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Power of the Parent 6: S2 Ep6: Shwezin Win – Win At Life Coaching

Power of the Parent 6: S2 Ep6: Shwezin Win – Win At Life Coaching

In the final episode of series two, Charlotte is talking to Shwezin Win – founder of Win At Life coaching. She is a mum, a step-mum, a marketing expert and now a coach who works with parents, young adults and teens to curate a life where they feel able to thrive.

Shwezin shared her story of arriving in the UK at the impressionable age of seven, navigating the UK school system and the impact that has had on her in her later career. We explored some of the experiences parents are facing in the workplace and the importance of remembering that parenting is not one dimensional and linear in experience. Shwezin was the chair of the parents network in her previous employer so knows first hand the two worlds of being a parent and an employee can collide with a bang!

If you want to find out more about Shwezin’s work you can head over to her website or find her on LinkedIn.

Episode Transcript

Charlotte Speak 0:06
Hello and welcome to Power of the Parent, the podcast. I’m your host Charlotte Speak, I’m a level seven CMI accredited coach, a strength scope Master Practitioner, Mental Health First Aider and talent consultant and I’m also the face behind Power of the Parent. In this podcast, I’ll be speaking to parents in the workplace. Some of them are in traditionally employed roles, others are running their own businesses and we’re having conversations about life in general, insights about being a parent and having a career and exploring the strengths that parenting has awoken for people. We will talk about things like the value that they’re bringing to the workplace, as well as my guests very generously sharing their personal stories and anecdotes about everything life can throw at us.

Hello, and welcome back to the next episode of Power of the Parent, the Podcast. Today I am joined by Shwezin Win, who is the founder at Win at Life Coaching. Shwezin and I have recently been introduced to each other via a mutual friend and I’m so thrilled that she has come into my life, that sounds very dramatic, but we’ve had so many brilliant conversations so far and I would love to share a little bit of Shwezin with you all and get to know a little bit more about your background and your business. So Shwezin works with parents, young adults and teens, and help them to thrive rather than simply survive. Shwezin shares her own experiences of being a mum and stepmum and the impact that that has had on shaping her career, and those internal dialogues that we can sometimes have with ourselves. I absolutely love Shwezin’s approach and I think once you get to know and understand how she works, you’ll see why. So she talks about things like defining success, which I absolutely adore, and the importance of bringing clarity and putting a spotlight on your personal values. Whilst her background is in marketing and in a corporate energy based world, I am so excited to be able to share the next part of your journey. So thank you for joining me today.

Shwezin Win 2:09
Oh, thank you for having me Char, it’s really good to be here.

Charlotte Speak 2:12
Fab. So do you want to just tell us a bit about yourself? And kind of, where do we find you today?

Shwezin Win 2:19
Okay, absolutely. So I came to England when I was seven, from Burma. And I came with my immediate family, not having spoken very much English at all, so thrown into schools, and just had to get on with it really, that was kind of our background. And so you know, then I became a stepmum first before I became a mum, so that was a bit of a challenge going from being single to suddenly having children, you hadn’t gone through the whole evolution of being a parent at all. And then I had children of my own and I’m married to somebody who’s English. So in terms of family, we always have a bit of a generational gap between, you know, grandparents and parents. But I also have a bit of a challenge in terms of the cultural gap. So how I raised my family is probably very different to how my mum and my dad would have done it. So that’s kind of where I got to. And then in terms of my career, I was very adamant that I wanted to continue and have a career and, you know, be a parent and I can balance both. And I went through some really challenging times actually being a step parent’s quite tricky. You know, you’ve got somebody else, you’re part time parenting, and then you’re trying to create a family environment in your own home. So I had all those challenges. And I think when I was at my last corporate, I found that we were losing quite a lot of talented people and really skilled people through that whole parenting process. Because family life nowadays is not as simple as you know, two parents and you know, 2.2 kids, it’s so diverse in terms of the different make ups of families. And with that comes the different challenges and although we had the kind of, you know, processes and policies in place, there was still a real issue with parents finding their confidence, their self belief, and when coming back, what they could add, and what they could do with their careers that I really wanted to champion, the working parent within the organisation. So I became chair of the working parents network and that was really my passion. It was a voluntary role, but it was something that I really loved doing and I think throughout that process, I met so many different parents, understood their challenges and really wanted to just help to highlight to the business, the importance of supporting parents within the workplace, and how much they could actually do in order to support that and really keep some really highly talented people. So That’s kind of where I was, then I had the opportunity to retrain, so I retrained to be a coach and I wanted to continue with my passion, really, which was working parents. So I now help working parents from a coaching perspective, to really find themselves. Because I think as a parent, you can lose yourself in the whole process. And raising a family is so pressurised and challenging, you know, you’ve got the societal pressures, you’ve got your own, you know, network of pressures around you and I think we have that kind of wanting to be perfect wanting to be, you know, having perfect children and the perfect life. And I think that pressure in itself is quite hard from a mental and emotional state, you know, you find you’re trying to do everything, and you’re trying to do everything right and the constant ‘parent fail,’ which I hate the phrase, but the guilt, you know, and it’s really hard to help yourself overcome that. So I think for me, that wasn’t a real area that I wanted to, I suppose for me, I want to bring joy back into parenting and families, because I think we kind of lose it in terms of just doing the day to day, just living through the days. And it’s great to be able to work with some amazing parents who’ve really found that the coaching has helped them bring out really what they’re worth, and how they can actually thrive from a corporate perspective, and bring that confidence and that self belief back into their lives.

