“I was born in London in the sixties. My parents were Punjabi immigrants who left India for the UK, hoping for a better life and better days ahead. Having seen the partition in India, they were consumed by the struggle for economic survival, hence the move to London in the 1950s, where economic and financial stability were assured,” says a very elegant Sunita Sehmi.
The Indo-British identity
“I recall that my parents wanted us to ‘fit in’, but really, they wanted us to be Indian, specifically Hindu. I lived my childhood always looking in from the outside – a spectator on both sides… never fully participating for fear of losing my identity and feeling like I never truly belonged. Like most mass immigration stories, there was a stream of anxiety on both sides. For me, there was a constant desire to be an insider, knowing that I did not fully fit in.”
She continues, “I felt tangled knowing that I ‘ought to’ have the same apprehension and worries about the ‘whites’ as my parents had, but the fact was that I did not. Very early on, I noticed that everyone was talking about difference, despite our similarities. We were all worried about being accepted, loved, about our health, education and our family.”
Marriage and the move to Geneva
As she entered her 20s, Sunita met her husband – also of Indian origin, but born in Africa and brought up in Geneva. “Due to a family tragedy, I moved to Geneva. I did not feel emotionally connected to my host country. I constantly looked back at my old life in the country I grew up in. But, I wanted to make Switzerland my home and I wanted to feel part of the local society. So, I embraced the culture and I did my best to integrate fast. I learned French and, with time, I figured out my own way in life; we really only get one chance, so I live life to its fullest,” she smiles.
Turning coach and entrepreneur
Sunita is passionate about coaching and consulting. She says, “I have always loved supporting people. Coaching was a very natural career choice. It was like following my personal destiny.” She set up ‘Walk The Talk’, her coaching business, with the intention of ensuring that people feel fully heard and seen.
‘Walk The Talk’ is an executive coaching, facilitation and consultancy service. “Its aim is to help people get out of their own way in order to help them obtain a winning mindset,” says Sunita, adding: “Winning can mean different things to different people. So my role is to be a supporter and a guide. I work with clients such as Facebook on topics like diversity management, effective collaboration, inclusion, leadership & EQ. I serve both private and government organisations, executive institutions, locally, globally and remotely.”
But what really lead her to start up her own company? Says Sunita, “My intent was to set up a business where you see people grow, develop, get unstuck and then you witness that magic! There are multiple companies in the field; but, I set up ‘Walk The Talk’ with my experience as my unique selling point (USP). I have worked in many diverse contexts and countries and so I have been on multiple numbers of personal journeys. I, too, have been stuck. Afraid. And this deep empathy that I have plenty of, I believe, is what people seek.”
Associating with the Richard Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women as a mentor
Other than being an entrepreneur, Sunita is also associated with the Richard Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship. In addition, she is a mentor at the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. “I have had many wonderful role models. They all had two things in common: a positive mindset, and life-long curiosity. I got involved in both these organisations, (pro bono), because of my deep belief that we all need mentors and supporters who really want the best for us. Someone who gives us advice, pushes us, and gives us hard feedback if needed. Someone who is successful and wants others to be successful, too. We all have to give. Success doesn’t come easy, but no one manages to make their dreams work without a combination of hard work and support. So as you reach for your goals and benefit from the opportunities others give you, “don’t forget to pass the good sentiment along and help those coming up behind you.” A message that’s worth noting!
And now to the most-asked question about creating that balance in life. Sunita answers, “It’s about knowing yourself, what you want what you can handle and what you don’t want in your life. My boundaries may be different to yours, but what works for you may not work for me. So listen to that inner voice it always tells you the truth.”
Her message to our readers
“Don’t stop yourself from doing something just because of the fear of failure. Think about it – even if you fail, you will learn from it. You will always get something out it, and failure does not mean the end of the world. The new experiences and knowledge that you gain will lead you to something better, something that you’re meant to be doing anyway. If something doesn’t work out, there is a reason for it. Find the reason and go with your intuition.”
She concludes, “In today’s world, it’s easy to think that we women have to be super-women. The media declares that you are a ‘whole woman’ when you are: an outstanding housewife, have an amazing career, a great partner; and three weeks after giving birth, you are back to size 34. This is unrealistic and often leads to disappointment.
My whole life ethic is based on the Maya Angelou quote, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This is something that I respect and remember every day. Thus, the biggest success for me is if providing a space for people where they feel secure and empowered, and this, in turn, has a ripple effect.”
Find out more about Sunita Sehmi on http://www.walkthetalk.ch
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