In this week’s Meet & Greet interview, Clyde & Co’s Solicitor Kate Mikolajewski – also a myGwork member – shares her career journey in the legal profession and explains why she’s grateful that she can be out at work thanks to the firm’s inclusive culture. However, many LGBTQ+ professionals aren’t as lucky and end up having to pretend to be someone else “which can be detrimental to a person’s mental health”, highlights Kate, outlining how her employer promotes inclusion and welcomes LGBTQ+ staff.
Hi Kate, can you tell us a bit about your career journey to date?
I started my training contract with a national Manchester based firm back in 2006, straight out of university, after my LPC and Masters degree. My first seat was in the Catastrophic and Large Loss Injury team. I really enjoyed working for insurers on cases that involved significant, life changing injuries and was lucky to be offered the opportunity to do further seats with the team, qualifying with them in 2008. I am still working for the same team – with some of the same faces as well as many new ones – to date, having moved through two firms to end up at Clyde & Co. Although I still fee-earn, I am now the team’s operational manager; this involves managing, maintaining and growing relationships, on behalf of the team partners, with key business services to provide a consistent and coherent offering to existing and new clients and optimise efficiency.
What's the most challenging aspect of managing people right now?
Managing people remotely. For the most part it is getting easier, however, what remains hard is that you cannot observe people on a daily basis, and notice whether they are happy, or struggling, or stressed. It is easy for people to play down negative emotions when speaking to someone virtually, or simply not speak up at all.
What attributes do you look for in new recruits and why?
Enthusiasm, willingness to learn and someone who is not afraid to ask questions.
How important is LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace for you personally?
Work takes up a large proportion of life. To be in a position where you have to act, to be someone who you are not, is detrimental to someone’s mental health. For me, visibility of that inclusivity is very important. It is why I got involved in Pryde & Co, the firm's LGBTQ+ network. I was lucky that circumstances were such that I was made comfortable to be myself at work from the very start of my career. I realised that others don’t necessarily have the same opportunity. By being open about my own personal circumstances, and having Pryde & Co branded merchandise around the office, by creating a presence in the office, I hope we have achieved that.
What's your favourite inclusion campaign to date and why?
I love seeing everyone with their Pryde & Co lanyards.
How do you encourage staff to have a worklife balance, especially with the increase in remote/hybrid working?
Try to make the days work for you. I make sure that I am contactable during core office hours, but I often work early in the morning, when I am most productive, to get things done, and then “finish” earlier so I can pick the kids up from school and spend time with them. I also make sure I get out of the house for a walk every day, even in the rain.
What's the biggest highlight of your career to date and why?
A former colleague wrote about me in an article as a mentor in one of her early jobs; how I had achieved much in life that she wanted to, and that this gave her the confidence to be herself. She has gone on to achieve great things, and it is a highlight that I had been one of her inspirations.
What was the last book you read? Any interesting take-aways and would you recommend it to fellow leaders?
I picked a Good Time To Do This as it is a half decent book. I would also recommend The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor to everyone as it was really thought provoking. As a result of reading the book, I am trying to maintain regular mindfulness; and we discuss three things that have made us happy over the last 24 hours over dinner as a family everyday.
What was your last holiday destination and where do you plan to visit next?
Croyde in Devon. We have been every year since my eldest daughter was 18 months old. It’s a long drive from Manchester but once there, we can abandon the car and enjoy the South West Coastal path, the wonderful beach and the cafes/bars that are in the village on foot. We are currently planning next year’s trip!
What do you to unwind at the end of a hard day?
A mixture of things – going for a run or a walk; catching up with my parents or friends on the phone. Watching trashy TV with a glass of wine and some chocolate! I always end the day with a soak in the bath.
You can find out more about Kate and connect with her here.
Check out myGwork's other Meet & Greet interviews, including:
- Swapi CEO Pete Howroyd who talks about workplace equality and LGBTQ+ inclusion, and the importance of ensuring that every voice is heard.
- Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce’s Co-Founder Tammi Wallace who shares her career journey and ‘passion work’ for economic equality for the LGBTQ+ community.
- Criteo's SVP of Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Rachel Scheel on how and why she supports diversity and LGBTQ+ inclusion as an ally, as well as workplace wellbeing.
- Events Together’s CEO Meena Chander, on how some of her biggest supporters – many of whom are from the LGBTQ+ community – influenced her to set up her own business.