Mira studied MSc Banking and International Finance to get in to M&A, and finally found her way to becoming a career, personal growth and wellbeing coach with her own coaching practice Rutter Coaching. We spoke about how it happened.
Tell me about your time at Cass!
I did my third year project of my undergraduate degree on mergers and acquisitions, and decided I really wanted to work in M&A in an investment bank. So coming to Cass to study a Masters in Banking and International Finance was a very strategic move to make that happen.
I had previously tried to get in to M&A without the Masters, but being an international student it was difficult to get a work visa and to get to interview when applying to a bank. I wanted practical skills and access to people who had hands-on business experience, and that made Cass the perfect place.
I had a very interesting time at Cass. There were lots of presentations to do, which was very different from my undergraduate degree, so I needed to develop my PowerPoint skills, and also to develop a way to work in groups – all that was an excellent preparation for the work environment. Traditional universities are not so strong at this.
I have to say that being based in London was also part of the appeal. To come to London and work in the City was my dream, so I experienced what that would be like. Although I was the baby of the class, it’s not like the others were mature students, so it was a fun environment. I was also lucky to live in halls so I made friends who were doing Masters at City too.
What professional development did you do at Cass?
My plan had always been to do my dissertation with a bank and show them what I could do and how I could help them. One of the other great things about Cass was the careers events. I went to quite a few and at one of them, an emerging markets trader gave me the contact details of the Head of Emerging Markets Strategy at WestLB and said that I should think of using my advantage not in M&A, but in emerging markets instead.
So I contacted him and said I would do anything – I would work for free if necessary. I did that, I worked for the Emerging Markets Team under a manager who had just arrived from JP Morgan. He was very happy to put me in contact with JP Morgan for additional data for my dissertation, plus he also knew of the value of interns at JP Morgan so he spoke to HR about me interning at WestLB.
Do you have a favourite memory from your time at Cass?
When we went to Amsterdam. It was nice to make good enough relationships in eight months that you can go away for a weekend trip together.
What did you do next?
Just before I finished my Masters, WestLB had made about 10% of its London workforce redundant but despite that and using my Eastern European background, I managed to effectively create a job for myself in the Emerging Markets Strategy team. This was pretty unusual at the time. One guy from our course had got a job with another bank from the milk round and before he’d even started he was told “here’s one months’ pay, don’t come in”. These were tough times, and I was the only person in the whole class to go straight into a job. At first I worked for free, then on a contract, and finally full time. Cass really helped this happen.
After about four and a half years into the job, I started thinking about the long-term future of my career and where I saw myself many years down the line. I remember distinctly one chat with a friend and sharing with her that my career and my life at the time were not exactly how I wanted them to be. So I resigned from my role and pursued my dream to travel around South America and explore its natural beauty – I’ve always loved nature. During that time I thought about my future and now I had in mind that I wanted to do something client-focused.
Where did you go from there?
In the Emerging Markets Department with WestLB I covered Bulgaria and Romania and added more Central and Eastern European countries to my portfolio over time, but I never did anything major with a client focus. I didn’t want to lose all the use of my finance background but I realised I wanted to help people more on their financial side. So that’s how I got in to wealth management.
It was a struggle to get a role in wealth management without sales or client experience. However, Barclays Wealth gave me the lucky breakthrough by inviting me to their assessment day as part of a major expansion. I did well in the interviews and I got a job as a relationship executive. I really enjoyed the work, it was great to have client contact and I love building relationships. But at the same time I thought there were always things that could be done better.
So how did you get in to project management?
I realised I wanted to experience projects to help more and make a bigger difference. I thought that if I could get in to the project world I could make a difference there, because I could see some processes were frustrating.
I was speaking with a Director at Barclays Wealth who had a role that was not suitable for me – but she told me about another job that had just had its funding approved. So I got in to the project world without any formal training.
It’s great to have been able to see and experience both sides. The project was very interesting, but I learned quickly to be careful what you wish for. On the first day I had to fly to the Isle of Man! Plus there were so many acronyms and new lingo to learn. Once the project ended I knew I preferred to focus more on the human side.
What was your next career move?
The one thing that’s remained constant from my Bachelors to Cass and on in my professional life is that I’ve always been interested in personal development and helping people by volunteering. Barclays was really good because they have lots of events days including a Careers Week, and I have always participated in and helped organise such events.
Simon, my husband, wanted to take the next step in his personal development and had signed up for a two-day introduction to coaching course, and I decided to join him. And it wasn’t really a surprise that I enjoyed this event. Before that I had my concerns about being self-employed: my Dad had his own business, and I knew how tough running your own business is and I wanted job security and loved going worry-free on holidays. But there is no such thing as security, regardless of whether you’re at a big company or not. Thanks to this course I started to seriously consider coaching as a career.
Coaching teaches you to find solutions to things. We decided to do the full course and formally qualify, which was very intense with lots of trainings days to attend plus webinars, books to read and lots of practical elements. We had many coaching sessions with practice clients and assessments and a very high 70% pass mark. I really enjoyed helping my clients to overcome their challenges and achieve their goals. I thrived on seeing the difference I made to their lives. So I decided to pursue my dream of helping people and left Barclays to do so.
When did it turn in to a business?
We established our coaching practice in June this year. It’s been an amazing journey. Now it’s not just about being a great coach but also about managing the business, which is a whole new challenge that you can’t prepare for until you start. My husband and I now work together, and we really love it. It’s great fun creating workshops and presenting together.
I find coaching very positive because although people may be struggling, it’s always about looking forward, focusing on solutions and helping clients to find fulfilment in their personal and professional lives. As a result I come out of my sessions feeling energised. The great point for me is the positivity of the practice.
What is Rutter Coaching all about?
Rutter Coaching focuses on helping professionals and business owners in their 30s and 40s to take greater control of their lives and to be happier, healthier and more fulfilled.
What’s been the biggest challenge?
It’s one thing to be a coach but actually running a business and doing the marketing and everything else has been quite a lot to understand. I enjoy it and it’s been a fantastic learning experience but it’s actually another job in its own right.
What would be your advice to people looking to follow in your footsteps?
My advice is to use your strengths and to develop yourself in the areas you love and are really good at. People often focus on the negative. If it’s your weakness perhaps you should not be doing it and would be better served by finding other people to do that part for you. Life’s too short and something that is draining you is not good.
Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!
Favourite place in London: St James Park
Favourite holiday destination: Iguazu Falls – you need to see both sides and do a helicopter tour! I’ve been twice and would love to go again.
Website: There’s not a single site but I use LinkedIn and other social channels for trending information. I like to follow the trends in coaching and personal development, so these forums highlight important articles.
Dream travel destination: New Zealand
Cheese or chocolate: Cheese followed by chocolate – I can’t give up either!