Country Manager UK, Equality Check
Nazmus Tareque, BCL 2015-2016, Brasenose College
Serendipity played a big role on the road to Oxford! Dyslexic, international and working two part-time jobs & running multiple side hustles for supporting my law school tuition, the BCL was too distant of a dream for me in the early days of academia. Dreams and aspirations came in stages. An infatuation with Oxford almost transformed into an obsession by the end of my law school, and graduating at the top of my LLB class gave me the much-needed tailwind. The encouragement from academic supervisors and the kind references they penned helped me secure the BCL offer.
Why the BCL? Well, its reputation within the English professional legal scene is second to none. As a taught postgraduate course, it's been one of the major distinguishing features of Oxford's legal offering since the 16th century. The BCL's rich history and the potential opportunity to work with some of the living legends of English Law captivated me. During the LLB, reading Oxford academics Edwin Peel, Paul Davies & Sir Roy Goode's work genuinely influenced me to appreciate legal concepts in contract, company and commercial law. Infatuation with Oxford turned into an almost obsession after a fleeting visit to the law faculty for a moot competition.
What is your favourite memory of your time at Oxford?
"To us remains / A clean, sweet city lulled by ancient streams, / A place of visions and of loosening chains, /A refuge of the elect, a tower of dreams".
I'm not a wordsmith, so borrowing from C S Lewis seems like a good way to overcome the lack of penmanship in describing how many of my BCL, MLF & MJur colleagues and I feel about our time at Oxford.
The nostalgia! The joy of delving into great depth on contentious legal issues across various areas of law with fellow coursemates and professors in intimate tutorials and seminars! Alongside this cherished academic experience, memories that are dear to me include: end-of-week pints in The Varsity Club (TVC) rooftop overlooking the city; orchestra in the Sheldonian Theatre; and college-balls & bops. Remembering Linacre College's sexy-subfusc Bop always brings a smile. Similarly, little things like wearing colour-coded carnations for exams are somewhat peculiar yet favourite memories.
What was the most important lesson that you learnt during your time here?
Of the many lessons learnt, perhaps the most important one for me has been the realisation that I needed to focus equally on mental well-being as well as professional aspirations. As a library duelling creature, like most law nerds, I thought I was immune to extensive reading lists and intellectually demanding schedules. The BCL, however, was a variant of its own. Being dyslexic, while in Oxford I was very quickly introduced to the fantastic support systems that are available within both the faculty and in my college (Brasenose college), and I'm extremely grateful that help was readily accessible whenever needed. It helped me overcome some of the challenges of my neurodiversity and enhanced my self-belief extensively. I have realised first-hand the power of open communication about mental health. I have learnt to appreciate the fact that a momentary step back is never a setback if we learn from them. This has been quite the mantra I've often used in growth and scale-up planning. The lessons learnt from the BCL have been eye-opening experiences like no other. Empowered with an extensive network of friends and colleagues and a whole new personal exploration, I felt emboldened to let go of the training contract offers from some of the biggest law firms and venture into a career within the impact startup ecosystem. A decision I'm forever grateful for.
What is your current role? What is a regular day like?
As the Country Manager for the UK, I am leading the UK growth and scale-up efforts of the Norwegian impact startup Equality Check. We are on a mission to accelerate workplace equality on a global scale. To ensure equal opportunities for everyone, benefiting employers, employees and society, we have created a range of tech products that uncover discriminations, inspire change & showcase best practices.
No two days are the same in my role. Some days (analogous to BCL tutorials), we are engaged in highly specialised research and insights sprints with some of the world-leading EDI experts. Other times, I'm liaising with heads of people and management, D&I leads, trade unions, public sector bodies and corporate decision-makers within some of the largest employers in the UK. We are also rapidly expanding our UK operation and looking for talent, so doing a bit of team building in parallel. Life in startup leadership & management requires adapting to extreme changes.
My job of leading our impact-tech onto brand new markets mimics some of the challenges Equality Check's founders had to overcome during the inception of the business in Norway. As a disrupter within the diversity and inclusion space, we write the rule book for the ecosystem as we land and expand. Therefore, our operation demands us to be very, very creative. We constantly test and experiment with our approach to the market, unearth tons of new insights and go through a daily roller coaster of emotions & excitements. Through this process every day, I get to learn and grow with the Equality Check family. I am genuinely excited about what our tech & D&I insights are set to do for the UK workforce, responsible businesses, and the D&I communities working relentlessly across our great nation. The sense of mission & purpose in facilitation and enabling change on a global scale make my regular days superbly exciting and extremely rewarding!
