A constant journey of self-discovery: Saira’s story


Life is unpredictable, but that’s what makes it so exciting. We learn, we fall, we adapt, we grow – it’s the process of discovery that shapes us into who we are. Each time we stumble, we pick ourselves up with a renewed understanding of what we’re truly capable of, and that can be a powerful motivator for change.

The onset of the pandemic was a difficult period for many of us. It brought with it disconnect, uncertainty, and a resounding sense of job insecurity that shook many of us to our core. For Saira Chaudry, the shock she felt after getting made redundant from her job at a leadership coaching consultancy was difficult, but it was also the catalyst she needed to make a drastic change – 

“I was faced with the choice of finding another job in the pandemic or setting out on my own. So I chose the latter.”

A constant journey of self-discovery: Saira’s story
© Afonso Rebelo Pereira / The Portfolio Collective 2021

Discovering her purpose

For nearly a decade, Saira worked in leadership consultancy, focusing primarily on business management and client relationships. But what she really loved was the personal interactions that came from working intimately with people looking for career and leadership advice.

“Being able to equip people to be more autonomous and teach people to help themselves – that’s what drove it.”

This desire to connect and mentor others stemmed from a personal trauma Saira experienced back in 2013 when her dad passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. Her father’s death left her feeling a bit lost. For a while, she felt like she was sinking, but once she realised she had the resources to cope and get through it, she learned how to swim again. From that, she discovered a passion for coaching and therapy; it was something she found joy in, and something she ultimately wanted her career to focus on.

How the pandemic changed Saira’s career path

When Saira was at her old firm, her time was split between coaching, business management and facilitation, and HR consultation. But what she really wanted to do was coach full-time. What the pandemic provided was the opportunity to embrace the aspects of her job she loved the most and shape her career path from that.

“I identified early on in my previous role that coaching was the element that I enjoyed the most. I had the idea for a few years that it would be great to set up on my own and build a business but probably felt too scared to do it and was probably holding myself back a little bit.”

By making the decision to embrace a portfolio career and run her own leadership coaching business, Saira faced her fears head-on and learned that it was entirely possible to steer her career in a new, exciting direction. Although each day brought new challenges and anxieties she needed to overcome, she came out the other side stronger and wiser than before, which is one of the key drives that kept her going.

The many lessons learned from launching a business

Now, Saira’s time focuses primarily on the part of her job she enjoys most – the coaching. She recognised early on that the path toward starting her own business wasn’t going to be easy, so she took part in our Catapult course to help set herself in the right direction.

“I found myself in a situation where I was setting up on my own business in the middle of a pandemic. What surprised me was how much that step into the unknown can completely unnerve you and throw you off balance.”

What the course provided her was the structure she needed and a support network to help her along the way. This involved a lot of self-reflection to understand the drive behind her business. Being able to speak to people who were in the same position not only quelled her nerves, but kept her focused and on-track.

“There’s just been a huge amount of help from people who’ve already done what I’ve done. It’s very practical to have that advice and guidance.”

A constant journey of self-discovery: Saira’s story
©Afonso Rebelo Pereira / The Portfolio Collective 2021

Through the process, she learned how to market herself and her business, which were things she never had to consider when she was part of a larger organisation. Now, she’s watching her business grow with each passing day and learning new things about herself along the way.

Looking forward to 2021 and beyond

For Saira, a portfolio career was the most logical step after redundancy because it’s ideal for anyone at crossroads or facing a period of professional transition.

“It opens the doors to thinking: I don’t have to do just one thing. I don’t have to work for one job or organisation, I can do multiple things based on the knowledge, skills and other assets that I have.”

Now, Saira’s determined not just to scale her business, but to create something that emulates the very values that she lives by: courage, kindness, and integrity. Since starting her portfolio career, she’s realised how important it is to ensure she honours those values in the way she runs her business and sees those same values reflected in the people that she chooses to work with.

Beyond that, she’s invested in growing her business and learning to stay focused and manage all the aspects of a business on her own.

Inspiring others to follow their own paths

Everyone’s portfolio career path is different. Some people have known for years what they want to do. Others are motivated by a sudden life change. No matter what drives you, it’s important to embrace the things you’re passionate about and trust that you are capable of being successful.

“Just do it. Just jump in. The Catapult course was so well timed for me because it provided a community and also a structure. It gave very practical advice and guidelines. For me, that was one of the things that helped me do it because I need structure in order to take that jump. If you’re scared, explore the possibilities. Explore what resources there are available to help you.”

Think this sounds like the right path for you? Come along to our monthly Get started event for new members to find out what a portfolio career could look like and how The Portfolio Collective can help you take those first steps towards professional success – and don’t forget to connect with our community!

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