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From breaking with family traditions to entrepreneur

As I write this at 6am I look forward to a half day of being an Optometrist, and the other half Coaching clients towards their goals, however, my journey hasn’t been an easy one. Born as a first generation British Asian to immigrant parents, my career was pretty much mapped out for me. I was […]

Sheena Shah

As I write this at 6am I look forward to a half day of being an Optometrist, and the other half Coaching clients towards their goals, however, my journey hasn’t been an easy one.

Born as a first generation British Asian to immigrant parents, my career was pretty much mapped out for me. I was going to be a doctor, pharmacist, Lawyer, Accountant or possibly a teacher due to the short hours and long holidays which would be beneficial for me for when I inevitably married and had kids.

Growing up extra tuition was a must, lots of extra study materials were a must, and there was no question that I’d be going to university for something. Hard work was the sole focus of most Asian parents, and mine were no different. I understood their reasoning; they had struggled with education, come to a foreign country and had to work incredibly hard for any sort of decent life. They didn’t want that for their children and professional careers meant security and stability.

In an Asian family the plan usually was to study hard, not be seen with boys unless you plan to marry them, have a successful job and then plan on starting a family. This was then proudly put on display for other community members to admire and tell their children to do the same. Following dreams, or talking about emotions and feelings was pretty much unheard of. I felt I was different, I seemed to steer on and off this path continuously. The need to fit in and be dutiful was a constant mental struggle over the years, I always felt I was battling doing the ‘right thing’ against what I truly wanted to do. 

My passion was for psychology, however the battle for security and stability won, and I became an Optometrist. A year into practicing Optometry I decided to fulfil my original dream on the side by studying to become a life coach, NLP and Mindfulness practitioner. Even as this became an equal career role alongside Optometry I constantly faced the question ‘why are you wasting time on this’? ‘Surely there’s no money in it’? ‘Why not just do a locum day instead’? The battle to follow my heart, serve my passion and to have a role that’s not always seen as ‘professional’ has been hard. 

However, I wonder whether things are about to change? Are we going to be the generation of parents where we encourage careers that ensure soft skills, creative skills, careers involving all the things that future robots can’t do. 

AI and the 4th Industrial revolution is advancing day by day. Eye examinations, surgeries, scans, anything requiring data analysis will all be taken over by technology. Entrepreneurs, writers, artists, musicians, sports players, carers, life coaching etc, and those that dream and have visions will be the way forward. Having a vision, being creative, those with super communication skills and having the human empathy and touch will no doubt be the way forward. 

As a mother to two girls, my advice will always be to dream big. Make yourself proud, live life to your own values and beliefs. Never feel you have to fit in or conform to society, the more you try to follow the crowd and fit in, the more uncomfortable you will feel, and you’ll always be chasing something to fill a hole. Be different, creative, unique and simply embrace yourself. Don’t worry about the destination enjoy the journey. 

My parents never had any idea they would be forced to move from Kenya to England in the 1940’s. The lesson; the future is never quite what we expect, develop your creative side and ignite that fire within you because you could be leading the way for the future in front of you. 

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