Natalia Cerezo Martin

Natalia is a Spanish born with a heart that beats in sync with London’s dynamic rhythm for over two decades. She founded Empower & Lead, an executive & leadership coaching business dedicated to empowering visionary women in the tech and customer experience sectors to unlock their leadership potential and redefine success on their terms.

What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your professional journey and what inspired you to choose this career.

I grew up in Valladolid, a vibrant city in the heart of Spain. My parents owned a pub, and I spent much of my childhood there, surrounded by people from all walks of life. From a young age, I helped my parents create a warm and welcoming atmosphere, making our regular customers feel like part of the family. This experience made me comfortable interacting with people of diverse backgrounds and personalities, shaping me into the extrovert I am today. I always knew that working with people was my calling. The pub environment, where patrons often opened up about their lives, challenges, and celebrations, inspired me to listen, empathise, and make people feel valued. This early exposure to human connection and communication laid the foundation for my career.

Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it.

After two decades in the corporate world, climbing the ladder to become Vice President of a cybersecurity company, I found myself feeling isolated. Despite my seniority, I struggled to find someone to confide in about my vulnerabilities. My coach became my pillar of support, highlighting the crucial role of having a coach, especially for senior leaders. This realisation coincided with an opportunity to step away from the corporate world. I completed my certifications and initially thought I would return to the corporate sphere. However, as I began exploring roles, I realised my passion had shifted. I was driven to help women achieve senior roles and succeed on their terms, creating a ripple effect of inspiration for future generations. This led to the full-time launch of Empower and Lead, which had previously been a part-time venture.

Tell us about your goals, interests, and role models.

My goal is to foster true gender equality in the workplace and the startup ecosystem, promoting decision-making driven by emotional intelligence and everyday consideration of well-being. I envision a customer-centric corporate world where people thrive. Music is a significant part of my life; it uplifts my spirit daily. I start each day with a dance, which sets a positive tone. 

I’m fortunate to have numerous role models, including peer coaches like Aimee Young and Emily Doyle. I deeply admire Brené Brown for her insightful writing. Zoe and Jo from the Coaching Crowd podcast are also incredible inspirations, moving forward the coaching industry with their training programmes.

Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?

Absolutely. As an entrepreneur, you wear many hats – administrator, financial controller, content marketer, website builder, brand designer, and more. This can be overwhelming, especially if, like me, you were used to having a team to rely on. Initially, I fixated on the idea that I couldn’t start my business without a website, which delayed my launch. Ironically, I realised later that a website isn’t everything. My business coach, who makes six figures annually, doesn’t even have one. The key is to narrow your focus. I started with one-to-one and group coaching, prioritising LinkedIn as my main social media platform. It’s essential to pace yourself and take breaks. Some days, you need to step away from work entirely to recharge.

What impact do you feel you have been able to create with your work so far and how would you want to grow in the next few years?

The impact of my work lies in supporting women to boost their confidence and navigate imposter syndrome, or as I prefer to call it, the “imposter moment.” I believe these moments act as growth detectors. I help women think strategically, holding space for them to reflect on their priorities and goals. I’ve assisted many in improving their team relationships, leading to increased satisfaction and effectiveness. For entrepreneurs, I help craft strategies for their businesses and hold a mirror so they can see and celebrate their progress. My coaching is deeply emotional, aiming to foster a sense of freedom.

Looking ahead, I aim to expand my one-to-one practice and develop group programs and masterminds. Additionally, I have a goal to integrate music into my coaching, though I’m still exploring how to best achieve this.

Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?

I envision a world with more countries led by women, similar to the progress we see in Mexico. I want to see more women in technical fields, breaking into traditionally male-dominated areas. It’s crucial to embrace tech education early on to avoid skill gaps later in life. I also advocate for more emotional intelligence in leadership, where compassion and assertiveness are valued equally.

Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?

While we’ve made significant strides, there’s still a long way to go. It saddens me that women who show emotions are often criticised. Jacinda Ardern, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, faced undue criticism for her compassionate leadership. We need more leaders like her, who embrace their feminine strengths rather than trying to conform to masculine norms. I’m encouraged by countries like Mexico now having female leaders and hope to see more women in positions of power across all sectors. Increased representation and inspiration are essential for true progress.

With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?

Remember, no one else is you, and that is your superpower. There may be times of confusion or doubt, but your unique perspective is invaluable. Every day you delay or hide your true self, you deny the world the wonderful things you can offer. Not asking questions or challenging ideas stifles innovation. Embrace failure as a pathway to growth. Each misstep is a learning opportunity that will make you stronger and more resilient. If my business were to close tomorrow, the lessons I’ve learned would still be priceless, and the journey has been the ride of my life. I hope to stay on this ride for many more years to come.