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Dr Katarina Lezova

I am a personal coach empowering people to maximise their potential and inspiring them to achieve their goals. My interest in design thinking and growth mindset approach have shaped how I work with clients. I am based in London.

I have been a researcher, teacher, mentor and coach in Higher Education (HE) and worked on research projects for commercial consultancies. I have specialist knowledge of the UK HE sector; for four years I led a Personal and Professional Development Programme for students at Goldsmiths, University of London focused on increasing students’ self-awareness and confidence via a range of reflective practices. While in this role, I was a member and later Chair of the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) Skills Award Task Group representing staff in UK HE Institutions leading and delivering employability and personal development awards.

In 2017/18, I completed Aurora Leadership Foundation programme designed to encourage women in HE to take on leadership roles which has even further inspired me to motivate women to pursue their goals and achieve their aspirations. During 2018/19, I am contributing to the programme as Role Model.

I am passionate about creative practices and their role in fostering career learning and self-reflection and my recent research has focused on this area. I have a PhD in Politics from Goldsmiths, University of London and Masters from Vienna University of Economics and Business in Austria.

I practice and teach Okinawan Karate, enjoy running and sing in the London City Voices choir.

My story…

Doing my PhD was one of the biggest challenges but when completed also my biggest achievement. I faced it all - writer’s block, procrastination, being overwhelmed, lack of motivation and self-awareness, feeling stuck, low self-belief and impostor syndrome. I was scared about many things incl. public speaking and often didn’t know how to process feedback and manage professional relationships. It was the start of the final year of my PhD that brought a personal change and a challenge: I left a long-term relationship. It was not what I planned to do in the final year when I was supposed to be fully focusing on writing my thesis. It felt like I hit rock bottom.

But sometimes when things happen you need to accept them, deal with them and then do your best. As somebody said ‘it doesn’t matter what happens to you but how you deal with it’. You always have a choice how you look at an experience.

This was a challenge I had to overcome to rise above and be who I wanted to be. As Dame Margaret Drabble said: ‘When nothing is sure, everything is possible’. And so, trusting that things will get better I changed almost everything in my life, but didn’t give up on the PhD. And it was also at this time that I realised what it means to have a great mentor. Change of my approach and mindset also meant new people came to my life who supported me and I felt a sense of joy that become part of my every day.

Then something happened.

I got clarity about what’s next, focus and self-belief and trust that this will work. And it did. I stopped asking the question ‘Why did this happen to me?’ and started to think more ‘How am going to do things differently?’. I re-established myself and understood better who I am and what I really want. I got inspired by Eckhart Tolle’s book ‘The Power of Now’ and it connected all the dots for me. I changed the way I talked and the words I used, I stopped moaning and started doing. I was focusing on opportunities and making things happen. Where there was no path ahead I created one.

I successfully defended my doctorate without any corrections and a new chapter in my life started.

When I was in the final year of my studies I started to work as CV Adviser at Goldsmiths Careers Service. I loved it. It was also the first time I experienced one to one student support from the other side. Being a Visiting Research Fellow at Goldsmiths later gave me an opportunity to take my PhD research further. And then I came back to the Careers Service to take up a role leading a Personal and Professional Development Programme called the Gold Award. I stayed for four years. It allowed me to mentor and coach UG, PG and PhD students and it was a real privilege to see them develop their confidence and self-awareness. For many, the Award was transformational. This quote by one of the participants illustrates it:

If I would say that moving to another country, studying at the best design department with all expectations to meet and diving into a new culture with its codes and rules was not overwhelming I would not be honest with you. As a perfectionist by nature, I would polish off everything and honestly, I would be always striving to get the best results setting my own standards of good and bad, and no one was allowed to share any feedback with me. The word ‘feedback’ didn’t even exist in my vocabulary.

I believe I joined the Gold Award, as the ‘award’ word was quite alluring, and I was not paying attention that it was a personal growth program with mentoring, monthly sessions throughout the year and homework to be done by deadlines.

I am not sure how it happened, but Katarina got deep down into my core, she was slowly and gently leading me out of the mess I caused, by working with my reflection journal. Most of the time I would have brought frustration to the meetings. I remember the day, when the reflection writing became a thing I wanted to do for myself as it released some tension. It was the day when I changed my biased opinion on events and people and I felt like I can breathe again. That was me re-birthing within a course of one year.  I am grateful for the trustful atmosphere Katarina created; for the patience she had with me along with all the techniques she shared to help me release my inner happiness out into the world to influence in a positive way all aspects of my personal and professional life. Would I be able to go through the process of 30s crisis and a year of university when my belief system as a designer was full of questions? I doubt that. Thank you for being there for me; I am happy I joined the program!

Anita Grey, Experimental Designer, Instagram: mo.e.concept

A big shift came after I completed Aurora Leadership Foundation Programme for women in HE. I found space to reflect, got great support via my Aurora mentor and courage to step up. I took a risk and left my full-time job to establish my business Insolo Coaching. I now support researchers on their journeys and help professionals who are going through a transition and want to find their voice, step up in their careers and become leaders of their own life.

A PhD colleague once told me that I should be a motivational speaker because I was reframing situations, looking at them from a different perspective and searching for the lessons they brought while empowering others around.

And that’s what I want for you: Inspire and empower you, so you shine.

No matter what it is that you want to be or do… You can!