Real Model interview episode #24 featuring Atiya Altaf, New Business Manager at Paragon Banking Group Plc

Atiya Altaf
We recently had the pleasure of catching up with Atiya Altaf, New Business Manager at Paragon Banking Group Plc, to hear more about her role and career within Paragon and just some of the personal challenges she's faced as a woman from a Muslim Asian Background.
How long have at worked for Paragon Bank and what does your job role entail?

I’m Atiya Altaf and I have been at Paragon for 15 years and have been in my current role as New Business Manager for nearly 2 years managing 2 operational teams.

My role entails: Managing staff and developing personal growth opportunities; expanding the scope, growth and opportunities for the business; developing business strategies; create and maintain business relationships; create a positive and healthy work environment and incorporate business values; create business opportunities and; develop and implement policies and procedures.

How did it feel to be promoted and what does this mean to you personally?

Being promoted gives a sense of achievement and giving the feeling of being recognised for your skills and talents. Personally, it makes me feel proud to get to this position and able to make a difference to the workplace and to be able to lead by example. It is self-motivating to do better.

What personal challenges have you faced and how have Paragon Bank supported you?

Coming from a Muslim Asian Background, it was not very common to see women working or pursuing higher education. However, I was one of the fortunate ones that was able to pursue my education with the support of my family. I did face many challenges and hurdles along the way and the most common thing I used to face from my community was, “Why do you need to study further?  You are going to get married and become a housewife”. The warmth and security of my family’s love and most importantly my father’s support, in a male dominated society, gave me strength and the determination to be able to do something different with my life.

After graduating, I got myself a temporary job at Paragon but not long after, I got married, left work and became a housewife, which is not what I had planned to do. 8 months into my marriage I realised that this is not me, I started to feel depressed and felt the need to do pursue my career. I wanted to fulfil my ambitions and become a role model for other women in my situation. Everyone has to start somewhere and having worked at Paragon previously for a short while, I applied for a job with them as a litigation officer. I faced opposition from my in laws but with the support of my husband and my parents, I was successful in securing my first proper job. From there onwards, I never looked back and continued to develop my career in the finance industry.

After working as a litigation officer for 8 years, I still did not feel I had achieved the success I was looking for. I looked for new opportunities and joined the Motor Finance team as a Trainee Underwriter, which was something completely different and new to what I used to do. My role gave me the opportunity to demonstrate my skills and abilities in order for me to progress further in my career. I was promoted to a Team Leader 2 years later and then 2 years after that I became a New Business manager, responsible for 2 operational teams in a very challenging, fast paced and dynamic work environment.

Balancing a busy family and work life was not an easy ride and to get this far I had to face a lot of challenges and hurdles. But my self-determination, my will power, my patience, my positivity, together with the support of my family, my director, my manager and colleagues has made it possible. I hope to be an inspiration for many women that have faced a similar situation as me and are struggling to achieve their ambitions. This is just beginning of my journey and hope that one day I become a role model for thousands of Muslim Asian women and women across the globe that want to progress in the automotive industry.

Paragon have always supported me throughout my career and played a big part in helping me to achieve my ambitions and they continue to do so. They have always promoted an open and positive culture and have invested time to develop me. The support I have been able to get to achieve my goals has been incredible.

How important it is (for people in a similar position to yourself) to be appreciated and supported by their employer?

Being appreciated and supported by your employer plays an extremely important part in an employee’s growth and development as it increases self-esteem and self-worth which motivates an individual to work hard, achieve ambitions and makes them feel valued.

Where do you see yourself in 5 and 10 years' time?

Most women that want to succeed in their careers have a vision of where they see themselves in the future, what they want to be and what they want from life.

I am at the stage where I still have a lot more to learn and experience to reach the heights of success. Over the next 5 years, what is important to me is to continue to learn new things, get better at what I do and progress at a reasonable pace. However, in 10 years’ time I would like to see myself in a senior management/executive role.

Do you have any final messages for Paragon Bank?

Positive culture is really important to me and I am proud to be part of an organisation that encourages this at all levels. Paragon has always supported me and I would like to thank them for believing in me as well as giving me the opportunity to achieve my ambitions and to promote equality and diversity within the workplace

Finally, why would you encourage other people in a similar position as yourself to progress within the sector?

My message to everyone out there is: “If we can’t be happy in what we do, then we will never make others happy. Follow your dreams and nothing is impossible. There will be many obstacles on the way which we need to overcome but in the end it will be worth it”

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