Mental Health & Diversity in the Work Place – My Journey
By Nicola Jane Smith, business development manager at nQueue
My name is Nicola Jane Smith and I would like to tell you about my journey from an LLB undergraduate to EMEA head of sales at an amazing legal tech company – nQueue. I will also be mentioning some of my struggles – it’s not been an easy journey and it’s certainly not all roses. I am the first person from my family to go to university. I’m female. I suffer with bipolar disorder (which is under control now) and have gone through some tough times. However, thankfully, due to organisations such as nQueue, I am working and excelling in my sales career.
I started out my legal career at Kingston University, straight from university. I then went on to study the Bar Professional Training Course and qualified as a barrister. While I was studying for my undergraduate law degree and the BPTC, I was working part-time as a promotional model, sometimes known as a “booth babe.” Now, there has been a lot of press around whether or not promotional models should be used at various events; however, I can personally say that without that experience I do not believe I would be as successful as I am in sales today. I interacted with so many different types of people from all different industries, and that experience was invaluable. I also did the occasional pub/nightclub and hostess work and found that my bubbly personality really worked in the world of sales. Whilst my dream was still to become a barrister, I felt that I needed alternative routes to help fund all of my educational debt!
I was never very interested in tech, unless it was Facebook or Instagram, but one man I met in my life, my partner at the time James, inspired me because he was an IT director for a big company in London. Unfortunately, James was killed in the London Bridge terror attacks, but he still inspires me to this day to immerse myself in technology. He had big computers and monitors set up in his house and worked day and night on different projects. His passion for technology and how it can help change the world for the good inspired me and made me curious about the field.
I started my new technology career at a wonderful company called Questback. During this time I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and I can say that Questback thoroughly supported me and I am very thankful to them for that. Being diagnosed as bipolar was strangely a relief. I finally understood why one month I would be on top of the world, achieving ridiculous amounts and multitasking everything (mania) followed by months when I felt worthless, bored, upset and suicidal (depression). I am now on the correct medication and can safely say that I am getting to know myself all over again – but that’s a whole separate journey!
I left Questback and decided to put my legal skills and my curiosity about technology to good use. I am now working at nQueue, a great legal tech company that sells scanning and routing solutions to help firms be more productive and profitable. I get to speak to Magic Circle firm members all the way down to small boutiques. And I thoroughly enjoy everything: from making the initial cold call, through to the first introductory meetings and the demo, down to proposal and negotiations and finally the big close! I get the same excitement knowing I am about to close a deal as I did when entering my BPTC exams, and that’s how I know I have made the right decision to be in legal tech. I still get to use all of the skills I learnt throughout my education – advocacy, persuasion and negotiation – and I am even publically speaking at the London Law Expo in October. The people I meet seem to all be very open-minded and supportive, and whilst tech still has challenges in the legal world, it still has the same family feel about the industry as legal does.
I encourage anyone – especially if you are young, female, first in your family to go to university, with a disability – to consider the world of legal technology. Everybody has their own journey, but it’s about how you use the resources around you to guide you to your right path. I never would have known about legal tech if it hadn’t been for James’ inspiration and LinkedIn recruiters pointing me in the right direction. I am thankful to so many people throughout my journey, especially nQueue, and I continue to be thankful for amazing organisations that support diversity and excellence in the workplace. I may have had my downs, but I feel that now the only way is up!