Taking the unconventional route
March 13, 2020
March 13, 2020
Entrepreneur cake-maker, tech analyst, pharmacist, health policy writer, Francesca Fasesin’s recipe for success mixes all her experiences.
There is no obvious line connecting the dots between Francesca Fasesin’s various worlds. She trained as a pharmacist, works as a tech analyst by day, and in her spare time is building a luxury cake business.
The truth is, as Fran will tell you, life trajectories rarely travel in straight lines.
“I've always had to prove myself, or go the unconventional routes,” says Fran, who is a Technology Architecture Analyst at Accenture and co-founder of the Accenture Entrepreneurs Network. “I think that's what's made me sympathetic to people and their various stories and how they get to where they get to.”
Fran’s own story offers a cautionary tale for anyone at risk of overlooking the talent staring right at them as well as encouragement for those who might not succeed in their first ambition – a higher impact opportunity might be waiting for you.
Pharmacy seemed to offer Fran an opportunity for a frontline role in healthcare, mixing her hands-on nature and love of science with her desire to help people be healthy and happy.
After she finished her degree in pharmacy, she had to do a one-year training placement where she would learn the ins and outs of running a pharmacy.
“After this placement year, it would be expected that I would run a pharmacy by myself, which is a huge responsibility,” she recalls. “I'm liable if anything goes wrong when I'm dispensing medicines and (at the end of the year) I, personally, just didn't feel that my training had been up to scratch.”
That year would be one of the most challenging of her life as she fought for her right to be trained. Instead of teaching her how a dispensary worked and how to do patient consultations, her male supervisors at the independent pharmacy treated her as an “extra pair of hands” often keeping her at the front of the shop, selling toothpaste or shampoo.
“It was hard to push against that in a way that wasn't awkward and confrontational. We did have those awkward confrontations. Towards the end, it was better. I was heard. It took a long, long time for that to happen, past the point where I would feel confident that this is what I actually wanted to do for the rest of my life, or even the next three years.'”
Fran went back to school and studied to be a health policy researcher and within a year was writing wide-reaching policies.
“I wasn't just a pharmacist in a shop and just talking to those patients, now I was doing research that impacted the NHS and would be rolled out across the country. So, I felt like I was giving back more and at a level that was going to impact even more people.”
Policy writing was rewarding, but the public sector can be slow-moving, Fran found. She joined Accenture, working with life sciences clients because she saw it as a chance to be at the forefront of driving fast-moving innovation and change.
But before that transition, Fran started her own company, Pe’Lumi Bakes. Inspired by her heritage, pelumi is a Yoruba phrase which means 'with me.'
“The reason I chose it is because I want to bring people along on this journey as I explore cakes, for example, as a medium of my own expression and another way of creating excitement, curiosity and inspiring other people,” Fran says.
When Fran speaks about cakes, you hear the strands of her journey coming together.
“When you train to be a pharmacist, you become very perceptive of your patient's needs and wants and their expectations of their care,” she says. “If I translate that into cakes, yes, it's made me very aware of what my client could want. I anticipate that when I present my ideas.”
The decision to be the face of her own brand seemed unconventional and even a risk to some.
“Being black can feel controversial, even though it shouldn’t be,” Fran explains. This feeling is only heightened by the fact that Pe’Lumi Bakes is operating in a typically white, middle-class space. “Most of my competitors are white and a lot of their success comes down to the fact that they have made themselves the face of their brand. They are very present and visible on their social media channels. I’ve had to ask myself: ‘Should I be the face of my brand?’ I’ve even had friends and family, who are looking out for me, warn that people will see me and expect less. They said, ‘as soon as you put a black face to it, your brand will depreciate in value.’ But I didn’t take that advice. I’ve put my personality into my brand and made myself the face of Pe’Lumi Bakes.”
Fran’s now sharing what she learned from running her own business with her colleagues by setting up the Accenture Entrepreneurs Network. By sharing lessons and skills, she hopes the network can inspire Accenture colleagues to rise and become business owners.
She’s also using her platform in Accenture to watch out for rising talent, especially young colleagues from traditionally disenfranchised communities, to make sure they aren’t overlooked.
“When you first join a company like Accenture, it can be very daunting,” she says. “It's a huge company and trying to find your feet and find a role isn't an easy feat. It's something that we need to do collaboratively.”
FRANCESCA FASESIN’S ADVICE FOR PREVENTING TALENT FROM SLIPPING AWAY
Offer help, instead of just ‘Hellos’
Changing the way we speak to new team members can go a long way. Instead of the standard “How are you?” ask ‘What can I help you with?’ Just say: “I've got some time – maybe not now, but later on this week – when can we sit down and see what I can help you with?” It shows people that you're available, that you're listening and they're not alone. People find it hard to ask for help, so if you put it on the table that you're there to help, it opens up and extends the relationship.
Watch for silent cues
It's really important to listen to people and watch for their silent cues. It took me a long time to speak when I was training as a pharmacist because I didn't feel like I had the platform. I didn't feel like I would be heard. In future opportunities where I may be mentoring, I know it's important to understand the person that I'm mentoring. How do they communicate? Picking up on that, ask questions and don’t just assume everything is fine. My default line was, 'I'm fine,' but that wouldn't always be the case.
Tune into strengths (and weaknesses)
What tasks does a person perform well? Are there tasks they’re enthusiastic about, but maybe don’t perform well? If you can pick up on what people like to do and give them more of that, whilst challenging them to progress and grow then you're developing talent.
Spread positive experiences
Celebrate those around you and share the positive experiences that you’ve had with members of your team. Taking the opportunity to thank people for the work they're doing or telling others about the good work someone has done for you, is another way to build out this ecosystem of talented people.
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