IW Series featuring Emmi Nicholl

IW Series featuring Emmi Nicholl

We’re passionate about promoting female entrepreneurship and encouraging more women to step forward to become leaders in their organisations and communities. Which is why we launched our ‘Inspirational Women’ series, to celebrate and share the stories of many of our female entrepreneurs and leaders, and the networks or organisations that they run. 

Emmi Nicholl is the Deal Sorcerer for Cambridge Angels, a collective of Cambridge Angel investors who provide guidance and financial support to help grow innovative and disruptive technology businesses, and Emmi is one of the key figures in leading this grand pursuit. Before this, however, she was worked in operational and governance roles, so her transition to the Angels was a smooth one.

Who are you, and what’s your business?  

I am Emmi Nicholl. I am the Deal Sorcerer for Cambridge Angels, and I am reasonably convinced I have the best job title in the world.  

Why are you passionate about the job you do currently? 

My job is amazing. I get to work with some of the foremost business leaders in the UK, who have incredible experience in building businesses. Cambridge Angels investors are amongst the brightest minds in the country, but they still manage to be humble and generous with their time and wisdom. Added to that, I’m constantly getting to talk to interesting and inspirational founders. On any given day, I could spend the morning talking to someone whose business is all about harvesting energy and by the afternoon, be deep into learning about the latest advances in digital healthcare. In other words, I’m never bored!  

What’s your background?

I have an academic background in Applied Linguistics, a field that I studied simply because I love languages, and I am eternally fascinated by the language acquisition and learning process. Strangely though, I never chose to work in that field and headed almost immediately into operational and governance roles. So, my career has always been about making businesses operate more efficiently or establishing new teams, processes and finding better ways to do things. I am one of those operational people that love to make things orderly and tidy.  

What is the biggest challenge you have had to overcome as you scale the business or what is the biggest challenge that you have in your job because you are a woman?

My biggest challenge as a woman has been overcoming my own bias.  I was raised in a fairly patriarchal household. Many men of my father’s generation had some ideas about ‘appropriate’ career roles for women, and I was (subliminally) raised to believe that success would be possible only if I took on masculine characteristics and parked my femininity – stereotypical female traits were for the home; definitely not the office.  I have had a long and ongoing journey to make sure that I balance my behaviour, and to represent all aspects of my personality. I like to think that being slightly blind to gender (I seldom notice if I happen to be the only woman in a room) is a sign that I am achieving that balance.  

What advice would you give yourself 5 years ago?

I would borrow the advice I was given about a year later by one of the best leaders I have had the good fortune to work with.  He said, “just be yourself; that will be more than enough”. Apart from it being a wonderful compliment, I think there’s a lot to be said for the value of authenticity.  

Who inspires you? And why? 

I am not sure that there is any one person.  The beauty of my job is getting to meet so many different people, and I get to learn from all of them.  Today I have been inspired by talking to someone who did the rare thing of giving his full and undivided attention to our conversation.    

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