Letter to My Younger Self: Nat Kilsby, Securities Division

28 OCT 2019

Nat Kilsby is the head of Operations Engineering in EMEA and leads Post Execution Securities Engineering globally. Here they share five pieces of advice they wish they had received earlier in their career. 

Dear Nat,

You don’t know this yet, but your weekends will become dedicated to your three children – aged 12, 9 and 6 – this means doing anything that interests them and acting like a kid yourself! But, when time permits, you’ll also enjoy motor racing and spending time with friends, entertaining friends with magic and travel.

During the week, you’ll focus on getting things done at work, and music will be a huge help. The Pet Shop Boys will be a favourite when you need to focus and get something done, and Always on My Mind – well, always a classic. If you need to detach and channel energy, then Metallica will be your go-to choice.

Along your professional path, you will seize very different kinds of opportunities. Whether it’s working for a start-up that won’t pan out as planned, learning to manage and harness the skills of large teams, or marketing the commercial aspect of proprietary platforms -- each step will bring with it its own unique set of challenges. In one instance, within a week of announcing a commercial venture at a buy side firm, you will present a plan to 400 investors and senior leadership. You won’t have all the answers, but you will find that conveying your vision with conviction is what truly matters.

Powering through times like that will bring you a strong sense of achievement. A key theme in your work will be your ability to be comfortable with ambiguity, and recognising that driving tangible change requires moments of insecurity.

Over the next few decades, you’ll also learn the importance of being kind to yourself – the feelings you have as a young boy and in your teens about wanting to wake up a girl, but not understanding why, will take a back seat for many years. But when these feelings wake up again, you’ll be in a different place with lots of support around you, society will be more accepting, and you’ll recognize that everything has a time and a place. And you will realize your gender identity is complex, and well, what makes you you! Coming out won’t be scary anymore.

Here’s some advice to help you along the way:

  1. Feelings just are. Tell yourself this often. They are not right, or wrong, they just are. So learn from them, exist with them and experience things to see how they change. Life is like a dark room sometimes, you must feel your way around looking for the light – sometimes things feel nice and fluffy, sometimes they are sharp and prick your finger – but feeling your way around it is the only way to find the door to yourself.
  2. Always dream big. Getting half way to achieving a big dream is achieving more than sticking to a status quo, so try something new and don’t be scared to fail – fail fast and learn.
  3. Privilege is something you don’t appreciate if you already have it. There can be subtle imbalances that impact the cultivation of ideas both in and out of the workplace. When we talk about diversity and inclusion, it’s about equality and ensuring there is no bias towards any one type of perspective. The more we encourage diverse thought, the more opportunity we have to embrace new and potentially disruptive ideas.
  4. Invest in “self-care.” Focusing on oneself not only builds confidence, it’s also critical to understanding one’s triggers and why we behave the way we do in certain situations. Practicing mindfulness – being aware of your thoughts and feelings in the moment – can be particularly helpful.
  5. Tell yourself you are twice as good as you think you are. That is probably close to reality. Strong self-belief is key to building a career. And remember to balance and blend different skills. It’s the key to getting the best out of any organisation or project.

Finally always be positive – there is nothing more powerful and infectious than relentless positivity even when things seem hard.