How One English Conversation Everyday Transformed My Work Life

July 15, 2022
By Jaimie-Lee Elvery
Amal is a financial consultant who used to avoid English conversations at all costs because she felt her English “wasn’t good enough”. After just 10 months at Hey Lady!, Amal now confidently leads engaging discussions, presentations, meetings and negotiations with her peers and clients.

“It just proves that with the right tools, you can do anything!”

Keep reading to find out how Amal built this newfound confidence - and what steps she took along the way to get there. But first, let’s rewind to take a look at Amal’s professional life before she joined Hey Lady!

Hiding behind my “English on paper” 

Amal completed most of her Business studies in English, so has always felt comfortable using technical English 'on paper' to prepare financial reports and write emails. 

“I was confident studying, reading and writing in English, but I didn’t have any English speaking skills for real conversation”, she said. 

So when it came to taking business calls, expressing her opinions, negotiating contracts or networking with other professionals, Amal felt ashamed and frustrated because her English “wasn’t good enough”.

“When I was studying at Harvard, we did a lot of group work, but I actually ‘hid away’ from my peers. When it came it having conversations, I just disappeared! Because I felt like I was not able to communicate in English or build real relationships with them.”

After graduating, Amal continued to encounter the same ‘roadblock’; she always felt 'held back' by her English level when speaking with her business partner and clients. It was a recurring theme in Amal’s professional life that she couldn’t seem to overcome, no matter how much she studied Business English.

“I always felt a bit ‘limited’ when it came to my professional relationships, because I didn’t want to tell them that I wasn’t comfortable with English. So, I would use certain 'tricks' to appear more confident than I really was. I would always write a draft script before picking up the phone to call clients or talk to them in English. I would do my best to appear fluent, because as a consultant, you have to make them trust you and really feel confident in your ability." 

"And this did work, but internally, I was not satisfied… I knew that being able to speak in technical English was not sufficient if I really wanted to succeed."

"Using financial terms is not what brings people to you! I wanted to be able to just say to someone, ‘Come on, let's discuss and workshop this together!’ It was very frustrating, because I knew I had so much to share - so much value to contribute!”

“That’s why I chose Hey Lady! Because I thought…  There are times when you really have to discuss things in detail, and add your real opinions and suggestions. So now, even if I don’t have the right words, it doesn't matter! I can find another way to explain it, because I’m more confident to speak in real conversations. This is where Hey Lady! has helped me a lot!” 

“Stepping out” from behind the paper 

Amal has been practising English at Hey Lady! for 10 months - less than one year! - and is now confidently engaging in conversations with her clients and peers regularly. 

In fact, she has proudly reported two huge English achievements since joining the community in September 2021: 

Achievement #1: She presented a proposal over the phone to her client (resulting in a contract extension & new work!)

After just three months practising her English with women inside Hey Lady!, Amal mustered up the courage to present a new proposal to her client. Rather than sending her findings via email as she usually would, Amal set up a time to discuss her proposal!

“This was the first time I really invited my partner to talk - to really talk. Previously if my partner or client asked me to do something, I would say ‘Let me just check this and I will send you an email about it!’."

"Email was the only way for me to be confident that the message was accurate and how I wanted it to be… I wasn’t confident enough to speak English out loud. But this time, I was able to take initiative, get on the front foot and say, ‘I've done my review, here are my observations, and here are my recommendations to improve it for you’.”

This one conversation transformed Amal’s working relationship with her client, who agreed to Amal’s proposal and extended her contract for another six months!! 

Rather than just "fulfilling her duties” and “ticking the boxes”, Amal can now present her opinions and suggestions confidently.
Without questioning whether her English is good enough.
Without the fear and self-doubt that once held her back from expressing herself freely. 

Achievement #2: She hosted a Zoom meeting for 35 of her Harvard alumni peers

After six months at Hey Lady!,  Amal reflected on her time at Harvard and wished she could go back. She wished she could reconnect with her alumni peers now; with her newfound confidence in English. She imagined how much stronger her relationships could have been back then if she had the interpersonal English skills that she has now

So, that’s what she did! She decided to reach out to her peers from Harvard, who she hardly spoke to throughout her degree - and invited them to join her for a networking event hosted on Zoom (a skill she learnt while hosting events inside Hey Lady!)

“35 of my Harvard peers ended up joining the meeting…35!! Luckily, I knew how to run Zoom events well - and how to manage break out rooms - thanks to my practice hosting group conversations in Hey Lady! It went really well! And we’ve decided to do it once every month." 

"This is definitely something that I’ve done recently that I am proud of! And it’s thanks to my Hey Lady! Community, because I would not have been able to do anything like this before joining! If someone said to me a year ago that I’d be hosting an online event for 35 people (in English), I would tell them, ‘NO WAY!’.” 

“I’m really happy because my business model is based on building connection and networking. All that I’ve achieved, is thanks to the connections and relationships I have been able to build with clients. And I wouldn’t have built these skills without Hey Lady!

So, how did Amal do it? 

What steps did she take to increase her English fluency and become the confident communicator she is today?

