It’s not every day that you meet a young lady who is so inspiring – yet so humble and grounded that you are left full of hope and joy after meeting her.
The first time I heard Jamala Osman was when she spoke at TEDx London at the start of July 2018. In her talk she spoke of a difficult childhood, growing up in Ilford, the sudden death of her Mum when she was just 12, and being thrown out of the family home by her Dad.
Jamala crossed paths with gang culture and violence, and as you would guess, had issues at school too. Yet despite all of this, she chose a different path and a very different life. One that led her to become one of the youngest bank managers in the UK. More recently she has given up her very successful career to help young people just like her rebuild their lives – so that they too can contribute to society through their own success.
Jamala is a truly special person, and one I feel blessed to have met. You can hear her wonderful story now in her very own words.
“We tried to make the best out of our situation. Obviously with a lack of information, a lack of role models, with a lack of direction – so a lot of bad things happened at the time. But the way I look at it, the mindset that we had was the right mindset, just the wrong tools and resources. ”
Jamala wouldn’t say she mixed with the “wrong” crowd, even though she acknowledges most people wouldn’t approve of their behavior. But those people were there for her when she was in need, and gave her a community, something to live for. She won’t defend what they did, but she does acknowledge they all had no money, opportunities, and were just trying to get along however they could. You might find it unsurprising that Jamala had problems with school. Got kicked out, rebelled, and was disrupted.
The thing that changed Jamala’s life was when she was 15 and had two weeks off for work experience – and she had nothing lined up. She thought she was getting a vacation, but a teacher overheard her and came to her door in the morning and took Jamala around to schools with her to help in their athletic programs. It opened her eyes to her own worth and value, that she was able to add something to the world.
Jamala transitioned into apprenticeships, and before she knew it, she landed a cashier position at a central branch in London at the age of 18 – completely feeling like a fish out of water for the first 9 months. It was a huge deal, and she felt as though she had to suppress herself in order to fit in and get in line. But after working at a number of branches she found that she couldn’t keep her real self at bay, and ended up working on a project that became very successful. Her leadership qualities were noticed and she ended up as an Assistant Bank Manager – at the age of 20 – where her customers were CEOs.
Jamala’s management style came from doing the opposite of bad managers she experienced, and having a solid understanding of how she herself wanted to be managed. If someone needed to take a lunch, she would cover a cashier. If an ATM needed to be refilled, she’d do it. No job was too big or too small for her to do and her team took note, as well as her bosses. She became a performance coach where she could help other branches, running courses and workshops, helping spread her style of management.
While Jamala had climbed the corporate ladder to an incredible positon at such a young age, she saw that there was still a lack of opportunity where she came from. Her drive to help give others just like her the same opportunities led her to work with Super Network, which is all about accelerating people. For young people, the program gets them prepared to enter the paid work force and helps foster young talent in established organizations. Super Network doesn’t look at what you need to fulfill a task, but rather your purpose and destiny.
This journey led Jamala down a path and in turn to speaking in front of thousands of people at a TEDx flagship event in London – a goal she didn’t think she would come close to achieving for, perhaps, decades. Having been there for her speech, I can attest to Jamala’s heart in sharing her story, as well as the opportunity and fortune that she shares with others.