Lay Member of the London Recruitment Advisory Committee for the Lord Chancellors’ Department; Independent Panel Member, Ministry of Justice; Solicitor Representative on the Advisory Board, Halsbury’s Laws of England, Lexis Nexis; Board Trustee, StartUp Croydon
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Building a career you love in the boardroom
“I love governance,” admits Nicolina Andall. “If that makes me a sad person, so be it.” This is a key part of her driver for creating a career path which combines several board roles alongside her legal consultancy work. “I really enjoy positively contributing to organisations I believe in and can share my expertise with,” she explains.
Nicolina’s approach exudes positivity on a personal and professional level. “You’re there to support the executive to achieve what they need to achieve,” she says, reflecting that in the boardroom it’s important to be a ‘strategic adviser first, with the lawyer in the background’. Her approach as a lawyer is similarly constructive combining a deep knowledge of legal compliance with a ‘heavy dose of common sense’. “It’s about saying ‘yes’ and working out a way to make it happen, rather than just saying ‘no’ all the time,” which she considers is seen as a ‘typical lawyer’.
Nicolina first found her love of board work even before gaining her legal qualifications. “I was a paralegal and couldn’t get a training contract for love nor money,” she remembers. “You could play cards with the all the qualifications I had, but I realised I needed something ‘extra curricular’.” Her solution was to join the committee, then the board, of the Law Society’s Afro-Caribbean Lawyers Group and later the London Young Solicitors Group. “I had a fabulous time,” Nicolina says, “and I got the bug from that.”
It therefore seemed natural to Nicolina to get involved with her local Chamber of Commerce when she set up her own small business as a legal consultant. This move enabled her to have more flexibility around her family whilst continuing her legal work, but has also opened up scope for developing a successful non-executive career.
Nicolina’s involvement with the Chamber of Commerce quickly deepened, as she joined the committee, then the board where she was asked to become Chair.
“It was great getting to know the local businesses and giving them a voice as well as a forum. Amazing opportunities were opened up by that role,”
Nicolina reflects, talking passionately about several highlights including a visit to 10 Downing Street as a BAME Person of Influence.
Nicolina can trace her willingness to step into roles of influence to a conversation early in her career. She spoke to the only BAME female panellist after an event. “She basically said ‘they want diversity. You are needed. Go and find out how to get involved.’ That really changed things for me, as I realised I needed to find the confidence to put myself forward.” Nicolina shares this advice today, and particularly with minorities. “I would say you have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. All sectors are looking to increase their diversity, so being a woman or your ethnicity, if you’re a BAME candidate, will work for you at this time.”
However, no appointment is made on diversity alone. Nicolina has recently secured a public appointment as a Lay Member of the London Recruitment Advisory Committee for the Lord Chancellors’ Department. This builds on her experience as an independent panel member with the Ministry of Justice. The process was a rigorous as you would expect from central government, but having been on both sides of public appointments Nicolina was not phased.
“My CV is a really strong CV,” she says. “With guidance from Women on Boards, I gave it a totally different focus with totally different vocabulary for the non-executive arena.” She also rigorously employs the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) format to her answers evidencing her skills in both the application and interview.
“The interview was daunting with a panel of four,” Nicolina admits none-the-less, “but I knew I had good skills and was well prepared.”
Nicolina’s confidence in her skills comes, in part, from her approach to her own development. “Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself, you are your biggest asset and you have skills you can develop,” she counsels, as she shares how she has recently invested in a mentor and the FT NED post-graduate diploma.
Now Nicolina balances around three non-executive roles with her part-time legal work. It’s a combination that she clearly enjoys and keeps her enthused. “As the executive market place becomes even more competitive, board roles can keep us engaged, employable and employed for many years to come,” she considers.
Although Nicolina is aiming for a ‘phase of consolidation’ in her portfolio she is keen to gain a full board role at a major public body in future. “I’ve been at the final interview round for one before, so I know I’m good enough,” she explains. “I will try again definitely.” We look forward to seeing which public body is lucky enough to recruit her.
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