"Education is tailored to writing well. But as students we also need to learn how to converse, navigate and act in corporate settings - this programme helps with that.
It’s critical that students know this programme exists – that there is a way they can be taught to think, speak and behave professionally."
— Naomi Oamen, University of Dundee
Naomi Oamen - Dundee University
It’s impossible to speak with Naomi Oamen, without leaving the conversation somewhat humbled and in awe. Naomi, who lives in London and has a Nigerian background, is in her final year of law at the University of Dundee.
Just 3% of lawyers in the UK are black - a figure that’s failed to budge since Naomi started her degree - yet she remains determined to make her mark on the legal profession as a solicitor so she can dedicate herself to helping others. If the daunting workload to qualify and the depressingly low industry diversity figures weren’t challenging enough, Naomi is also fighting her reserved nature which, by her own admission, means she doesn’t speak much.
"I was adamant about learning more vocal skills and getting better at articulating myself because I know that’s going to be key in my chosen profession. Others will judge me on how I present myself and I know that’s something I need to work on. I listen exceptionally well, I understand what people are saying, I have strong analytical skills, and I can structure a great argument, those offer me real advantage, but to compete I also need strong oratory skills."
It was with this front of mind that Naomi enrolled on the Make Your Mark with Susan Room® student summer school. "I’m so glad I did," says Naomi. "It taught me a great deal about public speaking, speaking in general, and how to present myself. Most importantly, it gave me confidence. Susan helped me see that I’m not alone in struggling with some of these things and that there are proven ways to help yourself."
Naomi already knows this isn’t the type of learning she’ll ever forget. Having put much of what she’s learnt into practice, she’s already seen immediate results.
"Since doing the programme I’ve been much more vocal about the things I believe in. A lot of people have commented on the difference they’ve seen. They’ve repeatedly told me they’ve noticed a real change in how I talk and articulate myself. I’m so happy about that, especially now that applications are opening for trainee solicitor contracts. Whether I’m interviewed in person or online, I’ll need to use every skill I have to present myself in a professional way, to show that I’m a serious candidate."
It’s a welcome development, for Naomi is undoubtedly destined for a career where she’s going to have a lot to say, and where what she says and how she says it can make a real difference.
At only 20 years old Naomi radiates a deep sense of humility, fairness, and a desire for betterment - both in herself and society at large.
She’s already been involved with a wealth of charitable work - everything from volunteering at her local Cancer Research charity shop in London, to being a volunteer teacher at a blind school, helping out at a church orphanage, and working with internally displaced person camps in Nigeria.
"I really like to help people and if I can do something to help then I’ll do it,” Naomi says. “It’s just something I’ve been brought up to do."
While still uncertain exactly what route her career will take, Naomi’s compassion and helpfulness will undoubtedly anchor it. "When I look back on my career, I want to have practised corporate and civil law and done a lot of pro-bono work." But be it corporate or civil, Naomi beautifully articulates her interest in presenting cases that favour ‘finding peace and getting people what they deserve’.
"I know I’ll need to sound clear and be confident to do that,” says Naomi. "Susan’s programme really helps you achieve that. It uncovers unhelpful habits you may not know you have and gives you practical ways to improve."
When it comes to her own unhelpful habits discouraging her from speaking up, Naomi explains hers manifest themselves mentally and physically. "I’m using the tools Susan gave me to tame my inner critic on the mental level, so I speak up more often. But I’m also practicing the tips and techniques she gave me, so I physically don’t run out of breath when I do speak."
Having herself benefited from the programme, Naomi has become a Make Your Mark ambassador to help spread awareness that this type of programme is available.
"It’s critical that students know this programme exists – that there’s a way they can be taught to think, speak and behave professionally. I wish this programme were taught in schools because it’s such a great thing. Everyone should understand why they act the way they do, and know how to come across as confidently as they can."
But Naomi wants to do more than raise awareness about the programme, she’s also keen to share her newly acquired skills to benefit others - particularly with students from different backgrounds and race.
"I’m fortunate to have great role models within my family. My uncle is a lawyer and he’s doing well. My dad has a job that serves people for the greater good. Seeing their drive and determination helps me keep going. They encourage me, and I want to emulate that. I want to be the type of person and lawyer that others can depend on, who is adaptable, who does things well and acts as a mentor to help guide and encourage others. I’m on a confidence journey but Susan’s programme has shown me there’s help available, there are ways to improve yourself, and I’m now keen to help others benefit from that learning too!"
Naomi Oamen is in her final year studying law at the University of Dundee. To qualify as a solicitor, she will spend a further year at a law school, followed by a two-year traineeship with a legal firm. She attended the Make Your Mark with Susan Room® for students summer school in 2020. On the back of her fantastic experiences, she became an ambassador to help spread awareness that this type of programme is available and to share her learnings - particularly with students from different backgrounds and race.