Nazreen Visram, Head of Charities and Citizenship, Public Sector Team at Barclays.


Letter to My Younger Self: Nazreen Visram

Writing to her childhood self as part of our letter series, Barclays’ Nazreen Visram looks back at growing up in 1970s and 1980s Luton, UK, being inspired by the bravery of her mother – and learning why it’s important to “help others find their voice”. 

Dear Naz,

Don’t be disheartened by those teachers who tell you that ‘people like you’ can’t do certain things. There will be other teachers who will believe in you. Winning a place to study chemistry at King’s College London will be a turning point – you’ll know you need to use this time wisely and not take it for granted.

A huge source of the inspiration and motivation that you need will be the example set by your mum. You’ve seen her show phenomenal bravery – escaping domestic abuse and restarting at a women’s hostel to give you and your younger brother a better life. She’ll work three jobs at a time; go without meals so that you can eat; experience stigma as a single parent; and face overt racism over the course of your childhood in 1980s Luton. But through all this, she’ll maintain her faith, continuing to believe in a bigger sense of purpose.

It’s your mum who will instil in you your resilience and a strong work ethic (you’ll take on one of your first jobs so you can slowly save up for a pair of Levi’s!). She’ll also cement your belief in the value of education and your passion for diversity and inclusion – both of which will be at the heart of your work at Barclays.

If I told you that you were going to become Head of Charities in the Public Sector team at Barclays, you’d probably say: “What does that actually mean?” People still ask me this, but I think it’s one of the best jobs in the bank.

You’ll get to see the incredible impact made by the charities you work with – whether that's getting aid to vulnerable people in Syria, or helping young people achieve their ambitions. You might not see yourself on the path to a career at a bank, but paths can take many different directions. Keep an open mind about what they might be and where they might lead. 

Nazreen Visram, aged six-months, with her mother, Shahida.

Nazreen, aged six-months, with her mother, Shahida.

Nazreen Visram, aged six-months, with her mother, Shahida.

Nazreen Visram, aged seven, sitting on a swing.

You’ll imagine becoming a forensic scientist, but the cost of a master’s degree will keep this ambition out of reach. Try not to be too disappointed: even if you never get to pursue your ‘dream job’, studying science will teach you so much, giving you the analytical skills to look at things differently. This is crucial when you’re figuring out how to solve a problem for a client!

You can lack confidence, and often feel the weight of expectations both culturally and professionally. Know that difference can add value to a conversation, to our education, to our diversity of thought. Don’t hide away from your differences because you think you need to fit in. Your difference is your strength.

You’ll have help from wonderful colleagues and a hugely supportive husband, who will tell you that if you believe in something, you should go for it. He’ll also convert you into an avid Arsenal fan!  Becoming a mum yourself will cement these values. You’ll teach your son that kindness is a strength, and that success is not just about competition but also about contribution.

Think about the impact that you have on people around you. Be brave, be courageous. Help others find their voice.

Life will throw things at you, and you’ll take them on. There will be opportunities along the way. Seize them, even if you think you're not ready – because you never know where they might take you.

Live by your values, be an authentic role model to others – and make a positive difference wherever you go.


Nazreen Visram at her graduation from King’s College London.

Nazreen at her graduation.

Nazreen Visram, with Kings College London students and a professor.

Nazreen with fellow Kings College London students and one of her professors, in 1999.