“I've always been an entrepreneur at heart.”
What work were you doing previously?
I worked in banking as regulatory counsel for over five years.
I got to work closely with board members and executives, which included presenting to committees, preparing important regulatory update papers as well as the chance to train as chartered company secretary alongside being a solicitor.
What are you doing now?
Currently I own two businesses, both started during the pandemic.
I run my own regulated employment law firm, GNR Solicitors, and I set up a legal consultancy for tech start-ups providing commercial and intellectual property law advice.
I also run two podcast shows. My first podcast show was shortlisted for ‘moment of entrepreneurial inspiration’ at the International Women's Podcast Show this year. My second podcast show is called the Legal Wellbeing Podcast, where I interview different types of guests in the wellbeing world as well as providing my own take from a legal perspective.
In addition, I'm the AllBright Women In Law Ambassador hosting events for female executives.
And finally, I'm a board director for a social enterprise encouraging young people to consider leadership at an early age.
How did you feel in your work before you decided to make the change?
I enjoyed it very much, but I had a passion for wellbeing and culture in the workplace which I really wanted to explore further.
I didn't believe that banking itself needed fixing, I believe it was and still is the culture that needs fixing. As they say, the fish rots from the head, so it's essential to make sure you have board level and management buy-in when it comes to promoting a better workplace environment.
It is the same with other sectors too. Culture, and who's running the show, are vital.
Why did you change?
I've always been an entrepreneur at heart.
I trained at a small start-up law firm, was very good at sales and got on well with clients. I also loved learning new areas of the law quickly and hated over-complicating matters, which I'm afraid most lawyers love doing!
I love working with start-ups and most of the banks I worked for were start-ups or challenger banks.
I'm glad that ten years later I started my own law firm – it was a really proud moment!
When was the moment you decided to make the change?
I actually contemplated leaving the law 18 months previously, but my mum talked me out of it.
I wanted to give it one last chance – so I set up a legal consultancy, which did well considering we were (and still are) in a pandemic.
It continues to do well, which is fantastic.
How did you choose your new career?
I believe we should champion ourselves as much as possible and find a way to champion others too.
Employment law allows me to do this for employees looking to assert their employment rights, as well as businesses looking to be better, more compliant employers.
I also wanted to be able to represent both individuals and businesses in their tribunal matters, when matters get contentious. Having a regulated law firm allows me to achieve all this.
Are you happy with the change?
I get to run two businesses I love, I'm an ambassador for my profession, podcast host and board director.
I'm excited to see what else comes my way and would love to do more speaking engagements.
What do you miss?
I work from home now whereas I used to work in the City before, so the only thing I miss is the culinary variety on offer in town.
My lunches definitely lack excitement now!
How did you go about making the shift?
It wasn't difficult for me as I have an entrepreneurial spirit anyway.
I used freelancers to help me with marketing, graphic design, podcast editing and my website for the first business.
But for my second business, I launched and designed the website myself.
I still use freelancers for marketing and podcast editing today.
How did you develop (or transfer) the skills you needed for your new role?
I got good at branding!
I learned about social media, designing posts, and designing my own website. I also got very good at championing myself and using my voice on platforms such as LinkedIn.
I grew my network. Ultimately I put faith in myself.
What didn't go well? What wrong turns did you take?
In all honesty, it has all gone well.
I became fearless. I don't care what people think!
How did you handle your finances to make your shift possible?
I have used my own money and savings.
I have kept within my means. I don't believe in borrowing or seeking investment. Running a business does not have to be expensive.
I don't see the point in doing something you love, only to be clouded with debt.
What was the most difficult thing about changing?
Believing I could do this in the pandemic.
I was sceptical and it was tough in the first three months, but then it started moving and it was great.
What resources would you recommend to others?
Squarespace – this has been great for appointment scheduling, designing my own website and being able to update it myself without relying on anyone.
It drives traffic to both my sites and I'm really pleased with it.
Canva is great for quick post designing.
I'm currently getting to grips with TikTok!
What have you learnt in the process?
How to get really good at posting authentic posts on LinkedIn.
I've posted about my experiences of working in the City, my journey in law, my background as an Asian woman, and my journey from banking to the board room. I even post about my childhood experiences and my determined efforts to never let anyone tell me I wouldn't make it as a lawyer!
My following doubled in the space of a few months, so more people are finding out about me and my business.
I often get DMs about whether I have hired a copywriter – I haven't and never will. I believe that only you can share your own story.
What would you advise others to do in the same situation?
It's the most rewarding and enjoyable experience, and you'll learn so much from doing it. You'll grow your network without fail.
You will thrive!
To find out more about Gulnaz's work, visit www.gnrsolicitors.co.uk.
What lessons could you take from Gulnaz's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.