Heeral Gudka is a coach working with individuals and businesses internationally, facilitating improvements in engagement and mindset. Coaching clients come to Heeral for an integrated approach which brings about lasting change.
15 years of insurance industry experience working in London and Bermuda stand her in good stead to work with corporate professionals. Heeral has also created more diverse coaching packages for relocation companies and clients from other backgrounds. Recently this has included a luxury travel writer, an actress and a mental health professional.
She has built strong relationships with recruitment firms where she provides coaching services to their candidates, at all levels of seniority.
Talk me through your background – what got you into coaching initially?
Before I became a coach I spent 14 to15 years working in the City as an actuary, so making the change was a complete career 180! Even though I could do the work, actuarial work didn’t inspire or motivate me in the same way it did my friends and colleagues. I looked at all sorts of other careers, but nothing moved me.
Then I went on a management training course and one of the modules we studied taught us some very basic coaching skills which I started using on the team members I was managing. The change in them was amazing and immediate. The different perspective that coaching gave them helped them to approach their work and interact with their colleagues in a different way.
I found that fascinating and I looked into getting more training in coaching skills. I found a coaching school, signed up and I only needed a few hours on the first training weekend to know that I’d found what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to become a coach so that I could add it to my skill set as an actuary - I just wanted to coach people.
Tell me about the kind of organisations you have previously worked for?
During my time in the City, I worked for PwC, Hiscox and QBE. And in the middle of that, I squeezed in a year working in Bermuda for Enstar.
As a coach, I have worked for insurance companies in London and Bermuda. I have coached their people and run workshops. I have also worked for law firms, banks, IT firms, consultancies and accountants too.
My most exciting client right now is an interior design firm.
What are your career highlights?
Getting my first coaching and workshop clients in Bermuda in 2015 was huge for me. I never started out as a coach thinking I’d be working internationally!
But the biggest highlight is always hearing back from my coaching clients. Last week I got a WhatsApp from a client in Bermuda thanking me for the support she has felt from working with me over the last two years. That is the kind of thing that stays with me, and it’s a totally different feeling from how I felt when I was recognised for a good piece of work as an actuary.
What advice would you give to your teenage self?
Spend less time caring what other people think about your decisions, get out there, take risks and make mistakes.
Look after your mental and physical health – that really is the most important thing from which everything else can grow.
And go visit Germany as often as you can
(I LOVE Cologne and will be there again in May!)
Who are your role models?
To be honest, I don’t really identify in that way. There are people I admire, but we’re all beautifully flawed and so to invest in one or two individuals and define yourself based on what we think we know about them seems crazy to me.
I read a blog recently where the author said that when she got dressed every morning she asked herself ‘What would Kanye West think?’ Apart from the fact that personally, I can’t think of a more random fashion standard to set for myself, I think that’s the point at which having a role model becomes a pretty limiting experience!
I think that like everyone, I have a set of values that I aspire to and so I admire those traits in other people. Very occasionally you meet people who do one thing brilliantly and so you mentally file that away as a development goal and try to do more of that each day.
But you can learn as much from what some people do badly as you can from what other people do well, so everyone has a lesson to give!
Talk us through ‘a day in the life’ of Heeral Gudka?
My day usually starts at 7.30am or 8 am – whether I’m coaching, writing blogs or proposals, this all gets done before 2 pm. After that, I can’t focus as hard, so I use the afternoons for informal meetings or going to the gym.
And then depending on the day I might coach some more in the evenings. Particularly if I have clients I’m working with in Bermuda or the States.
Most of the time I work from home, but workshops and networking get me out of the house and, unless I’m in a huge rush, I like to walk everywhere. I’m always competing with my brother to see who gets the most steps every week. I’m on a winning streak because he has a desk-job and doesn’t get out during the day as much as I do.
If I’m not going out I try to be asleep by 10.30pm. I love my sleep and I’m reading a book at the moment called Why We Sleep, which is only making me want to kip more!
What are your interests outside of work?
My inner nerd insists I read – so there are always a lot of books that I have on the go.
I love going to the gym, but you will NEVER catch me running. I’ve recently recovered from a back injury, so I am able to enjoy weight training again. One of my friends is a power-lifter, and she is helping me become strong.
And aside from that I love going to gigs, drinking martinis and getting kitted out in fancy dress.
What professional achievements are you most proud of?
Being self-employed is fun, but it’s really hard work. And I read last year that most small businesses fold within 3 years.
So I celebrate and am grateful for every new client, and I am proud that I am now officially a statistical outlier (that’s the actuary in me!) because I passed the three-year mark on 1st October 2017.