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Five things that made me

How Ro got to where she is now

Five things that made me’ shares stories of senior leaders at Deloitte. This time, we spoke with Ro Paddon, our Distinctive Client Experience programme lead, about her life, her career and making the most of moments.

Meet Ro

Ro (short for Rowena) makes the most of moments. She finds joy and pride when the work she does makes a positive difference to others in their everyday lives. Her leadership style has always been about lifting people up, but today she shares how she has learnt to do that for herself. Here’s her story.

1. There’s no place like home

“I am a Shepherd's Bush girl, born and bred. I had a happy childhood very much shaped by my parents’ background – they were first-generation immigrants from Trinidad and Grenada. They came to this country with very little. I don’t recall this, but Mum told me that for a time we started out living in a small bedsit where we shared one room, and the cooker was on the landing outside.

“They worked hard to get their own place, and when I was about two, we moved into a council house. It wasn’t all that so then Mum pushed for us to move somewhere better to our ‘forever home.’ My Dad is no longer with us, but she still lives there. It’ll always be my home. It holds so many memories, of my brother, me and the local kids including my then bestie, all playing out on the street.

“I enjoyed school and was a considered a bit of a teacher’s pet sometimes as I was keen to learn – no shame in my game though! I originally wanted to be a nurse, inspired by visiting Mum at work. For years she was a maternity care assistant at Queen Charlotte Hospital. People used to stop her in the street to thank her for helping them with their new babies. I was very proud that she did something so significant for people at such a key moment in their lives.

“But she dissuaded me from going into nursing due to some of the challenges she’d experienced (the NHS still got one of her kids though as my big brother works there now!). Eventually, I did a business studies degree with two placements in HR as I knew I still wanted to have a career based on looking after people, and it turns out it’s what I’ve been doing ever since.”

“My parents taught me to do the best I could with whatever opportunity I was given.”

2. Adding value

“Working at a multinational fashion retailer was a turning point in my career. I specialised in learning and development, which I loved, and worked my way up from an adviser to a manager. One of the best parts was creating and delivering talent development programmes for high-performing staff, helping people realise their potential.

“I was there for around seven years, and happy until, I felt overlooked for an opportunity to progress. There was a moment I thought I was ready for a role, but they brought somebody else in. So, that was me done – I realised it was time to move on. I applied to Deloitte because I wanted to try a different sector and funny story, I remember doing a superhero style change during lunchtime into a suit for the interview so that no one would spot anything unusual from our more casual work wear. Deloitte was a quite different firm back then.

“Once in Deloitte, working in our learning and development team, my goal was to create an environment for people to feel confident as they go through a change – just like my mum did. I did Inductions, for example, which mark a critical point in someone’s career. That new joiner has made a big decision to come to our firm. I wanted to support them in that moment and make a positive impact, to reassure them they had made the right choice. I wanted to be a force for good for that person and the firm.

“It's also why I’ve continued to develop my coaching and facilitation skills, becoming a qualified coach supporting both teams and individuals. Whether it’s in a coaching conversation, a leadership lab, or any type of team-based event, being that sounding board creating a thinking environment for people where they can find headspace is invaluable because we live in such a noisy world nowadays.”

“My guiding question when working with people is always: ‘How or where can I add value?’”

3. You’re not alone

“When I started at Deloitte, I knew I wanted to become a senior manager. But when that moment happened and I inherited a larger and experienced team to look after with strong, confident personalities, I felt out of my depth, an imposter.

“I was worried I didn't add much value to them as their leader. I set out to be collaborative in my leadership style, recognising there was a lot I could learn from the team and hopefully give back to them too. Looking back, that experience including mistakes I made, taught me some big lessons, which has helped me be a better leader down the road.

“I’m thankful for that time even if I wasn’t at the time! The main lesson I learnt was probably to ask for help sooner. I felt like I'd been given this responsibility and I needed to prove myself and try harder, but I should have asked for support sooner, for a mentor or someone to speak openly with.

“I’m lucky now because as I’ve gained more experience and felt more confident as a leader, I’ve been blessed to be guided by some fantastic female people leaders. It’s been a bit girl power, I have to say!”

“That experience taught me some big lessons - to ask for help when I need it and confide in someone rather than going at it alone.”

4. Good vibes only

“My path to becoming a senior leader in the business hasn’t necessarily been straightforward. Many of my career moves have been because of changes in the firm. I’ve always tried to make the most of such moments, asking myself ‘What good can come from this?’, but looking ahead, I’m trying to be more deliberate about my career and instigate my next moves – I choose what I want to do and put a deadline on it.

“After 15 years in L&D, my current home is in Client Development, looking after the Distinctive Client Experience and Lead Client Service Partner Labs. Both programmes ultimately support our partners and their teams with providing top-notch service for our clients. My main “side hustles” are around coaching/mentoring and DEI work, such as co-chairing our Enabling Functions Ethnicity Council, part of various steps we take to support underrepresented ethnic talent within the firm.

“It’s a blending of my skills, experience, knowledge and general identity. After all, I was born into this body. I was born into this identity. I want to be who I am, what makes me who I am and the positions I'm in to help others. I’m far more comfortable in my skin than when I joined the firm, and I want to help others feel the same.

“I do a lot of written reflection. As a coach, I can’t tell others to reflect and not practice what I preach! I have a ‘Good Vibes Only’ book next to my bed. In it, I create vision boards and mind maps to reflect and manifest, to work out what I can learn from challenges and find the good in difficult moments.”

“My career has been about responding to certain moments and making the most of them when they arise.”

5. Feeling blessed and defining success

“I’m very proud to be part of our family team at home and of whatever I can contribute to support my husband and daughter in achieving what matters to them in their lives.

“I am truly blessed to have my own family. Having my daughter especially, has motivated me, perhaps more so than before I had a child, to be a role model she can look up to. Just like my parents inspired me to be independent and have a strong work ethic, I want her to feel she can stand on her own two feet, to define herself and not be defined or confined by others, and to feel secure and accepted by the people around her.

“And success to me – what I create in my books or vision boards - is setting a goal or vibe and hitting it. I try to celebrate achieving each step along the way to goals - small/medium/large. Success, whether big or small, is about being proud to put my name to something I helped to make happen.

“Success is also seeing the people around me thrive. Back in the day, my dad working hard to secure a home for us and put a roof over our heads. My mum taking pride in her job and working to the best of her ability. My brother in a role he loves and where he belongs, my daughter making her way in the world, I could go on!”

“My advice to anyone reading? Believe in yourself. Back yourself. And if you don’t, then find cheerleaders who will help you to.”

Five things we learnt from Ro

  1. Do the best you can with what you’ve been given.
  2. Add value when you can with what you have to offer.
  3. We all need help sometimes. Please ask when you feel you do.
  4. Good things can still come out of really challenging situations.
  5. Find your blessings and count them.

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