Kate Fonseca Williams

Kate Fonseca Williams is a Career Coach and Occupational Psychologist. She is also the Founder of Karibu Coaching Limited. 

She tells us that, “With a background in Occupational Psychology and extensive experience as a management consultant in London, I now run a career coaching and business psychology practice. My work focuses on implementing positive psychology to help working professionals, teams, and organisations to thrive in a dynamic job market through personalised coaching and consulting. I’m passionate about creating a space where individuals can confront their challenges and bring their whole selves to work, and assisting organisations to show their commitment to employee career development and engagement. I believe that coaching shouldn’t just be offered to executives but instead should be accessible to professionals from all levels and backgrounds.

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

I grew up in Cornwall, a UK county with a unique job market, rich in entrepreneurs, artists, and therapists. My parents, a fine-artist and a counsellor, were always present, emphasising community, nature, and a balanced lifestyle. This upbringing, combined with my bachelor’s degree in Psychology and my Masters in Occupational Psychology steered me towards working in management consultancy, helping organisations improve their employee engagement and change management initiatives by putting their people at the heart of their organisations. My upbringing, academic background and professional experience gave me a passion for pursuing a career dedicated to helping people feel happier and less stressed in their job. In a world where burnout, anxiety and chronic stress are rife, it is critical that organisations look at ways to support their employees’ to feel more in control of their careers and become more resilient and in turn, help organisations be more successful.

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 many years working in management consultancy I began to become enamored by the work that we were doing. I wanted to see the impact that company wide initiatives were having on individual employees and often we weren’t able to. The turning point came when I took a transformational coaching course. This experience showed me how to blend my academic background in business psychology with real-world insights from my corporate career, enabling me to make a direct impact on individuals’ work lives. It was this course that helped me see a new path for myself, combining my love for meeting people, contributing to the community, and enjoying a balanced life.

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

My primary goal is to democratise coaching, making it accessible for all levels within an organisation. So often people see coaching as being exclusive to ‘executives’ or leaders but coaching can have such a fundamental impact on the productivity and engagement of a workforce that it shouldn’t be limited. Coaching can have the power to revolutionise the workforce and make it more resilient and future proof. The generation of workers coming up (GenZ) are the first generation who would rather quit a role that wasn’t serving them then just struggle through and unless organisations are willing to invest in their wellbeing they will struggle to reduce their 

In terms of role models – 

Brené Brown’s work on the need for emotional intelligence, vulnerability and courage in the workplace has been ground breaking and sets the foundation for the future of work. I want organisations to be filled with real people who can bring their whole selves to work.  When people ask me why coaching instead of other forms of therapy, my answer is always the same: coaching is rooted in positive psychology, helping people to change their perspective to focus on the positives in their lives so that they can flourish instead of just survive. Martin Seligman is the father of this belief and his work has not only impacted my work but my attitude to life.

Finally, Carol Dweck’s ‘growth mindset’ is the theory that abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. So much of my coaching is based around encouraging my clients to see themselves as a work in progress and to relish any opportunity for growth and development. 

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?

Transitioning from the fast-paced corporate world to running my own business, I’ve faced many challenges. The first that comes to mind is patience – good things often take time to grow and develop: the most important thing is to continue to plant seeds in the right places. 

I’ve also learnt (and continue to learn) not to take setbacks personally. I’ve learned the importance of resilience, developing a thicker skin, and reminding myself of my capabilities and the impact of my work so that I am clear on why I’m doing what I’m doing.  Having a coach myself has been instrumental in reinforcing my self-esteem and in navigating these challenges.

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 most rewarding aspect of my work is witnessing the small, yet significant, victories of my clients – be it gaining the confidence for a career move or realising the importance of work-life balance. Or on the organisational side – helping businesses put their people at the heart of what they do and creating engaged workforces. Looking ahead, I want to broaden my reach, educate more people and businesses about the benefits of coaching, both for personal growth and for organisational success and support people who might not have the resources to engage in coaching or professional skills development.

While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level?

I think that the pandemic was the catalyst for great change in the world of work. Not only did it expedite remote working – something which I firmly believe is beneficial for working parents (both men and women) as suddenly they were able to juggle their home lives and their work lives. But the bigger change that we saw off the back of the pandemic was the ‘Great Resignation’. Faced with little distraction in their lives, the workforce began to question why they were doing their jobs and whether they wanted to continue it and many chose unemployment over being stuck in a job that they hated. This not only reflects my own experience but also why coaching is so important for employees when facing this cross road. Having an accountability partner, or someone who creates the space for you to figure out what they want so that they can put their best foot forward

Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?

When I began coaching I worked as a career coach for one of the Universities of London (City, University of London and Bayes Business School). This gave me the opportunity to support the development of our future workforce. I loved getting the opportunity to work with such a diverse range of students, many of whom didn’t have access to role-models in the working world and didn’t know how to sell themselves to future employers. Every student who increased in confidence or aced an interview felt like a huge win and I loved my time working there and contributing my skills in this way.

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 aspire to see a future where the gender pay gap is non-existent, and women’s contributions are equally valued and respected. Empowering women through coaching to realise and assert their worth is a step towards this goal. I believe that by giving women the opportunity to discover their potential, we can foster a culture that equally values female and male leadership. I also envisage a future that respects compassionate and empathic leadership rather than traditional autocratic leadership – where the people who work for them feel safe to bring their whole selves to work.

What’s the most important thing you have learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life?

The most crucial lesson for me has been to believe in myself. often embracing the ‘fake it till you make it’ approach. In the past I would sign up to a networking event or to give a talk and find myself talking myself out of it. What I have learned is that challenging this dialogue was the only way to quieten any self-doubt and to succeed 

So with that being said – my motto is one I have borrowed from Nelson Mandela – ‘May your choices reflect your hopes and not your fears’. Believe that you can do something – then go out and do it!

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?

The evolving workforce and societal values are paving the way for a new model of leadership that values traits like empathy and emotional intelligence. I think the pandemic, as well as a changing workforce (with Gen-Zs demanding more respect and work-life balance from their organisations) we will begin to see a shift in what it takes to be a successful leader and that it will come with an increase in encouraging women to bring their whole selves to work. 

This shift is creating opportunities for women to lead in ways that are authentic and impactful, signalling a significant transformation in traditional leadership paradigms

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?

To the young women leaders out there: be the change you want to see. Entrepreneurship is challenging yet deeply fulfilling. Trust in your ideas and your ability to make a difference. Remember, I am always available for support and guidance at hello@karibucoaching.co.uk.