Charlotte Speak 6:33
Amazing. Yeah, what a story and so many things that I want to go ‘uh!’ And the one thing that I do just want to pull out is like a really clear message that I like to say to as many people as possible. And that’s to point out that you established this networking group, and you were the chair of it, not because your background was in HR, your background is marketing and that’s something that I feel incredibly passionate about that this isn’t an HR issue. And it’s also not a parent only issue, we can all be allies, regardless of what we’ve got going on at home and not that every parent needs an ally. And that’s it, like it’s a one way thing, we all need to support each other don’t we? But that is just something I wanted to pick up on there, because I think that’s a really important part of the puzzle that isn’t for one function to sort out. It is a collective discussion, isn’t it?

Shwezin Win 7:30
Yeah, absolutely. And actually, from the corporate perspective, having an executive who wasn’t actually around the parenting side was really refreshing. And it was very educational for them as well, in terms of understanding the challenges of working parents. So yeah, absolutely, you know, it could be anybody supporting because it is the team and the organisation as a whole that’s going to create that success. So yes, absolutely.

Charlotte Speak 7:58
If it’s okay with you, I want to just go back down memory lane for a second. And so you were seven when you came over from Burma. Seven is not that young, like it’s, my eldest is seven. So I’m thinking that, especially where, so you didn’t speak English at the time, you’ll have gone into the school system. How was that? Have you got many memories of that point? Or?

Shwezin Win 8:26
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, it was really hard, really, really hard. My first school that I went to, I absolutely hated because the person that- they were supposed to have somebody who would help me to go round, and they literally left me to it. So I felt really kind of overwhelmed by it all. And I was having extra English lessons and things and starting to get there in terms of my language skills. But personally, I’m very shy, I’m also very tiny. So you know, in terms of, you know, a person, I don’t have the gravitas that other people might do, so I had that issue. So I was probably, me and my brothers, were the only ones in our school in the 70’s, who were not English. So that didn’t help either so I did go through a really tough time with bullying. I found it really hard in terms of, I suppose my parents weren’t really that open in terms of talking about it and it wasn’t really a done thing in those days. And you just have to get on with it and I found that really hard. I also had the pressures of coming from a culture where education was the be all and end all so the pressures to excel at school, to get the best grades, to always constantly be working, doing the homework. So I do feel a little bit like I probably missed out on a bit of childhood when I was younger because the way that my culture would work was very different to how the English, you know, culture would work. So I wasn’t always going to playdates and parties and things like that, it was very different. And you do feel like you don’t belong and that sense of always being on the outside was very, very hard. And you just had to kind of help yourself, I suppose you had to just keep going from that instance. So it was hard for me and I’m so conscious of that, that I now try and make sure that I have much more open dialogue with my children, and that I don’t put that pressure on them because I think, as parents, we sometimes believe that our children are, you know, I suppose, a reflection of our parenting skills, and they really are their own individual people and I think it’s made me realise that much more, understanding the background that I had that actually I can’t control everything that they do, and they’re not going to be these perfect little children that we expect them to be.

