by Ahmed Sule, CFA
In April 2017, Hashi Mohamed a Somalian barrister who resides in Britain presented a programme titled “Adventures in Social Mobility” on BBC Radio 4. I wasn’t aware of the programme until a couple of days ago when a friend brought it to my attention. In the next couple of lines, I will share my thoughts on the 36-minute documentary with a focus on cultural connection and socially conscious mentorship.
Using his own story as a case study, Mohamed examined the obstacles British working class ethnic minorities face and what can be done to improve the odds of them succeeding. In telling his story, he interviewed some of his mentors who helped him along the way to gain a place at the upper echelon of British society.
Mohamed’s family moved from Somalia to Kenya and at the age of nine, he came to Britain barely able to speak English. Over the next couple of years, he settled in different parts of London moving houses eight times between 1993 and 1997. At one point he stayed in a house with seventeen of his relatives. He lived in a deprived neighbourhood, attended some of the worst performing schools and struggled academically. Eventually, Mohamed took his studies seriously, received a scholarship to study a postgraduate course at Oxford University and he is now a lifetime member of The Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn working for a prestigious law firm.
Mohamed’s documentary reveals that having good grades alone might not be sufficient for people from less privileged backgrounds to gain entry into some of Britain’s esteemed professions. He notes that if youngsters from poor backgrounds want to move up the social ladder, they have to adapt by embracing the culture of the so-called upper classes. According to the documentary, speaking like how the elites speak; drinking like how the elites drink; visiting the places that the elites like to visit are some of the unwritten rules one has to learn in order to get a job in a City law firm. In short, one has to be willing to drop one’s cultural identity in order to blend. When Mohamed was looking for a work placement at the BBC, he sent an email to Peter Barron, the BBC’s Newsnight Editor at the time and was fortunate to get the job. In the radio programme, Mohamed asked Barron why he got…