This is Benaee Haedar Hama Amin.
She is a 28 year old devout Muslim immigrant here in the UK from the semi-autonomous country of Kurdistan.
As a qualified healthcare professional in her home country, she wanted to pursue her dream of working in retail pharma here in the UK. She applied for countless jobs with leading multiple pharmacy chains repeatedly but got turned down, no doubt due to her race, weak command of English, and perceived status as a Muslim Kurdish refugee. It made no difference at all that she even offered to work for free to prove her worth.
I know this for a fact because at the time of her seeking employment, there was a serious shortage of qualified healthcare workers.
But unperturbed, she was determined to follow her dream. She put herself through English classes, paid for her own healthcare training, whilst sleeping in a one bedroom leaky damp flat in one of the most deprived suburbs in England.
She finally managed to find unpaid work in a pharmacy chain where she diligently understudied one of the best pharmacists in the city whilst surviving on the meagre benefits allowance from the UK government.
By then, I was working as a pharmacist consultant, charged with turning round a failing retail branch of a medium sized multiple chain in the centre of the city which had just failed an inspection and had been put on special measures.
Benaee was recommended to me by this pharmacist.
I decided to interview her to join the team. She spoke almost no English, and even though she was clearly qualified, she lacked confidence and had little experience in working in the UK and its unique National Health Service. These shortcomings seemed even more pronounced in a city which was over 98% white.
I nearly turned her down, but I had to brutally confront my own thinking. Was I turning her down because she was not qualified? Or were there other subconscious issues at play in my decision?
After self reflection, I heeded my gut and hired her. Her story was not dissimilar to mine two decades earlier in London. Not to do so would have been the biggest mistake I would ever have made.
It was tough in the beginning. Substantial adjustments had to be made so she could transition seamlessly into the team, but her supervisor, Frances, supported my decision and took her under her wing like her own daughter.
Just 12 months later, the transformation was nothing short of staggering.
By January 2022, Benaee and Frances had delivered over 10,000 COVID vaccinations, 10,000 PCR and antigen tests for COVID travellers and countless other health services.
Her kindness, demeanour, hard work, passion and love for people spoke volumes about her faith, her values and her passion.
She has now become an integral, well loved part of a team that has transformed that pharmacy into a beacon of health and hope in the community, and changed the perception of tens of thousands about immigrants, Muslims and refugees. People travelled for hours, and sometimes hundreds of miles just to have their vaccines, tests, prescriptions and healthcare services from this location.
And the experience changed my perception of the true power of diversity not just for the good of mankind, but for the financial health of any company.
Now, this main healthcare team is one of the most diverse and happiest I have ever worked with in my two decades of being an entrepreneur, pharmacy consultant and mentor.
We have all began to learn to speak Kurdish, enjoy Shifta, a Kurdish staple and join Benaee in celebrating her recent engagement - and embrace the vibrant Kurdish minority in our city.
But this diversity extends beyond Benaee. It's a closely-knit team of just over 10 people, but also incredibly diverse. Not just faith, religion or sex, but also age, sexual orientation and race.
And the financial rewards in the business, even during the hard times of COVID have been nothing short of spectacular.
In my first article for the Brainz Magazine, which will be published at end of this month and ahead of the launch of my first book, Pay The Price, I write on eight simple ways on how CEOs, entrepreneurs and leaders can harness the power of diversity to positively transform every aspect of their company.
Not just diversity as a tick box exercise, but true diversity where every single member of the team feels authentically valued, respected and allowed to express their uniqueness.
For it is only when every member brings their authentic self to the party, that the business can truly flourish.
So, watch out for the article in Brainz, and I would love to hear your comments, stories and tips below.