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Meet the man at no.1 on the FT's EMpower Future Leader list

PROUD: Stephen Marshall, number one on the Financial Times EMpower Future Leaders 2017 list

PROFESSIONAL SERVICES giant Sodexo joined their Head of Digital Communications Stephen Marshall in celebrating his recent achievement - being number one on the Financial Times EMpower Future Leaders list.

Marshall, of Trinidadian heritage, cites his mother's Caribbean work ethic as the main driver for his success, which includes pioneering several career development and projects which offer individuals support as well as promoting diversity within Sodexo.

Q: How did you feel when you heard that you were number one on the list?

A: I was really quite stunned to be nominated so it was brilliant!

I had The Voice growing-up in my home so I was a bit star-struck when Paulette (managing director for The Voice) came over to congratulate me!

When I received the email nomination I thought that everybody on the list was being considered as number one, so I didn't realise that they meant that I had received the number one nomination! I was really honoured, really humbled - there are so many people that are doing amazing work in their communities to push the diversity agenda and to develop the younger generations. I feel humbled that I've been singled out.

Q: Why do you think you were picked>

A: I work very hard and I've always sort of had a strong work ethic coming from a Caribbean background. My mum worked really hard, I come from a single parent family and I've always sort of thought I have to work harder to prove myself. My mum worked in the nursing profession, on a council estate in Ealing, went back into education and changed careers, which was a really hard thing to do - just before my teens, always been quote drive but seeing somebody work that hard to change their life.

We talked about the need to work hard, to not expect things to be handed out to you, if you want something you have to work hard to get it, she instilled that in me. In the Caribbean education was very important.

Q: How did you mum react to the announcement?

A: I struggled to show her - there's a video on Facebook of me receiving the award so she was struggling to see my acceptance speech, but she's really proud and I think she's always been proud of me.

ACHIEVER: Stephen Marshall

Tell us more about what do you do at Sodexo

A: Within my role i oversee all the digital and social media platforms for Sodexo so it can range from campaigns we're doing to promote the organisation right through to dealing with more difficult issues like with the public, things that have printed in the media, getting content out on our intra and internet...

I developed platforms to improve the engagement of our employees, developed an innovative platform for front line employees not in the office - a mobile platform, which has been really successful. They're now more engaged.

I'm involved in a global project to launch something similar globally, so there are regular meetings with places like Australia and Brazil, which are at opposite ends of the clock!

I do a lot of diversity and inclusion work - I've been co-chair, since September 2016, of our BAME network, trying to help create inclusivity. I've done campaigns to show profiles of staff members with different backgrounds.

I also launched the network for young people and ran that for two years.

Q: What are your top tips for any other future leaders who are watching your progress?

A: 1. Apply yourself, focus, work hard, challenge any perceptions by working hard.

2. You have to be able to be flexible, adapt and work well with lots of people - a good team player within the workplace.

3. Being professional, but also passionate about what you do, even if it's outside of your day job.

If you speak to anyone on this EMpower list, they are passionate about what they do and that passion drives you to succeed in what you're doing, drives you to do it well. Don't be half-hearted, get involved - that's what people recognise in you and people will give you opportunities for development and progression.

I didn't set out to be a role model but by virtue of getting this sort of recognition I have become one and now I'm proud to be a role model. A couple of women that came up to me on the evening and it was really moving - they said 'I'm gonna go home and tell my three year-old son or 12 year-old son about you, we don't see enough black men receiving these sort of accolades' - it wasn't what I set out to be, but if I can help ppl do something similar then that's great.

The very fact that we have to have lists like this shows that we still have a way to go - there's not enough people from minority ethnic backgrounds in real senior positions - this goes some way towards changing perceptions.

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