Thu, 18 Jul 2019

A massive 100% of this year’s Birmingham Young Professional of the Year finalists said they believe that the professional services sector in Birmingham is thriving - and we agree! In fact, BNP Paribas Personal Finance as lead sponsor of the awards, look forward to sharing the stories of some of the region’s brightest talent each year and celebrating their success.

With a recent study revealing that young people who have four or more meaningful encounters with an employer are 86% less likely to be NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training), it’s more evident than ever that BYPY is not only a great way to celebrate the talent the city has to offer, but also essential when it comes to inspiring people from all backgrounds to dream big.

As the headline sponsor of BYPY 2019, BNP Paribas Personal Finance sat down with the winner of the Aspiring Talent award Heidi Walford and this year’s overall winner Dan Williams, to talk about their experiences of the professional services sector in Birmingham and their top tips for young people starting their careers in the city.

First up in our two-part series is Heidi’s story:


For 21-year-old Heidi, who was born and raised on a council estate in Birmingham, her journey to success wasn’t necessarily a “typical” one.

Heidi says: “Ages 16-18 were the hardest years of my life to date and, after my dad passed away, I faced a lot of big changes that eventually resulted in me becoming homeless.

“Whilst I’m not ashamed of where I come from, I always knew that I didn’t want this to define me and I refused to let homelessness be the end of my story.

“During the two years I spent living in a hostel, I juggled studying for exams with working to support myself, and straight after my A-Levels I joined Pinsent Masons as part of their gap year programme, before transferring onto their apprenticeship scheme.

“Fast forward three years and I’m now about to qualify from the programme as a paralegal, with a view to becoming a fully qualified solicitor.

“When my colleague Chandni Kotak, who’s on the BYPY committee, first persuaded me to enter for the Aspiring Talent award, I struggled with imposter syndrome and when I looked around the room at all these people who’ve achieved so much, I thought I could never compare.

“For me, what’s so great about BYPY is that it’s not necessarily about who’s the most qualified or who went to the best University, but rather about what you’ve achieved on your own merits, and as I got further into the process I started to realise that I could actually do this.”

On her top tips for young people looking to enter the professional services sector in Birmingham, and how she plans to use this award to help others, Heidi explains:

“I think the biggest challenge for young people nowadays is being able to look at everything in front of them and see opportunities instead of impossibilities, and it can definitely be overwhelming at times!

“I was so excited to win the Aspiring Talent award at the 2019 BYPY awards and I hope to use this opportunity and my own personal experiences to drive access to professional services sector - breaking down barriers for people like me.

“I believe that to inspire young people from underprivileged backgrounds you need to give them confidence and show them that there is always an alternative path – no matter who they are or where they’ve come from.

“Since winning the award I’ve been asked to sit on the BPS Aspire committee and I’m also hoping to set up a mentoring programme to give back to young people who are facing challenges like I did a few years ago.

“When I first started my career with Pinsent Masons I hadn’t heard of anyone with a trajectory like mine and this meant that I had no-one to look up to in that sense – so I think having my story out there will really help to show people who’ve been through a similar experience to me that they can achieve their goals.

“In addition, I hope to show businesses that they too can benefit from employing people from different backgrounds, and that the unique perspective of individuals like me can bring so much added value to their company.

“When I compare where I am now to where I was a few years ago, it's overwhelming to see how far I’ve come, and I’m so proud of everything I’ve achieved. But for me, winning this award is all about giving back, and if I can inspire just one person by telling my story then that would be the biggest reward of all.”