Charlotte Speak 10:55
This might be a daft question, but because I can hear in your voice, how much that is obviously, [yeah] set you up through life but how much of an impact has that had on your career do you think? Those early years experiences?

Shwezin Win 11:10
Do you know, it’s really interesting that, I think, because I blocked out all those issues with bullying, I think in terms of the workplace, and the fact that, you know, I was different or anything like that, I think I blocked that out, I think I kind of felt like, ‘no, I do belong,’ and I kind of forced myself to believe that I wasn’t any different, that I wasn’t any, you know, I was still part of the British culture and I’m British through and through. And strangely enough, actually, in all organisations, I don’t think I ever felt like I was treated differently and actually, until I became a mum, and started doing flexible working, and then I did start to feel a real bias towards the way that I worked. You know, I felt like, you know, people were judging me in terms of, you know, you’re not ambitious anymore, because you’re flexible working, or, you know, they can’t do that, because they don’t do the hours that they want to do. So I felt actually that, you know, the way that I felt it was much more around my parenting than it was about, or being a working parent, than about me being a different culture or a different, you know, a different person to being British. I think that’s where I felt it more.

Charlotte Speak 12:26
So when, in that kind of workplace setting, because you are still relatively fresh out of that environment, what did you pick up? Like, what were some of the big challenges that people had coming through with that kind of, being a parent in the workplace, and, you know, trying to do the best by your kids, I think most of us try to do that. Yeah, all the cliches are cliches for a reason, aren’t they? [Yeah, absolutely.] I don’t ever want to kind of dismiss them because they’re overplayed or overused, because that is most people’s reality, isn’t it? So what were the kinds of things that you were picking up?

Shwezin Win 13:05
Yeah, I think the biggest thing was confidence and self belief in your career. So I think it was just around, you know, feeling that guilt about, I have to leave on time, or I have to go somewhere and I’m not totally present in that moment. But also around, I suppose, being able to sell yourself, and that you forget that the skills that you learn as a parent are so valuable in the workplace, and you forget that, because you’re constantly trying to prove yourself. And I think it’s that, you know, lack of belief that you are good enough that you lose, when you’ve been off on maternity or paternity leave, or long term career breaks. I think coming back is really hard but then maintaining that, and believing that you have the right to have the promotion, the right to have, you know, the flexible working, it’s about being proactive and being, you know, actually saying to yourself, you know, you do have that opportunity, go for it, but also giving yourself a bit of a break, you know, these things happen, you are going to make mistakes, and we learn from them, and it doesn’t, putting that pressure on yourself to say yes, but you have to be perfect, you know, because you have to. I think people believe they have to be twice as good as a working parent to prove themselves and that pressure is hard. And not to be able to show your vulnerable side because you’ll be classed as it’s because you’re a parent, or it’s because you have to leave early and just being really open and honest with your manager. I mean, I had some amazing people that I worked for, really supportive, but even then I felt I couldn’t say I needed to leave on time or I had to take my child because they were off sick, you know, and I have a husband who can’t help at all so I’m pretty much full time working parent in terms of I do all the children’s childcare so it is hard to put so much of that on yourself, and to put sometimes, a lot of people putting their careers on hold. They felt as though that something’s got to give and that’s what’s going to give. And actually, it doesn’t have to be that way, you can find that right balance that’s right for you. But then on the other hand, I think there was also pressure the other side as well, which is, people felt as though they had to build that career and they had to take that promotion, even if it wasn’t right for them, because they had to show willing, and all I would say is, you’ve got to find what is right for you, and don’t feel the pressure around you as well.

