Gilbert tell his journey from underserved East London to Successful Entrepreneur
Gilbert Sabakaki joined the Arrival Network when he was 14 through our flagship 4-year programme Success For Life. He now runs his own company. In his article, he sets out some of the challenges of growing up in an underserved community.
The wrong role models
I grew up in Hackney, East London.
My early years were affected by the usual challenges that you face growing up in an inner-city London area like Hackney; the high crime rate, lack of opportunities and absence of positive role models.
When I was younger, my only goal was to get rich and move my family out of the neighbourhood and into a better situation. But in my community, even if you have ambition, it’s really hard to break out.
I began working Arrival Education with 2 of my closest school friends. They stopped coming and dropped out. Fast forward 10 years, one of them is just completing a near decade long jail sentence and the other was murdered in 2013.
Growing up, my friends and I saw cars and jewellery as signs of success. The people who seemed to get ahead, and who we saw as ‘successful’, were often involved in crime. As a young man, that creates a bit of a mental barrier. You feel that following in their footsteps is the only way to achieve success. But actually, we didn’t even know that other options were even available.
Changing my outlook
Which is why one of my proudest moments to date, was the change I made in my mindset when still at school.
I realised I could change my own future. I didn’t need to wait for circumstances or other people to change. I understood that I had a decision to make about the sort of future I wanted.
I understood too that only I alone could make THAT decision. So, I made it. In that process, doors started to open for me. I also discovered that there were alternative ways to achieve your goals and ambitions than a life of crime.
Because of this change, I have achieved a great deal. I am an entrepreneur now, running my own company. That wouldn’t have been possible without some sort of a change in my beliefs and outlook on life.
The support and access I needed
I started working with Arrival Education when I was 14. Arrival presented their ‘Success for Life’ programme at my secondary school, in Bow. On the programme, I was introduced to people who had achieved much more success through working in business and with far less risk, than anyone in my area. As soon as I realised there were alternative ways to achieve the success I wanted, I started changing my thinking and behaviour. I realised if you put yourself in the right position, with the right grades, with the right attitude, you can achieve as much as the next person.
When I originally started with Arrival, I began with 2 of my closest school friends. But they didn’t see the value of the programme. They didn’t give it a chance. They stopped coming and dropped out. Fast forward 10 years, one of them is just completing a near decade long jail sentence and the other was murdered in 2013.
I’m aware that had I not changed my outlook, I too would have probably had a very similar life journey.
The advantage of the middle-class
I have worked full time for a number of corporate style organisations since then. The most recent was at The Financial Reporting Council. I was the only person from my background in the main part of the business. But thanks to my prior experience with Arrival I found I could get along with my work colleagues there and I didn’t feel at a disadvantage. I felt more than capable of fulfilling the roles I had.
However, it was obvious how much of an advantage being middle-class and privileged is, compared to being from a low-income background. Whilst at the FRC, I came to realise that there is plenty of state educated, diverse talent that are far smarter, entrepreneurial and driven than those from private schools.
As soon as I realised there were alternative ways to achieve the success I wanted, I started changing my thinking and behaviour. I realised if you put yourself in the right position, with the right grades, with the right attitude, you can achieve as much as the next person.
I understand from my work experience and other interactions with businesses and senior executives that these ‘traditional’ organisations are genuinely trying to attract diverse talent.
However, people from my communities lack the knowledge, guidance, and the support required to successfully transition into the best companies and roles. I feel that if top companies genuinely want to attract interesting diverse talent, they must approach it in better ways than they currently are.
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