Experience: 5 years PQE
Specialism: Corporate law
Firm: Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP
Despite facing some serious challenges, I made it to where I want to be. I was taken out of school aged 11 and had no GCSEs or A levels. In the past, I worked as a mushroom picker, cleaner and clothes packer because I had no qualifications.
I didn't give up. I won a place at university when I was a 32-year-old single mother, gained a first class degree and went on to complete my training contract at a prestigious law firm.
I am the eldest of six children and was born and bred in Birmingham. I had no education as I didn't go to school after I was 11 years old. I had to follow a set pattern for my life that had already been fixed. I had an arranged marriage at 18 and my daughter was born two years later.
Having no education meant that my career options were limited. I worked as a mushroom picker, cleaner and packed clothes as none of these jobs required any qualifications.
After doing these manual jobs for a few years, I managed to get a job as a revenue assistant because I passed a numeracy test. It felt disheartening at times because I knew I had so much more to offer.
My life took some twists and turns and by the time I was 30, I was divorced and a single mother. I remember feeling angry and frustrated and started asking myself 'what do I want from my life?'
I realised I wanted an education. I wanted a degree. I wanted certificates to prove I wasn't stupid; that I was clever and that I could do something worthwhile with my life. I wanted to have a career and so I applied to do a degree in law at my local university in the West Midlands.
I didn't have A-levels or GCSEs because I had left school at such a young age. This meant I couldn't apply to university in the usual way and I had to have an interview with one of the lecturers, Dr Ewan Kirk.
During my interview I explained my situation and how much I wanted to pursue an education and professional career. Dr Kirk's response was that, while he would have loved to offer me a place, I didn't meet any of the criteria required to undertake a law degree. I knew this might be my only shot at getting where I wanted to go and so I laid out my situation.
'Ewan,' I said. 'Look at me - I'm a 32 year old single mother. I have no education. I want to be a lawyer - help me!' I promised him that I'd get a first and that I was willing to work as hard as it would take. After two hours of persuasion, he finally agreed that I could have a place on the course.
My first assignment was an essay. I remember thinking, 'what is an essay? How do I structure it? What is meant by an introduction and conclusion?' I had never done any kind of academic assignment before - let alone a legal essay! My starting point was absolutely zero, but I loved it from day one.
I worked extremely hard at university. I went to every lecture and seminar. My daughter was patient and my parents encouraged me. I got a first in my first year, a first in my second year and graduated with the highest first class degree in my university for that year.
Everything that came out of this leap of faith was positive. I became more self-confident and more focused. I finally felt free because I was in a position to do something rewarding with my life.
I was still living in Birmingham when I was offered a training contract in London. I asked my daughter whether I should go to London and whether it was the right thing to do. Her response was that if I didn't follow my dreams now, then I never would.
She encouraged me to go and supported me by letting me be who I needed to be. My parents looked after my daughter during this time and never once made me feel guilty for pursuing my career. My daughter is now a graduate herself and we are closer than ever.
Before I went to London, I typed 'girl in head scarf law firm London' into Google. I wanted to find out whether female lawyers at City firms wore headscarves.
I didn't want to lose my identity, I wanted to be proud of who I was and where I was from, while being in a corporate law firm. It was liberating walking into an international law firm, feeling confident that I could be who I wanted to be, in every way.