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How did you 'Get In'... Ruth Ekong Director, Commercial Strategy and Operations.

1. What inspired you to pursue your current career path, and how did you get started in this field?

From the age of 13, I wanted to be a lawyer; initially I wanted to be a barrister in order to advocate for people in need in court, however as I go older I realised the barriers to progression, whilst challenging for solicitors were even more challenging for barristers, and so I opted to work towards qualifying as a solicitor. I am currently a qualified solicitor, working as a Director in the Commercial Policy division at Fitch Solutions.

2. Can you describe your educational background and how it prepared you for your current role?

I studied law at university and then did a postgraduate diploma - the LPC to prepare me to qualify as a solicitor. I recently passed the SQE2 exams and so I am now a fully qualified solicitor.

3. What skills or experiences did you have prior to starting your current job, and how have they helped you in your career?

I have worked in various paralegal and commercial negotiation roles, I also ran my own non-profit business for 5 years and this has helped me to develop my engagement with different types of clients and confidence in doing so. It has also helped me become more adaptable to different working styles and environments, which now is a huge benefit in my current role as a Director, in dealing with multiple global clients and large accounts on a daily basis.

4. What challenges did you face when starting your career, and how did you overcome them?

In the initial stages of my career, a challenge I faced multiple times was being passed over for training contracts by law firms, being asked specific questions by legal employers about my background that pertained to my demographic, despite having good grades, languages, an undergraduate and postgraduate degree. In order to overcome this, I started looking for legal opportunities in non-legal organisations and commercial firms, where they were more open to candidates of diverse backgrounds, which helped me to develop my legal experience to a greater level than may have been possible in an actual law firm, so I am ultimately grateful for the challenge.

5. How have you grown and developed in your career, and what do you see as your biggest accomplishments so far?

My biggest accomplishment to date is having been able to create a global employee resource group (network) for people of colour, at my current company - Fitch EMBRACE Network, which allowed employees, like myself to have more visibility within the business, raise awareness of the issues they were faced and have greater access to opportunities for career development and acceleration. I am also grateful to be part of a capital venture company as a Venture Scout, which has allowed me to advise and consult with minority start up owners and assist them in growing their companies.

6. Have you had any mentors or role models who have influenced your career choices? If so, can you describe how they have helped you?

Yes, I have been fortunate enough to have multiple mentors and coaches over recent years, who have been pivotal in advising me on my career journey and decision making as I rise up the ranks in the corporate space and face different challenges. They have greatly assisted me, in being sources of knowledge, wisdom and experience which has provided me with healthy guidance for various scenarios.

7. What advice would you give to someone who is interested in pursuing a career in your field?

My advice would be to make sure it is actually the career they want, and that they are not pursuing it for prestige, to impress others or how the job "looks", because law is a challenging field which requires tenacity and a strong work ethic at all times. I would advise that they try and get as much practical experience as possible as a student, so they have lived experience of what the law field is like and can then determine if its something they want to pursue long term.

8. What do you think are the most important qualities for someone to succeed in your industry, and how have you developed these qualities in yourself?

The skills I would say are most important for someone to succeed in my industry are integrity, tenacity, good work ethic, attention to detail, well organised, good time keeping, good interpersonal skills and great confidence. Yes, I believe I have developed these skills in myself.

9. How have you adapted to changes and advancements in your industry, and what do you see as the future of your field?

As with every other industry, the world of law is changing fast. In order to adapt, you have to keep learning (i.e. be a lifelong student), be observant of social changes and inquire about topics you are unfamiliar with. I cannot speak specifically to the future of my field, but I believe you always need lawyers, in order to help those who don't know their rights or what they have access to, but also to continue to provide objectivity to legal decision making and rulings.

10. What do you enjoy most about your career, and what do you find most challenging?

What I enjoy most about my career (specifically my current role) is the autonomy I have to manage my own caseload, the diversity of global clients and flexibility I have to engage with them. This keeps me growing and learning, but also allows me to have a good work-life balance, which is extremely important to me. What I find challenging is sometimes still seeing the lack of diverse representation at the top of the company, which I am hopeful will change one day soon.

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