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In conversation with women leaders - Medina McKenzie

Oaklin is conducting a series of interviews with inspirational businesswomen, exploring their journey to date and providing advice for others aspiring to follow in their footsteps. The aim of this series is to highlight the successes and challenges of being a woman in business so that other women can learn from these experiences. As we continue this series, we will also explore topics that greatly impact working women including how to seize potential and understand strengths.

Medina McKenzie

Can you introduce yourself with a few words?

I am a partner, mother, daughter and professionally I am a Financial Adviser at Belvedere Wealth Management and enjoy using my expertise to create customised financial plans for clients that help them achieve their long-term goals. I collaborate with individuals and businesses alike, and work to remove the complexities and jargon to help my clients navigate financial processes with ease.

In my role as a speaker, I want to empower women to pursue their careers to achieve financial security. I have a personal passion for social welfare and provide advice on how to plan for Intergenerational Wealth.

Tell us about your journey so far and what led you to this role today.

I was raised by my mother who is of Jamaican heritage and grew up in a loving household whereby my mum fostered children in our home. As an only child, they became my siblings for whatever period of time they lived with us, and it taught me to care for others and gave me a deep understanding of the role of family in one’s development from an early age.

From an early age, I realised that I had a great ability to manage money, earning it, and understanding it well. That came from having a great village of people to learn from around me as well as mum's teachings.

After meeting my now long-term partner Linden as a teen we went on to have our only daughter at 22 years old. Having my small family ignited the fire within to be financially secure and to give my daughter the best. I studied to be a Quantity Surveyor, after being inspired watching property shows whilst on maternity leave.

I worked as an employed surveyor for a while receiving a good wage, company car and other benefits, but I wasn’t happy. In my time in this role, I was subjected to racism & sexism as one of few women and the only black female surveyor within the company. As a young mum I was advised to keep hold of this job however it didn’t satisfy the need I had always had to have my own business, I really wanted to be self-employed and in control of my own destiny.

It was in my mid-twenties that I had an opportunity to pursue my dream and purchased a run-down local café. Much to the dismay of many, I left behind my well-paying job for a risky entrepreneurial business.

A family run effort, the café was highly successful both socially and financially and we expanded the business to event catering. However, due to the demanding, physical and anxiety inducing nature of the job, doctors advised me not to continue to work at this level. After 10 years, we decided to sell the business, I continued doing business consultancy work and manage the other business endeavours I had in other areas.  

I realised that I wanted the next part of my journey to be in financial advice, the business experience acquired enhanced my desire to help others to better their own circumstances as I had done. Today I am a financial advisor who started her journey in the corporate space at a large wealth management firm and moved to the independent space to partner with a company called Belvedere Wealth Management. I help my clients to understand their money and work towards financial freedom. 

What has been your biggest achievement and your biggest lesson?

My biggest achievement is my family both immediate and extended. Creating a space where everybody feels like they belong and can return to when the world is hard, is more important to me than any financial achievement.

My biggest lesson is to not be afraid to follow your heart and make a change when change is due. For example, when I was in my surveying job, I had various benefits which most people would be happy with, but I decided to give it up to pursue my dreams, it made me a lot happier and helped me achieve my objectives as well as help others to come together. 

Who is/are your key role model(s) and source(s) of inspiration?

My Mum, Aunties, Sylvia (sister figure), and Godmother Joan (RIP). My mother is one of ten siblings, 5 of whom were her sisters. Over the last 4 years, we have sadly lost three of my Aunties, which was very difficult for our family, and we are still adjusting.  My role models are also my mothers’ friends many of whom were from the Windrush generation who came to the UK and excelled in their chosen paths. All have played varying roles in my life adding different aspects of emotional support and guidance. They are all phenomenal women who have always championed me and motivated me to be somebody, carry myself with grace and represent them in everything I do.

In your opinion, how can organisations drive meaningful diversity, equity, and inclusivity within the workplace?

There has to be a level of training and education (e.g. cultural sensitivity training) at the ground level, to ensure everybody is starting from the same playing field, and so that employees are able to educate themselves, ask questions, understand how to be culturally sensitive and aware of the bases that affect their interactions with their colleagues and ultimately foster a more inclusive environment. This also includes mentorship programmes for underrepresented employees to boost skillsets and boost equity. Also, it is important for organisations to continually assess progress in a structured way. After training, metrics should be created to identify what is going well and areas for improvement.

Secondly, an open forum for DE&I discussions must be set up, so that employees are able to express their thoughts and be heard. We all come from different levels of society, and we do not know what we do not know. As such, an environment where people can speak freely and have their questions answered and solutioned is important.

Lastly, and to enable the above, accountability and transparency must be in place, so that DE&I goals and progress is reported on a regular basis, holding the organisation to account.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black history month can be a time of reflection, empowerment and inspiration for me as a Black woman. 

It’s a time to celebrate and honour the rich history, achievements and contributions of Black people to society. It highlights the resilience and strength of our community but is also a reminder of the work that still needs to be done in the pursuit of equality and justice.

What advice would you give to women looking to take the next step into leadership?

I would advise women to:

  • Take the plunge, be resilient and be able to navigate setbacks to keep moving forward.
  • Remember that leadership is about influence and impact. There is no one-size-fits-all approach and so we must be prepared to tailor what we know to different situations.
  • Be confident and believe in our own abilities and values. We do not have to change ourselves to fit into a mould, being confident in ourselves as leaders is very powerful.
  • Continue to network, learn, develop skills, and build strong relationships with like-minded people and encounter mentors to learn from.
  • Always be humble. Humility can go a long way.