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Tuesday Transformation - Shamarra Challenor

Retail Liaison Coordinator, Eden Shopping Centre

Who is Shamarra Challenor?

I am a 29 year old Barbadian living in the UK for the past 2 years. I work in Retail Management for a shopping centre in Buckinghamshire. I moved here after I was laid off from my job in Barbados in January 2018.

Tell us about your transition from Barbados to the United Kingdom.

Work in the UK is very different to Barbados (in my experience at least). It’s definitely a lot more relaxed (at least in my company and based on the experiences of friends over here). Managers are less strict and rigid which was a major shock coming from the private sector in Barbados. They don’t care so much how you dress (once you’re not customer facing), they like to engage in social activity and trying to maintain a good work/life balance is a big thing over here. They also really give you responsibility in the workplace and make you « own » your work. For example, when I started my current role, my company had never had anyone in that position before (also, I had never done that work before), so there was no one to train me. I basically had to formulate the role on my own as I went along, building relationships with the various stores/brands/head offices and my mangers just let me do it!

Did you always see Retail Management as a career option?

I never saw this in my future to be honest. In fact, I never even knew that such a post existed, but I applied for it after I saw I would have the opportunity to combine my creative ability with my communication skills and it turned out to be great! I studied French at university and always pictured myself going down the route of a career in foreign languages. I am currently responsible for the internal communications for about 100 shops in the shopping centre. I also handle the social media and website content management.

Any tips for someone who is interested in migrating to the UK?

Do your research and have a plan. Barbados may seem like it has nothing to offer but once you leave, you will miss it! Starting over can be tough and winters even tougher (Seasonal Affective Disorder is real)! It can take some time to get a job - as employers over here can be skeptical about work experience that did not take place in the UK. Also, it is very unlikely to be sponsored by a company unless you are going for a very high level role. Another misconception that people have is that just because you are working abroad, your earnings will be significant. This is not always the case. On the positive side, once you find a job that you like and that pays a decent salary, life can be nice because the cost of food and housing (outside London) is comparatively reasonable. There’s also so much to do and you can find a Caribbean community almost anywhere!

What do you miss most about home?

Everything! I miss the sun, the warmth, the food and my friends. It can be difficult to make new friends at this age since by your late 20’s/early 30’s people have already chosen and settled into their core friendship groups. Also, I hate having to catch the bus. What is one (1) thing our readers might be surprised to learn about you?

I don’t know if I’m that interesting! I think people would be surprised to learn that although my work involves speaking with lots of people on a daily basis, I’m quite socially awkward.

Whats next for Shamarra?

Still trying to settle and get adjusted to UK living (and weather!) Traveling for sure once lockdown/COVID-19 and work is over on my writing. I started a blog last year and I would like to continue that. I would also like to work on my short story pieces as well as a novel I started over a year ago.

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