one for me, I love reading. As an only child, books were my closest friends. Plus I’m always reading at least three non-fiction books at a time. I enjoy autobiographies, my favourite last year was of course Becoming by Michelle Obama, but I also loved Born a Crime by Trevor Noah.
Non-fiction wise, I read a lot of Christian and Research based books. I’m currently reading Diamond Believer by David Adebale. I aim to be an empowered woman and have taken it upon myself to read books which provide lessons on how to harness my power. I’ve read many books that encourage female empowerment, many are controversial as they can be seen to give women in the patriarchy more work to do! A good example is, Why Men Earn More by Warren Farrell Ph.D. After research, Farrell argues that men don’t primarily earn more because of female discrimination but because they are more likely to take risky roles or make lifestyle choices that impact their earning power positively. No doubt discrimination exists but books such as this, encourage me to harness and utilise the power that I have, which is to respond with thoughtful action, to the status quo in a way that best works for me and the other women coming up behind me.
Tell us about what corporate fashion means to you.
To identify my personal style, I spent a significant amount of time last year asking myself ‘Who am I?’.
I became aware of what resonated with me, what made me tick, what values were most important to me. A book that really helped me step through defining my personal style is, Look Like The Leader You Are, by Lizzie Edwards. Another book that opened my eyes to how my senior, majority male bosses saw my ‘business style’ was New Women’s Dress for Success. It is written in the 80’s and yes, there will be parts in the book that will offend you (I think I threw it at the wall once) but I encourage you to read the whole book.
Reading it provided uncomfortable truths about how I’m perceived based on my style. Based on my experience and some anecdotal evidence, these truths are arguably still relevant today especially in a historically male dominated industry such as Banking. My personal style is based on who I think I am. I think of myself as intelligent, a visionary, poised, creative and authentic. This vision of my best self dictates my choice of clothing.
My advice for other working women is to find out who they are at their very best. Dress like that woman. Of course, be conscious of your work environment i.e. informal dress code, your role, the air conditioning, the commute but don’t let the external elements primarily dictate your style. That’s a sure step to loosing yourself.
If you don’t have time for all this thinking because your first Banking interview is tomorrow, a tailored navy wool suit with a white collared shirt, nude courts and leather tote is my interview wardrobe staple. My favourite places for office staples are Libby London and Massimo Dutti. Keep the accessories high quality and makeup chic and you’ll get through the day just fine.
You can find Zeinab on Instagram @zeinab_ozigi. If you have enjoyed this interview, let us know by leaving a comment down below!