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In our ongoing series ‘The Futures Hub’, we had the pleasure of speaking with Sharena Shiv, Entrepreneur, Public Speaker and Gender Equality Campaigner. From overcoming academic setbacks to founding a society that empowers women in business, Sharena's story is truly inspirational. 

Thank you so much, Sharena, for taking the time to speak with me today! Let’s start from the beginning. Could you tell us a bit about your background and how you found your way to Cambridge?

Absolutely! I was born and raised in Exeter, Devon. Growing up in Exeter, I loved school, but more for the social aspect rather than academics. I was never the best at exams but excelled in coursework and anything that involved pitching or presenting. I took every opportunity to get involved in school councils, including the Chamber of Commerce, and any leadership role I could find!


That’s amazing! It sounds like you had a clear inclination towards leadership and business early on. How did your early experiences shape your career path?

They were crucial. For instance, in college, I did business studies and was the president for the Young Chamber of Commerce. This role involved representing young voices in my community, which was a significant experience. I even received the Excellence of Exeter award from Deborah Meaden, which was my first taste of public recognition. Despite not doing well in my A-levels, I then began a BTech National Diploma in Business Studies, which set a solid foundation for my future.

It's inspiring to hear how you navigated those early challenges. Moving forward, how did you transition to university, and what were some pivotal moments during that time?

Transitioning to university was another challenge. My tutors didn’t think I’d get into Aston University because of my grades. But I was determined. I redid all my first-year work to improve my grades and applied to Aston, despite the odds. Thankfully, I got in! However, during my time there, I always felt the pressure of not being good enough, and I felt this throughout my time at University.

How did you manage to overcome those feelings of self-doubt?

Having backup plans definitely helped. Also, focusing on what I was good at, like extracurricular activities and leadership roles, it really kept me motivated. One of the most significant experiences was my placement year at Microsoft in sales. I loved it there! It was a dynamic environment that valued personality and energy over just academic qualifications.

What an incredible opportunity! You mentioned before our interview an important event during your time at Microsoft that inspired you to take action. Can you tell us more about that?

Yes, I attended a women in tech event at Canary Wharf, which was eye-opening. It was the first time I realise how male-dominated the corporate world was. At the end of the event, they challenged us to make a difference in our communities. That challenge stuck with me. I called my friends and decided we needed to start a society at Aston to address gender inequality in the world of business and entrepreneurship. That summer, within four weeks, we established Aston Women in Business. We formed a committee, designed a logo, and planned our events for the year.

That’s incredible. Starting a society in such a short time is no small feat. How did you manage to pull it off?

It was all about passion and teamwork. The committee and I were dedicated to addressing gender inequality. We focused on three main pillars: connecting female friendships, sharing stories of successful women, and aspiring towards professional goals. Despite some pushback we persevered and it’s now a major success!

Fast forward ten years, and Aston Women in Business is still going strong. What does that mean to you?

It’s a mix of pride and a bit of sadness. I’m proud that the society has lasted and helped so many women, but the fact that it still needs to exist shows that there’s still work to be done in achieving gender equality. Over the years, many women from the society have gone on to lead diversity and inclusion initiatives in their workplaces, which is incredibly rewarding to see.

You’ve clearly made a significant impact. After university, what was your next step?

Like many, I joined a graduate scheme in banking, moving to London, which was always a dream of mine. But the corporate world wasn’t what I expected. It was quite rigid compared to the dynamic environment at Microsoft. I experienced gender-based challenges, especially during my rotations. I nearly lost my job for taking a photo with Anthony Joshua - the boxer. But I also had some amazing opportunities, like working with Alison Rose on a paper about female entrepreneurship and spending time with ultra-high-net-worth clients at Coutts Bank.

How did these experiences influence your career decisions?

They were pivotal. I realised I didn’t want to spend my career in a rigid corporate environment. Reading "Rich Dad, Poor Dad", a truly amazing book, also made me rethink my goals.  I lived with two individuals who owned an online beer subscription company. Listening to their entrepreneurial conversations ignited a realisation in me that I wasn’t feeling fulfilled in my own career, sparking a need to find my own passion. I wanted more freedom and the chance to make a real impact. So, I made the tough decision to leave London and banking, returning home to Devon to figure out my next steps.  Having lived in shared housing in both Birmingham and London due to work and studying, I realised a need for quality shared housing for young professionals in the southwest. I had worked for an estate agent when I was seventeen before moving so I understood the industry. Seeing this opportunity, I returned to the southwest and have spent the past seven years buying and transforming homes into shared living spaces. My company, Devotion Property Management, not only provides shared housing but also matches young professionals.

It’s inspiring to see how you’ve navigated your career with such resilience and determination. Looking back, what advice would you give to others facing similar challenges?

I’d say don’t be afraid to take risks and always have a backup plan. If one path doesn’t work out, find another way to achieve your goals. Surround yourself with supportive people and don’t be afraid to ask for help. And most importantly, stay true to your passions. They will guide you through the toughest times.

That’s excellent advice. What’s next for you? What are your future goals?


I’m currently focusing on projects that drive social impact, especially in gender equality and entrepreneurship. I want to continue supporting women in business and tech and look for ways to make a broader impact. Long-term, I hope to see a world where societies like Aston Women in Business are no longer necessary because gender equality has been achieved. I’m also working on my podcast ‘START UP START NOW’ which is currently on its seventh season!

A podcast! That sounds exciting. Can you tell us more about it?

Of course! It's a platform where entrepreneurs from various industries share their stories and insights. I wanted to create a space where people could talk about their challenges, successes, and everything in between. We discuss topics like career development, overcoming obstacles, and the importance of mentorship. It's been incredibly rewarding to hear these amazing stories and to see how they inspire our listeners.

Thank you, Sharena, for sharing your incredible journey with us. Your story is truly inspiring, and I’m sure it will resonate with many readers.

Thank you, Tara! It’s been a pleasure talking with you and sharing my story. I hope it inspires others to pursue their passions and make a difference in their communities.