Dennis is founder of Success Talks which provides conferences and workshops for young Black, Asian and minority ethnic professionals. Success Talks has 130,000 followers across all social media platforms. His dedication to promoting opportunities and developing skills has earned him a place on the top 100 Ethnic Minority Future Leaders list as well as in the Forbes top 25 list of Leading Black British people to follow. In this week’s interview we discuss how Success Talks started, it’s impact and what it seeks to achieve as well as what society can do to create a more level playing field.

How do you start your day?
I go for an early morning walk. Because I have both a day job and Success Talks, effective time management is key – it might be I have meetings with my day job and then I need to schedule Success Talks meetings during lunch breaks and evenings. The walk helps to clear my mind and identify the most important tasks of the day.

How did Success Talks come about?
It all started when a friend asked me “How many black role models can you think of who are not in music, sport or entertainment?” I knew they existed but not enough was done to highlight them within my circles. It started as an app but I wanted to have a more direct impact so started to organise conferences and workshops for young professionals in collaboration with companies and speakers from all over the world.

Success Talks aims to help professionals develop skills and give guidance on realising their ambitions.  How does it achieve this?Through conferences and talks, we focus on a range of topics such as building your personal brand, navigating the corporate ladder, understanding the importance of sponsorship in the workplace etc. The aim of this is to provide people with knowledge and give them the added insight of senior leaders who have “been there and got the t-shirt” so to speak. With the information provided people are able to apply it to their career but are also provided with role models and examples that it is possible to rise through the ranks in a corporate environment. 

We want to show those who interact with our events that you shouldn’t limit yourself just because you may not see many role models who look like you within your organisation. We provide insights on how to become more resilient and confident, and we foster their ability to see openings rather than closed doors.

With recent events and the prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement, we have seen #IAM and the removal of some statues but is this effective and what more can society do?  
Recent events have prompted conversations within the workplace, governments and communities. It has provided some people the confidence to speak about their experiences within work and also sharing thoughts on social media. Whilst it is positive that people are willing to have conversations we also need to take action and make sure that the message is getting through to the people who have the power to make change. This isn’t something that will happen overnight. We should be doing more to build the pipeline by encouraging students to aim higher. In the workplace more needs to be done in reviewing ethnicity statistics, levelling the playing field through promotion, training and sponsorship. This is where Success Talks tries to make a difference, by encouraging people from such backgrounds to aspire higher.

What do you find challenging about your role?
Arranging conferences and workshops whilst juggling my day job at an asset management firm can be challenging. It takes time to build relationships and there are also logistical challenges finding a time that suits everyone to discuss ideas. However, it is a cause I believe in so keep pushing forward.

What do you enjoy most?
I have always been fascinated by people’s stories. How they got to where they are through the challenges and adversities and how they pushed on through. I also enjoy seeing the positive impact that Success Talks has on the community. For instance, someone who had already attended one of our events not having a clue about what he wanted to become came to another one. He did this to thank me and the team as attending the event had really helped him identify what it is that he wanted to do and gave him the confidence to pursue a new direction.  

When was a challenging period in your life and how did you overcome it?
Not getting into my first choice university was frustrating at first because I had visions of studying in London but decided to go to Bath University. In hindsight, I believe this decision was actually the best option for me in terms of campus experience and work experience rather than staying in London. This taught me an important lesson. Although disappointment takes place you need to take it in your stride, adjust to new circumstances and try to make the most of them.

What advice would you give to someone who was going through a tough period?
Nothing is permanent, the tough period that you are going through will most likely pass, so try to look at your situation and say, O.K, this is a problem but how can I tackle it so as to make it the basis for future success. The challenges we face and overcome become reference points in our lives. We look back at them at a later date and draw from inspiration and encouragement to push on through any further challenges we may face.

A moment you are most proud of?
There are many moments I am proud of, no matter how big or small they are I am always grateful for they add up to what we become overtime. These include:

·       Being named President of the African-Caribbean society. It was unexpected and before university I never thought I would have been in a position to lead a society;

·       Working at Goldman Sachs;

·       Reaching the first million downloads of an educational app which I had co-founded;

·       Organising the first event for Success Talks and doing my first interview with Courtney Griffiths QC which I was so excited about; and

·       Our first virtual global conference that had over 1,500 registrations.

Name a book or podcast that has inspired you?
How to be a key person of influence by Daniel Priestly- This is a great book to help you focus on your core strengths are and find out your unique selling point.  Also, Principles by Ray Dalio – He is a successful hedge fund manager and the book breaks down his life into work and personal life so that you can get inspiration from how he went about achieving success.

Which song makes you feel good?
MHD- Afro Trap (La puissance)

What do you like to do for fun?
Watching football, playing football, chilling out with friends, travelling and learning new things.

What inspiring quote would you like to share?
We are only here for a finite amount of time so don’t take yourself too seriously, you can only do the best you can. Aspire for great things but don’t forget to be grateful for what you already have.

 

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