If you’re waiting to get that one guaranteed job, Amrit Lotay says don’t. She has championed through 25 different job roles, a divorce, being the only woman at a job, partnering with the wrong people, and starting from scratch. She is not afraid to enter a new journey and suggests you do the same. According to Amrit, the determination for the next opportunity is important and her current roles as chief digital product officer for a HealthTech startup in London as well as, a proxy chief product owner for a fintech startup in the Middle East attest to that.
“Trusting the journey has been a lucky decision for me. It has consistently led me in the right direction. As I continue on my journey, I am excited to see where next it takes me.”
As the founder of the Startups Hub, where did the dedication to help startups stem from?
In recent years, after starting a fashion tech company, a health tech firm, and a fintech company (along with a few unsuccessful ventures along the way) and working in several sectors, many friends and colleagues asked for my guidance with new ideas they have. Whenever someone needed my assistance or help, I was always happy to pitch in. This is the motivation behind my commitment to helping startups.
I started speaking weekly at a startup clubhouse room and assisting startups with product and MVP related challenges. I realised there are a large number of people out there who have no idea where to start, how to avoid costly mistakes, or how to quickly get their product out to market. People sent me messages during or after the call asking for further advice and assistance, which led to the idea for The Startups Hub. Our startup is still in its infancy, currently guiding 10 companies in the UK and abroad. We are providing startups with free advice and connecting them to experts within the business ecosystem like legal representatives, accounting firms, mobile application developers, tech services, digital marketing experts, and more. We have worked with these people directly, which means we can guarantee their expertise.
You’ve had over 25 different roles since the beginning of your career, how did these experiences help you build your career?
Though not everything went as planned, I have been lucky enough to fail quickly and move onwards. The first challenge I faced was getting over the fact that I was rejected from my first job application to a well-known supermarket at the age of 17. It didn’t make sense to me. I thought every student started there and worked their way up. After six months, a college friend encouraged me to apply for a position at a renowned department store. I had already convinced myself they would reject me as well. However, to my surprise, I was offered the position rather than my friend who told me to apply with her! A bittersweet experience.
At such an early stage, it’s hard to know what field you’re going to pursue at university and how to shape your career, for me it was a total mystery! I graduated from a London university with an economics degree, but I was unsure of my career path. Despite working for the local council in admin roles, teaching English and Mathematics at a private school, as well as accounting, I never felt fulfilled. My journey into IT began when I took an expensive IT course with the promise of a job upon completion, all the while believing that I was going for an interview. That moment changed everything for me. Instead of waiting for a guaranteed job, I found my first IT job at Western Union. I rose from the bottom of the organisation to the top during my 8-year tenure and then decided to take voluntary redundancy. My next step was to join a few other companies as an IT manager before moving into IT contracting.
My experiences have allowed me to work for a variety of organisations across different industries in both the public and private sectors. Over time, I realised I love to be challenged and enjoy a wide variety of projects. The idea of retiring from one company did not appeal to me, instead, I wanted to start my own business. Trusting the journey has been a lucky decision for me. It has consistently led me in the right direction. As I continue on my journey, I am excited to see where next it takes me.
Since you are a Chief Digital Product Officer in London and a Chief Product owner for another business in the Middle East, what advice would you give to our readers who are juggling multiple roles?
Maintaining everything daily is the biggest challenge. You can feel overwhelmed. If you are going to juggle multiple roles, I would advise you to seek out a common theme that ties them all together or skills that apply to them all. Find a blueprint that can be easily adapted to any industry, company, business or sector by making only a few tweaks.
One reason I feel this works for me is that I take on roles where I have a good level of expertise, but ample challenges to keep me interested. A common thread throughout them all is Product and Technology. There isn’t much difference between my roles, and I know that I can handle them without having to learn an entirely new area. By acquiring skills across multiple industries, I now have greater flexibility. My responsibilities extend beyond holding multiple positions; I also run multiple businesses. However, I’m always up for a challenge. I have always pushed myself to go further and achieve more but there are also days when I don’t want to get out of bed.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? How do you recharge after a day’s work?
Besides working, I practice martial arts several times a week in my spare time. Being a weapons art, it keeps me on my toes and sharpens my mind. It helps me stay focused and keep my concentration! Also, I spend quality time with my family. As someone who loves to travel it is back on my agenda this year. Taking time off is essential. I am also focusing more on my health this year. Having good health is essential to be able to run my businesses successfully and assist aspiring entrepreneurs on their journeys.
What battles did you face that helped shape you?
Despite how fulfilling my career has been, it has not been without challenges. It hasn’t been all smooth sailing. Early in my career, being rejected from a supermarket nearly set the tone for the rest of my journey. It was also the beginning of hundreds of other rejections. My dad was the only earner in our household and I desperately wanted to share the burden. I am glad I never gave up and kept trying as now I can help my family financially.
Getting into my IT career cost me thousands of pounds, so I was determined to find a job instead of waiting for the guaranteed job at the end of the course. My goal was to pay off the course. It wasn’t easy, but it was unbelievably satisfying to pay off the debt.
The tech world is dominated by men, so I was the only woman in almost all of the teams I worked in. To stand out, I had to work hard. My initial experience in these roles was that when I answered the phone of the tech department, people thought they had reached the wrong department. This was because I was a woman. My goal was to remain positive in the face of these prejudices.
Another obstacle I faced was having to close my fashion boutique when I went through a divorce. I had spent all of my life savings to buy my house, and now I was going to lose half of it in an instant!
Who could have imagined at this time I would meet my mentor (now a business partner) and begin working on exciting projects, which also meant I was able to get a mortgage on my own and keep my house. However, this left me having to start all over again! My only certainty was that, once again, I could build my empire.
Co-founding a startup presents its challenges. As a result of partnering with the wrong co-founders, I recently resigned from the company I founded with them. I made this decision despite my belief in the cause and the impact it would have on people across the globe, however, I recognised that the toxic environment I was in was making my energy levels drop because we were all on different wavelengths. After I resigned, I felt much better about myself, and I am now focusing my energy on co-founding a fintech startup in the Middle East.
What are the top three books you have read that you believe have inspired you?
The following are some of the books I have read: Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, Millionaire Success Habits by Dean Graziosi, and Start with Why by Simon Sinek. I would recommend these to all.
In addition to books, I consider experiences, opportunities, my network, and my mentors to be my sources of inspiration. Despite the many books available to me, the knowledge will be almost useless unless I apply it or take the first step. I have recently started listening to podcasts and currently listening to ‘The Diary of a CEO’ by Steven Barlett.
In my career, at work, and in my industry, I enjoy taking courses that help me grow. These courses have allowed me to meet new people and expand my professional network. As a firm believer in taking action and not just talking about it, I encourage you to do so as well.