Guest blog by Seena Shah
Seena is the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Brentford & Isleworth
Why Brentford & Isleworth
My parents were both born in East Africa and moved to England as young children, (my Mum to Harrow and my Dad to Coventry then Hounslow). Although I have always lived in Chelmsford, I never missed out on being part of a close-knit Indian family. Growing up, I spent school holidays staying with my grandparents in Hounslow, whilst my parents focused on running their businesses.
I feel very connected to the problems we face in the Brentford and Isleworth constituency, more so now, living here with my grandmother. I have family members who work in and around Heathrow Airport, live in homes under the Heathrow flight path and are very concerned about the air quality.
Tech, Tech and Education
I read International Relations with Spanish and wrote my dissertation on creating a world without poverty. In addition to politics, I have a keen interest in Modern Foreign Languages. I studied German for 8 years, 7 years learning French in school, (which sadly I never mastered despite my very hard efforts,) I studied Spanish through university, a year of Italian and of Japanese.
After university I took a role with a European IT recruitment company focusing on their German and Austrian markets. After almost two years of Recruitment, having won Junior Consultant of the Year and mastering my German Business language, I took the decision to leave the industry and started a career in Marketing instead.
My first marketing role was with an early-stage start-up social enterprise that connects young people with the world of work. As the company grew, I headed up the campaign management team and assumed responsibility for key accounts, and later with a focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)–working with brands like Cisco, Tata Consultancy, PA Consulting, Crossrail, BP and Thales.
It was here that I started to understand some of the problems in our education system…
• A big disconnect between what children were being taught and what employers were looking for
• The challenge children from disadvantaged backgrounds face but also what we should be doing about it too
• Why girls were not considering STEM careers
Photographs above: Seena Shah publicity shot, and out campaigning with supporters
From Employee to Employer
In June 2014, I joined a digital agency to head up their social media department, where I turned a failing department around and grew a team. In 2015, I was listed as a Top Woman Under 30 In Digital by The Drum, recognised for my contribution to creative social media campaigns that benefited our society. Following this, I set up my own business and now dedicate my time to helping start-up technology businesses to communicate new concepts.
In my latter career as an employee, I was able to see some of the challenges and injustices workers face when working for employers who do not value their employees. It is imperative that we make work places friendlier for both mothers and fathers and consider mental health much more closely.
The B word…
Through setting up my own business and helping other smaller businesses, I have seen the pain and frustration the business community has been facing with the lack of progress on Brexit. There is an overwhelming call to end the uncertainty and we must do this to allow businesses to plan properly. This stagnation of decision-making extends to our personal life too––many people are holding off making decisions about their homes.
I fear a second vote or revoking Article 50 will exacerbate this and leave a huge question mark over the faith in our democracy.
I did vote to leave and I stand by my decision. I believe a life outside of the EU will be positive and offers an opportunity to connect better with our very important Common Wealth nations. Having said this, I appreciate many people in this constituency and across the country voted to remain and I am keen to engage and understand your thoughts and concerns too.
I believe that strength comes from unity. It is really important that we find a way through the current impasse that is both democratic and considerate of all. Regretfully, Brexit has caused division––it has divided friends and family (my brother voted to remain and many of my friends too). The indecision in Parliament has only worsened this and I believe by uniting behind the new deal and focussing on issues that unite us, we will restore cohesion and harmony. Let’s start to focus on important policies which have been forgotten, like education, our NHS and policing.
I am calling for a better deal for Chiswick. Despite the work of our fantastic and very hard-working Conservative Chiswick Councillors fighting against it, our Labour-run council has imposed CS9, against the will of the people who will have to live with it. This is just one example of the need for a stronger voice for the residents of Chiswick and you will see me work hard for this.
As my campaign progresses, you will see further details on my priorities:
• Better air quality
• Tackling youth crime
• Affordable housing
• Mental Health
• High Streets
• Raising standards in schools
At the time of writing, our manifesto has not been published but if you would like to check back at a later date, you will be able to find it here: www.seenashah.co.uk