From lawyer to tech entrepreneur

With our focus on transitions this issue, we interviewed four different professionals to share their real life experiences, as they transitioned from their successful Corporate roles.

We interview Rashida Abdulai, Founder & CEO of Strand Sahara on her transition from senior lawyer to entrepreneur running an online legal platform.

Rashida Abdulai- Transitions

1. Can you describe the career transition you have recently made?

After almost a decade of working in the corporate world, I recently transitioned from being a senior lawyer in a global law firm to an entrepreneur. I now run Strand Sahara, an online legal platform for Africa-focused start-ups and SMEs.

2.  What was your strategy to accelerate your transition?

Leaving my position as a senior lawyer at a great firm and with good promotion prospects was not a decision I took lightly. I spent a lot of time looking inward, trying to understand the source of my growing unease in my role and sense that I was no longer in the right place. I read a few books, including Martha Beck’s “Follow Your North Star” and Reena Dayal’s “The Brilliance Quotient”, and took an assessment to better understand my personality and strengths.

I spoke with colleagues and management to figure out whether there was enough flexibility in my role to enable me to take on the types of projects that excited me more. This exploration of the options available to me in my then current role, before making any decisions, was an important part of the process, and the open and honest discussions that ensued served to further develop relationships for the long term.

I enlisted the support of a brilliant coach who accelerated the process by helping me to define my values and find the clarity I needed to take action and prepare for my new life as an entrepreneur. Finally, I joined a comprehensive business accelerator program to help me to define the value proposition for my new business and develop the product and launch plans. This combination of personal coaching and formal business training proved invaluable, ensuring my limited time and energy was used to address the right issues at the right time.

As a result, I made progress faster and enjoyed successful outcomes: I was able to go live with my business around the same time I gave birth to my second child!

3. What tips would you share with others who are embarking on this type of transition?

  1. Define and prioritise your personal values and use them to guide both your approach to transition and your choices for your new career. I have found this to be the single most useful thing I have done in preparing for and executing my transition. Knowing your values not only gives you the clarity you need to build a career that is right for you, it also provides a guide for making good decisions in every area of your life.
  2. Know your strengths. Transition is a stressful time and the life of an entrepreneur involves multiple tasks, challenges and opportunities. A good strategy is to ensure you are consciously playing to your natural strengths and talents, which requires you to first identify what they are and how you can master them.
  3. Seek support. Hiring a coach and joining a business accelerator program was a strategic helpline that helped me through. In addition, engaging my close friends and family with my journey meant that I had the support and encouragement I needed when times were tough.
  4. Balance your life. During transition it becomes even more important to keep an eye on the other aspects of your life to ensure that your focus on career does not take over. I found it important to acknowledge the fact that I was going through a difficult time and spend more time on self-care.
  5. Celebrate your success. Take the time to celebrate every milestone you achieve with friends, colleagues, partners and family.

4. What have you found most interesting about the transition?

  • Sharing my journey with other entrepreneurs and learning from them.
  • Learning about my values and how I can incorporate them into my working style, my leadership brand and the value proposition of my business.

5. Conversely, what have you found most challenging?

Time management remains a challenge; I am often juggling a number of responsibilities and tasks. Learning to pace my milestones helped me to take the pressure off and achieve a more realistic balance during my pregnancy/post-delivery phase.


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