“It’s simple, really: I stayed active. There’s a lot of things that helped me get here, but it’s mostly because I just kept showing up.”

On a day-to-day level, “staying active” and “showing up” for Amal meant doing these 3 things: 

  1. Setting an achievable goal 
  2. Immersing herself in English
  3. Hosting her own Hey Lady! conversations

Amal’s goal

As soon as Amal joined Hey Lady!, she set herself a goal to join one Hey Lady! conversation every day - it didn't matter if it was for 15 minutes or one hour, as long as she showed up. (She may not have known it at the time, but this simple, achievable goal is what set her up for success, right from the outset!) 

“I set a goal to connect with women at Hey Lady! at least once every day - sometimes it’s twice per day, and sometimes it’s three or four! Whenever I have some free time - even 30 minutes! - I love joining a Hey Lady! event or two."

"So this is the first thing that was really preparing me to improve my fluency. I started noticing results in my real life, which encouraged me to keep going - to join more and more events! If I didn’t see any results, I know I would have lost my motivation. But because I showed up every day, I saw the results in a short amount of time.” 

Amal’s consistent commitment reminds me of a quote that James Clear wrote in his bestselling book Atomic Habits

“Success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.”

It’s an important reminder for all of us… Particularly in the age of “instant gratification” that we are in right now. We want everything to happen at the snap of a finger! 

But Amal knew that fluency doesn’t come from “once-in-a-lifetime transformation”. It comes from showing up consistently, day in and day out. And it’s certainly paid off! 

Since joining the community in September 2021, Amal has joined over 350 English conversations - that’s 350 hours of English practice (in real conversations!) in just 10 months!

And with every event at Hey Lady!, she has been investing time and energy in herself, edging closer toward the fluent English speaker of her dreams… One conversation at a time!

English immersion

Before Hey Lady!, Amal didn’t have any opportunities to practise speaking English. At home, her family speaks French, and at work, the stakes for making English mistakes seemed far too high! 

So, since day one, Amal has taken every opportunity to practise speaking in different conversations and contexts - in a safe, judgment-free (and risk-free!) environment. Rather than just focusing on Business English and studying grammar lessons, Amal joined all the different events we offer at Hey Lady!

From Office Hour sessions, Conversation Starter events and Role Plays hosted by our English Coaches, through to “English with TV Series” events and casual conversations hosted by our Community Experience Team and other members… Amal joins them all

“I also joined a study group with women who are in the same timezone as me. We meet regularly - at least once per week - to catch up and practise speaking English together. We’re a group of mothers and friends from different countries, but we all face the same challenges. It definitely makes the bond very strong!”

Hosting Hey Lady! conversations 

“Another thing that really helped me level up my English was when I started hosting my own group events at Hey Lady! in January 2022. This is really what prepared me to feel confident hosting the online event for my Harvard alumni peers." 

"This also helped me to host more professional meetings at work, too. It taught me how to set my own agenda, plan the meeting structure, and be more actively engaged in meetings… Rather than just passively participating.”

The first group event Amal hosted for other members on our platform was called “New Year… New Dreams!”(a fitting title, given how many goals she has already achieved just halfway through the year!!)

Since then, Amal has hosted several conversations about a range of topics that interest her, including:

  • English practice for work
  • How to do a SWOT analysis on your own life
  • Group fitness challenges
  • Empowering beliefs vs. limiting beliefs
  • The power of flowers

Amal may have initially joined our community to improve her English for work, but she quickly realised that Hey Lady! is her new English home; a place where she can talk about all of her passions and interests, immerse herself in diverse conversation and express herself fully - in English!

We love English transformation stories like Amal’s - they show us what’s possible when we shift our mindset, set a goal and take small steps everyday (literally!) to move towards it.

When I think about Amal’s transformation, I picture the protective film that you leave on your household appliances to ‘keep them safe’. To Amal, her ability to use technical English ‘on paper’ was like her protective film; it helped her stay comfortable & protected, to stay within her limits - it allowed her to keep up the fluency facade so that no one knew her English “wasn’t good enough”. 

But all the while, that same protective film was holding her back from reaching her English-speaking potential. 

From stepping out of her comfort zone. 

But bit by bit - as Amal continued joining daily conversations at Hey Lady! - she began peeling back the protective film and stepping out of her comfort zone… And was amazed at what was underneath! A shiny, new, English-speaking Amal; the Amal that had been there all along, but was just waiting to be unleashed!! 

And now, Amal is unstoppable - everyone at Hey Lady! knows she is the life of the party! Initiating powerful conversations, negotiations and proposals left, right and centre.

“It just proves that with the right tools, you can do anything.”

“And what is incredible is that I only joined Hey Lady! last September - less than one year ago… I can’t even imagine what my English level will be like after two years in this community. Or three years? Or 10! Can you imagine?!”

So, let me ask you… Can you imagine?

Can you imagine expressing your thoughts and opinions at work (or in life, generally!) without fear? What goals and dreams could you achieve if your English wasn’t constantly holding you back? 

And what if… Instead of being the one thing holding you back from achieving your goals, you shifted your mindset to see English as the vehicle to propel you towards them?

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