Charlotte Speak 15:44
Yeah, I’m a huge advocate for that and I actually bizarrely recently had somebody came on one of the strong returns workshops with a corporate client that I was working with. And she sent me a note afterwards and said, I was quite naive, I didn’t think I was gonna get anything out of the workshop basically, there was a compliment in there, but you know, I really did. And part of her story was that she had been applying for a different role to facilitate her return and she had said in the session, she had this nag about, I just don’t think it’s the right timing for me but you know, should I? Should I still be going for it? Because what’s it going to look like if I withdraw my application? And all of those things that you’ve just said there, but sometimes we feel like we’ve got to and we should because otherwise, if you’re not doing double time, are you really good anymore. And then it says, when she dropped me this note, she said, I’ve actually decided to withdraw my application. And she came to that conclusion, I think, in the workshop from what I can remember, but she had then actually gone and done it and because she said, it doesn’t feel right and it doesn’t feel right. timing wise, particularly, and the recruiting line manager had been brilliant with her and said, you know, totally understand, but please stay in touch, because I’d really, you know, would really like to see where your career goes kind of thing. And, you know, eventually, maybe one day she will go and work for that person but I completely agree and I don’t think that side of it does get talked about a lot. Sometimes we come from that deficit angle, I know that I do in a lot of my work, because that is the reality for most of us there is this crevice that we start to fall down and the challenges are there. But actually, it’s the positive side of it as well, where you are backed and, people will use phases with me, like, ‘I’m so lucky that’ and then you become overly grateful and you’re like, Oh, well, yeah, but they’ve given me the job I really wanted so therefore I should be accessible 24/7 or I should be working on the day that I’m meant to have with my child or whatever it might be. And that’s a whole dynamic in itself, isn’t it? The being overly grateful and then the behaviours that can sometimes kick in for us?

Shwezin Win 17:57
Yeah, absolutely. And I think you are absolutely right, because at the end of the day, I think, you know, that gratitude that you have, which is great, but actually, that’s what stops us from having that work life balance. I’ve seen so many people who are on flexible working, who are working outside of the hours, because they feel they should try and keep up and so many conversations I’ve had, and I’ve had some, you know, as part of the working parents network, great conversations with managers who’ve, you know, reorganised the job role, because you can’t necessarily do a full time job in reduced hours. If that’s what is needed, then it’s about redesigning the job specifically, it’s not about them, trying to keep up in the evenings and weekends and finding that, actually, the pressure and the stress of doing that job role is, you know, takes away the joy and the motivation that they had in the first place. And we saw a lot of that, actually.

Charlotte Speak 18:53
Yeah, I think it’s a topic that there are companies that are designing job roles around people and, and there are plenty that aren’t, but there are lots that are beginning to see the benefit of strengths based development and design and taking it beyond skills and looking at what brings the joy, what brings the energy for people, because actually, you get that bit right, and everything else follows I think. I don’t think it’s about saying we want perfection, which I think we’re both aligned on. So therefore, we acknowledge that there might be some parts of our jobs and our lives that don’t tick every box or light us up all the time. However, what we do want is more of the good stuff than not, I think, more of the good stuff than the drainers and if we can get that imbalance managed, that’s where the sweet spot is.

Shwezin Win 19:48
Yeah, absolutely. It’s the 80:20 rule really, it’s making sure that you know, as you say we all have to do things we don’t want to do but actually, especially with work and careers, you know, you have to enjoy it, you have to love what you’re doing, especially, you know, when you’re trying to manage your family as well, you know, there is that balance between your time. You know, you are putting your time into something else and bringing that joy back into whatever you’re doing and trying to find a way to do that, I think is absolutely key in making sure that people are continuing with a successful career. But you know, family life goes through ups and downs in terms of your time, your efforts, I now see that I have less and less of the doing, as in practical doing, with my children as they get older, and much more taxing now I think than anything else. But you know, so that time back for me is now something else that I can do with, so your career doesn’t have to be, you know, I go back to work and now I’ve got to go onto a, you know, a straight ride up to the top of the execs but it’s about, as you say, right timing, you know, when is the right time for me to do that? And how does that fit in with what I’m trying to achieve in terms of the values for the family? And how does that fit with what else you’re trying to achieve at the same time?

