Five successful professionals tell Newman students how they made it

Students enjoyed speakers at the conference

Students enjoyed speakers at the conference - Credit: Juliette Fevre

Newman Catholic College students heard from a panel of five successful professionals on what it takes to succeed in a variety of careers. 

As part of their Annual Women’s Conference, the panellists from different horizons shared their inspirational stories and answered students’ questions. 

Last week’s event focused on ways to adapt to society despite differences and ‘how nonconformity can cause mental, physical, and emotional harm’. 

The first speaker, Tanvir Hasan is an architect who has worked on heritage sites all around the world.  

Last month, in Iraq, she helped restore a museum in Mosul that was bombed by ISIS. She is currently working on a regeneration scheme in Harlesden High Street.

Raised between Pakistan and Egypt, Tanvir has India-born parents, who were dislocated in 1947 when India and Pakistan split into two countries. 

Tanvir said: “Being a person of multiple ethnicities, connections and heritage makes you (…) a person who can communicate and bring much more colour to the world.”

Most Read

The second speaker, Joumana Mourad, links science to art to create performances including streaming, virtual, and augmented reality. The dancer, choreographer, and artistic director of IJAD Dance, said her childhood in war-torn Lebanon led to her interest in virtual reality. 

“Do you think time traveling is possible?” asked one student. “Do you think there are other forms of life in the universe?” asked another. “Yes!” replied Joumana. 

The three other videos address prejudice against Black women and men, and women wearing the hijab.

Three videos addressed prejudice against Black women and men, and women wearing the hijab. - Credit: Juliette Fevre

Mental health was the main topic of Tiffany Li’s story, whose family fled China during the Second World War. 

When Tiffany was introduced to primary school at the age of eight, she didn’t speak English and found herself isolated.

She tried to speak about depression to her family, but she came up against the Chinese culture’s idea of mental health. 

Older, she would have depression due to a work placement. She started noticing “a little spot around the ear area, that grew and grew” until it became a tumor.

Tiffany is now the CFO of US Charitable Trust that was created to combat youth unemployment in Brent. 

She said: “To make myself happy every single day, I help people.”

Lorna Hughes, head of strategy and partnerships at Brent Council, was the youngest of 11 children. She was raised in the 1960s in East London, which was “pretty rough,” as she put it. 

At 14, she left school, and at 21, had her first child. A few years later she was the mum of three children.  

She said: “We can’t choose our circumstance in this life, some people are lucky, some are not. What you can do, is work hard and know that life does throw different things at you, at different times, you can still be successful no matter where you come from, no matter what baggage you’re carrying”

Brunel Johnson was the last speaker on the panel. Grown up in Kilburn, Brunel chose mathematics first, and met photography by accident. 

It gave him what mathematics could not provide: a voice. Still, “there is math in photography,” as he puts it. 

Since then, he’s used this voice to document London life, in the streets, in buses, trains, in shopwindows... Real life is his favorite playground. 

Having worked for brands like Timberland or Adidas, he then used this voice to advocate for inclusivity and diversity.

Brunel said: “I make sure that no matter what it's going to cost me in terms of work, or positioning, to always include people and different diversities.”

Artist Bella Tran one day suggested him to start filming. His series “Can you see me now?” links photography, video, and poetry to immerse the audience in struggles and feelings induced by racial stigmatization. 

In front of the attentive students, Brunel played “Chink”, the first video of the series, addressing the experience of racial discrimination the Asian community is facing in England. 

It starts with the strong words of Bella Tran’s poem: ‘Do I hear chink – I started to hear my stomach sink.’

The three other videos address prejudice against Black women and men, and women wearing the hijab. Each film triggered strong reactions from the audience.

When asked by the students if he was still facing racism daily, Brunel replied: “Every single day.” 

Mrs Beirne-Francis, teacher at the Newman Catholic College, said: “It was a wonderful, inspirational gathering of not only women but men who have been positively influenced by the women in their lives."