Interviewing Female CEOs: Bobbi Trehan-Young

What made you decide to become a CEO?  

My first job in my 20’s where my commitment was questioned by the organisation I worked for as a result of asking for a few days extension to my annual leave. Whilst on holiday, my mum was rushed to hospital and had to undergo emergency surgery abroad, I was due to fly back and she asked me to stay for a few days and I felt, I had to ask for an extension to my annual leave in the first instance, instead of simply saying Yes of course, to my mum. Prior to this, I had never even taken a sick day.  

I knew I never wanted to be put in the that position ever again, where I allowed someone else to dictate such a personal decision and furthermore then had the audacity to make me feel guilty about it. From the moment onwards I was driven to gain true independence and not to be beholden to anyone else.  

As a female CEO, what has been the most significant barrier in your career? How did you overcome it?

There are many but none of which have limited me from succeeding, that is because I view barriers as blockers and I prefer to change my perspective and see it as a challenge instead because then it can be overcome. From a small logistical issue in business, to an international legal nightmare. Irrespective of your gender you have to remain resilient in the face of it all. My determination & persistence has helped carry me through of overcome many challenges I have faced as a CEO.

What is a leadership lesson that you have learnt that is unique to being a female leader?

Embrace who you are, do not change or try and adapt your personality. Don’t shy away to bring out your feminine side, this makes us who we are and different to our male peers.  

On one occasion, I was told I was a strong woman, and I should tone it down as I might intimidate a man during an upcoming meeting, so I asked, ‘would you have told me to do that if I was a man meeting a woman?’ (of course, the answer was no). I refused to tone down my assertiveness, as I am not responsible for anyone else's insecurity.

My network is very male dominated because I have been in the tech space for so long and I will always stay true to myself as an individual & woman.

Define a great leader—what are some traits you think great leaders possess?

Morals & values. Check your ego in at the door!  

Do not be afraid of being honest of speaking the truth, these qualities help build great relationships in business. For example, don’t over commit and under-deliver.  

However, having said confidence is another trait of a great leader, I do think we as women could do with backing ourselves more and not playing it down or second guessing our talents, often fuelled by some form of ‘imposter syndrome’.

One of the great leaders that I would refer to is Margret Thatcher, not from a political standpoint, but as a woman in that era I really commend her for standing her ground, she was not afraid to go against the grain with her opinions, with virtually no support from her male counter parts.

What she achieved as a person, especially as a woman of the time is ground-breaking, irrespective of the political stances, I really admire her for her self-confidence and self-belief in a male dominated space.


What advice would you give to someone at the initial stages of their career?

Primarily, believe in yourself and your vision and take that through to the visualisation of your success.

Secondly, do not procrastinate, there is never a suitable time. Start today, the right time is gone the minute your concept is being developed by someone else.

Always have a Plan B & C. This will prevent you from stalling when things don’t go your way.

Do not be afraid of being different. Stand apart from the crowd!  

Lastly, have a good strong head for figures. You can never start to early so save or invest. Capital & revenue is the key to true independence.  

Who inspired you to get to where you are today, and why?

My parents. I grew up with everything, but they really grounded me by sharing their own experiences. Both of my parents are from India; my dad came into the country on a scholarship, from such an early age and he built everything he has today from the ground up with the support of my mum.  

She was paramount to the empire that they built; I watched them both build a life from very little whilst remaining grounded and saving for a stable financial future.

They also taught me to learn every element of your business, learn to do everything yourself, do not be beholden to anyone.

Finally, I was also inspired by my ex-mother-in-law, who had been a stay-at-home spouse/parent all her life and then became a nursery nurse. Then in her later years, I taught her how to blog and from that she ended up writing a biography about her life and it was AMAZING to see her be so versatile, to transition from a stay-at-home spouse/parent to a recognised writer & published author, completely independent.  

I am so blessed to have two excellent strong female figures in my life as well as my dad, who taught me how to be determined and resilient.  

And a largely myself, through fuelling my passion and vision I taught myself I could achieve anything I put my mind to.

How do you manage self-doubt? Do you have any tips for someone dealing with self-doubt?

As a Woman: of colour, working predominately in a male-centric environment, dealing with insecurities (we all have them). None of these factors have limited me or led me to experience self-doubt.

I chose to not label / spotlight myself as the only woman in the room/building, I became the voice reminding myself, I'm here and I'm equal to my male peers. More importantly I built up resilience by not taking things personally in the workplace, and by not get affected by people's negative opinions (they haven't walked a day in my shoes).

Mindset is key. Imposter syndrome was unknown to me until a couple of years ago. At my speaking events (where I speak to young women in to encourage them to choose a career in stem) I often heard women speaking about suffering from it particularly within the tech space.

There are challenges we deal with in all walks of life both personally and professionally, we forget our own strength of how we HAVE what it takes to over-come them. We just need to remind ourselves of that each day.

CONFIDENCE

  • Take a Pause & Rejuvenate, prevents burnout
  • Self-love - I start my day reminding myself of the small wins, as well as the big ones, and this shapes me up to a fantastic day!
  • Always make a stand and never hold back from voicing your opinion

MINDSET

  • Assign every new life changing decision to a tune - You will build a playlist which will subconsciously pave your path to succeed.
  • Empower yourself

Finally, we are going to kick off DNI Book Blub. What book most influenced you (career or personal), that you would recommend ‘we’ read.

The Harvard Business Review, the emotional intelligence series is full of golden advice, that can be applied to all occupations, as well as the Influence and situation series.

Bobbi is the Founder & CEO of eTech Fusion Group & Bobbi | London with over 20 years of being a woman in tech and awards from the likes of the House of Lords and Theo Paphitis. You can connect with her at https://www.linkedin.com/in/bobbitrehanyoung/details/experience/

Related Articles

Increasing The Black Workforce % in Tech: A Practical Guide to Change

As recently as June 2020, it was quoted that black founders receive <1% venture capital...

Bode Bamkole
Feb 4, 2021

Diversity & Inclusion Within Accounting: Vincent Egunlae

Vincent is a One Young World ambassador, a Public Sector Consultant and the Co-Founder of The Open Private School discusses the lack of diversity within accounting and, more importantly, how to address it.

Bode Bamkole
Aug 2, 2021

How to Build Out a Recruitment Process For Your Startup

Recruiting well should be a priority for any leader, whether you choose to outsource it or do it yourself. If you do go with the latter though, you need the knowledge to do it properly...

Bode Bamkole
Dec 30, 2021