Before joining Equality Check, you were Entrepreneur in Residence at Antler. Could you tell us a bit more about that role and what you learned during your time there?
I initiated my work with Antler as one of the entrepreneurs within the Antler's Stockholm cohort. My time with Antler was fantastic! It gave me a closer look into how future unicorns are hatched and incubated from raw ideas to investable business propositions. During and after the cohort, I worked with multiple teams creating stellar marketing operations. I also helped startups crafting and executing sales strategies. Through the process, I gained a great degree of exposure to the Nordic & the UK venture capital scenes, investors and the c-suite network. This also made me realise how much I care about the impact space and the kind of companies I want to build and work with.
What does leadership in business mean to you?
Leadership today is understood remarkably differently from our pre-pandemic notion on the topic. In the early days of my business career, like many others, I used to think leaders and managers are there to manage & evaluate the performances of the employees. Today, with the normalisation of remote working and the proliferation of tools offering automation & evaluation, good leadership requires fewer skills in knowing what employees are doing and a better understanding of how they feel.
Who has had the biggest influence on your professional development? Why?
I have always gravitated towards great mentors. After the BCL, I ran my own startups, doing consultations, and creating a UK community interest company. My initiation to business happened long ago, fresh out of law school back in 2013 when I co-founded a large manufacturing facility in south Asia with my undergraduate friend and colleague. However, given my interest in the law and tech scene at the time, I found myself drawn to an executive delivery position within The UK LawTech Delivery Panel. It works at the intersection of industry, government, experts, and the legal community, addressing law and tech ecosystem challenges. As I progressed through their talent acquisition process, I had an inspirational mentorship from the CEO of the LawTech Delivery Panel, whose kind and constructive feedback nudged me into exploring the VC LP route as a career path. Not long after, I found myself exploring the high growth startup scene, landing in Antler VC, and subsequently picking the UK Country Manager role as the most appropriate option. For me, the brief encounter and mentorship nudge has helped massively in my subsequent career decisions.
Which Oxford scholars, if any, currently live on your bookshelves?
There are quite a few Oxford scholars whose work lives on my bookshelves. Reading Edwin Peel, Paul Daviess & Sir Roy Goode's work I started genuinely enjoying reading Law, so I have their books. I've kept my copy of Adrian Briggs's Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments. I also have my BCL supervisor Louise Gullifer & Jennifer Payne's Corporate Finance Law: Principles and Policy. Finally, I also have my copy of the first edition of Jon Armour, Dan Awrey, Paul Davies, Luca Enriques, Jeffrey N. Gordon, Colin Mayer and Jennifer Payne's Principles of Financial Regulation. From time to time these do come in handy. Whenever I peruse them there is often an element of nostalgia. Reminiscence of a fantastic time!
Which charities do you support and why?
Soon I'll be running the Brighton marathon with Worldwide Cancer Research, a charity on a mission to end cancer by discovering new cures around the world. Losing close family to cancer, I can relate to their fight & cause. I also support charities working within the equality, diversity and inclusion space. I'm currently liaising for an organisational partnership with Stonewall. They work with many organisations nationally and globally to advance LGBTQ+ inclusion and support them with their LGBTQ+ staff and allies. One of my personal missions is developing strategic partnerships with great charities that are working relentlessly to accelerate the process of ensuring a more equal, diverse and inclusive work culture across the length and breadth of our great nation. With my team, I aspire to lend out tools and capabilities to amplify their D&I messages. I think we can catalyse change and build a more inclusive & equal future when we act together.
What careers advice would you give your past self?
On the way to meet my younger self, I'd probably wrap up three books for my younger self to use as self-help guides. I'd put Phil Knight's Shoe Dog, Marcus Aurelius's Meditations, and Mark Manson's The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. I'd tell my past self to keep following what I love doing and to avoid being distracted by external factors. I would tell my past self to have a lot more trust in my gut and to worry less.
Empowered with an extensive network of friends and colleagues and a whole new personal exploration, I felt emboldened to let go of the training contract offers from some of the biggest law firms and venture into a career within the impact startup ecosystem