In Conversation With Beki Muinde 💬

1. Provide a short introduction to yourself and your career

I’m Beki. I was born and raised in the north of Scotland but have spent the last 25 years or so living down South. I studied Law at Oxford, and was then a corporate lawyer in London for 7 very happy years. After a career break, I decided I wanted to take a job which would let me spend more time in Africa and focus on economic development on the continent so I became Deputy General Counsel at Helios Towers plc. I’ve now been with Helios for nearly 6 years and in that time we have listed on the London Stock Exchange, more than doubled in size and I’ve had the great privilege of doing several interesting roles after Deputy GC – first joining the executive team as Director of Business Development and Regulatory Affairs and now establishing and growing our Public and Government affairs function.

2. What are the skills you think that are most needed in the workplace today?
  • A ‘can do’, positive attitude that looks for solutions and is willing to just keep going, ideally with a smile on your face.
  • Great communication skills.
  • An ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes – empathy and high emotional intelligence can be sorely undervalued and I think they really matter, even as our lives are more and more screen-based.
3. Do you have a female role model that has inspired you in your career?

I’ve been fortunate to know and work with many brilliant women but my first role model was Betty Boothroyd. I watched her on TV when I was little and thought she was a total rock star. A professional dancer, then MP, then first female Speaker of the House of Commons: I was hugely inspired by her ‘no nonsense’ style, her confidence, her sense of fun and the manner with which she corralled the elected chamber. Watching her, I always felt that she was an example of someone who brought their whole self to work and I’m a big advocate for that kind of authenticity.

4. In your opinion, what is the best way of inspiring inclusion in the workplace?

Prioritising it from the top and demonstrating that it is a focus everywhere, from the board down. At Helios, we’ve just finished a great series of mentoring circles where the wonderful women on our board have been mentoring more junior female staff. The testimonials about the way this has increased confidence, made women focus on themselves and their own career and helped them to not feel alone are just brilliant. I think it is also important to create a culture where people feel able to be honest about where an organisation is falling short and where that sort of honesty is met with thankfulness, a desire to understand, and wherever possible, action in response. It is very powerful when organisations go beyond saying they want to hear about peoples’ experiences to truly listening, holding space for that honesty, then seeing it as an opportunity for growth.

5. How do you think the skills that are taught by Debate Mate enable inclusivity?

Where do I start! When I was a Debate Mate mentor, I saw the kids I was teaching grow in confidence, become more articulate, develop persuasion skills and build amazing verbal reasoning abilities. Having all of these weapons within one’s arsenal can have a big impact on ability to succeed in school or in work – be that at a law firm or at KFC – the skills are totally transferable. Beyond that, particularly in light of the sort of topics debated, I believe those who’ve learned through Debate Mate can leverage those skills to be agents of change and create an environment where others (even those who have not been through the Debate Mate programme) are included.

I’ve seen first hand the way Debate Mate has helped girls be more confident and feel included. I will never forget a little girl in Nepal telling me that she didn’t think she should take part in a debate because she would be disagreeing with one of the boys and that wasn’t really what she was supposed to do. By the end of the session, she was the stand-out star of the debate, popping up for Points of Information and (when they weren’t accepted) loudly explaining why her male classmates were wrong!