Finding help can be hard. Finding the right help from the right person, even harder. Add that to the busy schedule of a modern-day business person, and, like Julie Chakraverty, you’ll realise mentorship can be pretty difficult to access.
Chakraverty founded advice sharing app Rungway last year, with the aim of using technology to streamline the mentorship process. Her platform removes the need to meet in person in order to share or gain advice: “What I wanted to do was replicate that one-to-one cup of coffee, but online.”
This idea was not only the result of a passion for mentorship, however. Behind Chakraverty, a history of career and personal milestones provided her with confidence, leading her towards a “burning desire” to reinvent herself.
“It was really at UBS where I just had some fantastic career milestones. I led a portfolio product called CreditDelta, invented from Scratch. It took quite a few risks to do that. But that went on to win industry awards for innovation for years,” said Chakraverty.
She said this risk-taking really paid off, as the subsequent success of CreditDelta, followed by her non-exec director roles at Paternoster then Aberdeen Asset Management in 2011, made her the youngest female board member of a FTSE 100 company, aged 39.
But this milestone wasn’t enough, Chakraverty craved more. She said her desire for a career change followed the birth of her daughter in 2008.
After having her daughter, Chakraverty had a particularly short maternity leave. UBS was right at the forefront of the credit crisis, meaning she had to return to work after just a couple of months. Justifiably, she craved a better work/life balance.
For Chakraverty, becoming a mother followed a rollercoaster of multiple disappointments and heartbreak featuring IVF and miscarriage. She said coming through this period of personal turmoil gave her a completely new perspective.
“I had her, and I realised I just didn’t enjoy that role [at work] anymore. I wanted to completely reinvent myself, and it was only when I had her that I felt this burning desire to just reinvent. And I think reinvention is incredibly important.”
Chakraverty left UBS in 2008 and pursued a sort of career break, dedicating some time to enjoy being a mother whilst reviewing her career path. During the 18 months that followed, she used her network to seek out new mentors who would teach her just how to begin this process of reinvention.
Ready to begin the next chapter, she joined Paternoster in 2010 as a non-executive director. The firm was acquired a year later by Goldman Sachs for £260m. In the years that followed, she took on a number of non-exec director roles, some of which she still holds – Aberdeen Asset Management and Amlin, for example – but what she really wanted to do was set up her own venture.
The way she started to do this was by talking to people. Chakraverty sought out individuals, having lots of cups of coffee with lots of people in order to learn from them.
Chakraverty has always refused to allow her gender or age get in the way of her ambition.
“Just because you’re young, or just because you’re the first, or you look a little bit different or you sound different is absolutely no reason to be put back into a box, it’s actually the opposite,” she said.
But that’s not to say she’s had an easy ride. It was her experience of the difficulty finding the right help from the right people that inspired Chakraverty to create Rungway. The app allows users to ask questions publicly or anonymously, and an algorithm takes a look at the question and matches it to those with relevant experience, who can then provide an answer.
The app means that expert advice is available to everyone, regardless of age, circumstance or experience.
This universality is something that Chakraverty is passionate about, reflected in her own team at Rungway: “I must say, I’m super proud our team reflects London’s diversity, which is really important. We have nationalities from Hungary to Vietnam and both my mobile engineers, Android and iOS, are female.
“I think if you’re open minded, actually, great talent is diverse anyway. So when you bring those voices together, that’s where you create magic.”
Chakraverty’s ambitions don’t stop there. Having founded her own company and created a diverse team within it, she plans to take mentorship one step further by relocating the business.
The team at Rungway are currently working in rented offices in Camden, but plan to move to a coworking space in the near future. Specifically, a move to a coworking space in the Camden/Kings Cross area with Google and Deep Mind nearby is a particularly attractive prospect to Chakraverty.
“It’s just nice to brush shoulders, literally, with people who might be approaching a problem in a different way. Because, as entrepreneurs, a lot of us have the same issues, so I think that could be something that would be quite exciting,” she concluded.