Charlotte Speak 21:09
Yeah, absolutely. And back to your one of your original points around, every family looks different, we’ve all got very different setups and the world is sometimes still kitted out for a very archaic way of a family looking, I think families have always looked different. We just haven’t ever appreciated that and probably haven’t had the stories shared of the different family setups, and the different experiences and the different things that people are coping with and dealing with on a day to day basis. Which I just think in lots of ways is a huge benefit of social media, because people are able to share their stories in a far more accessible way and shed a light on what it’s like to be a parent who might be living with a disability or if you’ve got a child that’s got some additional needs or absolutely anything, where you’ve got your setup of that blended family that brings a completely different dynamic, and all of those things that informs who you are as a person in the workplace. [Yeah.] And all of those intersectionalities are still not talked about to the extent that we probably need them to be, I don’t think, but I don’t know what the next phase is, I don’t know how we keep pushing forward, exactly. But we’ve all got a role to play in that, haven’t we?

Shwezin Win 22:33
Absolutely and I think a part of it is education as well, you know, an organisations understanding that parents are different, and that it’s not a one size fits all for everybody. You know, from my last organisation, we had somebody on our committee that had just adopted children who, you know, had special needs. We had same sex couples who had just adopted, you know, and it’s not the same as, you know, I just need to give flexible working, and I’m done. It is a lot more than that and I think it’s, the more we can understand the different types of diversity in the family make up, I think the more we can help parents in the workplace.

Charlotte Speak 23:11
Yeah, I really agree with that and I think one of the things that I’m really passionate about is not trying to do too much like off the shelf, ‘here’s one I made earlier’ workshops or webinars. There’s lots of commonalities in terms of the topics that we that we cover, often but we are nuanced humans and I think if you try and throw the same content at every group of people, whilst you might always have a baseline of things that, right I’m going to cover these topics, you’ve got to give enough space and thinking time, or further additional resources for people to go and kind of make it their own a little bit. And it’s why when, just back to social media, when people have these, do these five things, and you’ll have cracked it and you’ll be the best parent ever and you’ll be doing that blah, blah. I love a list and I love a top tip but I often think they need to come with a health warning that says this is from a perspective that we’re trying to incorporate as many people as possible. But also, don’t take my word for it, like take it and make it, see what you can do to make it meaningful for you because we’ve all had different experiences and we want to give a baseline but also you cannot project your experience onto somebody else because that leaves then and shuts down a really richness of a conversation about what somebody else has been through.

Shwezin Win 23:11
Yeah, absolutely. I think it is that kind of more about your self awareness and being understanding of how those tips relate to you and what might or might not work, and also not being so hard on yourself if it doesn’t work for you. And it’s not that you’re a bad parent or whatever it might be. And so, you know, some of the things that I’ve been doing with young adults and teens, it’s the same, it’s not one size fits all in terms of, you know, these are the tips of how to help your children through exam stress or transition into university, because it is about that individual person and that individual, you know, family unit as to how those different, I suppose, actions and activities could help them or tools can help them. But, absolutely right, you know, the more we can be open minded about how these things can help different groups of people, I think the better the organisation’s will be in the long run.

Charlotte Speak 24:43
Yeah, brilliant. I could talk to you all day. [Likewise.] I know that there’ll be lots of people listening that want to come and find out more about your work and what you do, so where’s the best place for us to come and find you?

Shwezin Win 25:57
Okay, so my website is winatlife.uk so you can find me there and there’s lots of information on there in terms of what I do and just drop me a line or I’m on LinkedIn so connect with me on LinkedIn. I do have Facebook as well, which is Win at Life Coaching. I don’t do so much on Twitter these days, but I think they’re the ones on Instagram. I think the other one that I’d go on.

Charlotte Speak 26:19
There’s a lot of shouting on Twitter. [I find that.] I keep thinking, oh maybe I should, because lots of people, and then I’m like, no, no, no, stick with your lane.

Shwezin Win 26:31
Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah.

Charlotte Speak 26:34
Thank you so much for joining me today. It has been a pleasure to chat and I know that this will be, your story and your experience will resonate with so many. So thank you so much.

Shwezin Win 26:45
Thank you for having me.

Charlotte Speak 26:46
Take care. Thanks very much for tuning in to Power of the Parent, the podcast. I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you did, please rate, review and subscribe. And if you could tell all your friends about the podcast that would be wonderful. If you’d like to get in touch you can find me on Instagram. Just search Power of the Parent. See you next time.

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