After relocating from Poland to England in 2006, Ula was asked by a recruiter why she thought anyone would give a job to a foreigner with no work experience in the UK. Undeterred, and with a mantra of seeing setbacks as simply ‘lessons learned’, Ula continued to pursue her ambitions.
Today, Ula has recently set up her own company, UlaSuperConnector Ltd. We were very excited to ask Ula more about her story and how she not only continues to motivate herself but all those around her as well….
Can you tell us a bit about you and your career?:
Funnily enough, I did not initially choose my career ‘path’. I ended up working in the IT sector straight after graduating from University in Poland, where I studied Human Nutrition & Food Technology. It was the subject I was interested in for the first 3 months of starting University (as a result of being good at Biology in secondary school), but that was at a time of me being completely unaware that what I really LOVE doing is striking up conversations with random strangers & making things happen.
What made you choose this career/industry?
I've always loved interacting with people and making an impact on their wellbeing, by helping them progress on their life goals and deriving personal satisfaction if I succeeded in that quest. By no means am I a life coach, and I never wanted to be! However, more & more often people now come to me for advice and guidance which – if I am aware of what to do – I will happily share. Having said that, if I am unsure of what to do as I simply don’t have enough competency in the area of interest personally, I will ALWAYS be able to find a person who will and I connect them with each other so that needed conversation can take place regardless.
As for the Learning & Development in the IT industry - I sort of ‘fell into it’, although sales was definitely my conscious choice.
‘I am continuing to push the boundaries of ‘the obvious’ and making my own marks in this world.’
How did you get to where you are now and did you face any challenges along the way?
I immigrated to England from Poland back in 2006, initially for a ‘year or 2 committed to polishing my English and gaining professional experience abroad’, and still remember visiting a local Recruitment Agency and a conversation about my job prospects with the company’s employee. Her reaction to my response in relation to how much I want to earn initially was quite ‘interesting’ - she burst into laughter with the words: ‘I think you are being quite unreasonable here. Why do you think anyone would give you a job, a foreigner with no experience working in the UK, for a salary that exceeds the entry level jobs salary brackets?’
‘I don’t know’ – I answered – ‘but I am definitely going to give it a go as I believe it is possible and not outside of my capabilities, thank you for your kind advice’ – I continued getting up and left her with an open mouth.
… and now, 12 years, an English husband, 2 children and my own company later, I am continuing to push the boundaries of ‘the obvious’ and making my own marks in this world, currently in England, but who knows where next?
If any, can you tell us more about how you overcame those setbacks?
The straightforward answer to this question is, ‘I don’t know, really’. I always overcame any setbacks I experienced, and turned them into ‘lessons learned’. That’s how I grow. That’s how I learn. That’s… who I am.
‘I always overcame any setbacks I experienced, and turned them into ‘lessons learned’.’
What is an important initiative that you feel passionate about in your role?
I am currently on a mission to deliver 10 sessions of 90-minute workshops created by Google, called #IamRemarkable that encourages women & other underrepresented groups to talk more confidently about their achievements in the workplace.
What do you think gave you the drive and determination to succeed?
There was a time in my life that I would wake up thinking about that very same question, wondering what to say in response and I am still not 100% sure I know the answer to it.
I believe the fact that I was raised by a single Mum who was faced with adversity on a daily basis, definitely shaped the person I am today. I would always observe my mum’s ‘silent perseverance’ and unconventional (back when I was a child) approach to people with her disarming honesty and calling things as they were, that I must have picked up on that trait early on and started incorporating it into my own life without even realising it. It took me almost 30 years to admit how much I owe to my own Mother and to be grateful.
‘Always believe in yourself and what you can do. Have a positive mindset, and the rest will follow.’
What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt along the way?
Quoting Winston Churchill – ‘Never give up’. Always believe in yourself and what you can do. Have a positive mindset, and the rest will follow.
What three tips would you give to young females starting their careers?
Reach out to people, get to know them & let them get to know you so that they can guide you on your next step.
Ask for help.
Be visible and look for opportunities to speak about your achievements.
What are your key motivators?
To make the world a better place; to help people discover their ‘superpowers’ and assist them on the journey of being a better version of themselves. To ‘super-connect’ people with others, so the world has a bigger chance to turn out to be a better place for everyone.
What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organisations?
My first advice to women in the workplace, find a Sponsor. Not necessarily a ‘male’ one, though definitely one who’ll find time for you, and will be your best spokesperson internally, helping you to find opportunities quicker. Secondly, become part of a community and play an active part in it. When you surround yourself with a supportive community, you are one step closer to achieving your goal, whatever it might be.
Let me give you an example, at Oracle where I worked for 4 months, there is an Oracle Women’s Leadership community, created as part of the internal initiative in order to help women within Oracle to grow and learn from each other. This was THE BEST informal space to bounce off other ideas, ask for advice and get involved in new projects.
What’s one key leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?
Be vulnerable and be kind. Brene Brown taught me that approach, and I vouch for it. It just works. Try it!
What would you say to your 16-year-old self?
Go for it, Girl. Believe in yourself. Love yourself. You ARE enough. Come what may, you WILL find the way.
If you felt inspired by Ula Howlett inspirational leadership, you might be interested in reading about Michelle Carson, CEO of Holmes Noble.