In conversation with Amandeep Gill

Meet Amandeep Gill, Founder of a new Public Affairs and Strategic Communications recruitment company, Melbury Wood.

As one of a handful of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) recruitment consultants in the Public Affairs and Strategic Communications industry, BAME in Property was keen to discover how diversity guided (or did not in some instances) the recruitment process for built environment communications.

“BAME is a complex issue in the built environment space and beyond. There isn’t a quick fix, as it has a lot to do with economic status and social mobility too. Often low socio-economic and BAME backgrounds come hand-in-hand,”

The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) latest census (2016) of the industry showed that just 9 per cent of practitioners classified as BAME. This is despite 58 per cent of Public Relations businesses being based in London, where nearly 45 per cent of Londoners classifies as BAME.

On the other end of the spectrum was the solution of positive discrimination in a bid to improve diversity in the industry.

“Some clients may actually ask for women or BAME candidates on shortlists. However, I am not an advocate of positive discrimination, as we want to encourage candidates being judged on their skills and merit alone for the job and not their background. Therefore I’m not sure that positive discrimination is a solution to the diversity problem. I’m in favour of ‘positive action’ to help remove those barriers instead.” said Amandeep.

Within the Public Affairs and Communications sector, although progress has been made we can see it doesn’t appear to necessarily reflect diversity in wider society. Companies may have an unconscious bias around candidate’s hobbies, interests and educational background. “Employers have occasionally hinted an ‘Oxbridge’ graduate/profile and often, such individuals may be drawn from a narrow demographic in society,” said Amandeep.

Born and bred in Southall, Ealing in West London, Amandeep is no stranger to diversity. Southall is home to one of the largest South Asian communities in the UK, the majority of whom are Sikh.

The entrepreneurial spirit and having one’s own business has always been there since day one. Like many children of immigrant families, Amandeep was brought up with an extremely hardworking ethic, instilled from a young age.

"My parents were fairly typical for a first generation Asian family in London and ran a newsagent for a while… [In addition,] dad was a cab driver, while mum worked at Heathrow airport. My parents worked hard and ensured that I did too. They struggled and felt they didn’t have many prospects, so naturally they wanted to ensure I had the best platform to succeed."

“From the age of 7 - 11, I went to a private school in Ealing. My parents weren’t educated to a high level, so sending me to private school in their eyes was one way of ensuring I had the best prospects I could," he added.

Amandeep was encouraged to opt for a more ‘traditional’ subject at university rather than business. He enjoyed the social sciences and decided Law would provide him with a good foundation for whatever he decided to pursue afterwards.

He studied Law at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL). In his third year, he won a scholarship to study at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, set up by the Drapers Fund.

With such successes in law, I was keen to discover how Amandeep ended up in Recruitment.

“I worked in law for a couple of years after graduating. It was a high street law firm and I enjoyed applying my legal knowledge to real life client problems, I thought I was good at it,” said Amandeep.

No doubt his aspirations went beyond working as a paralegal. “I tried to secure pupillage for two years, but needed to have a steady income and career path to follow and it was an incredibly competitive and oversubscribed profession,” he added.

At the age of 26, although the option was available, Amandeep decided that he did not want to become a trainee solicitor. This was when his transition into the world of Recruitment began.

He began his recruitment career at a global recruitment firm. Law had [taught me] many soft skills, such as advocacy, communications and writing… all very transferable skills,” explained Amandeep. Although law was interesting, “I preferred policy and public affairs recruitment, as I could relate to it more,” he added.

Amandeep is involved in Ealing politics, hence his interest in the more policy side of recruitment. He was able to relate with his colleagues due to having the knowledge of the industry, coupled with his legal background.

Keen to revive that entrepreneurial streak in him, after nearly seven years of working for recruitment consultancies, Amandeep took the decision to set up his own recruitment company, Melbury Wood in May 2019.

“I’ve worked hard to get to this stage, where I am comfortable with my own skills and network to take on that challenge,” said Amandeep.

Though of course, no entrepreneur is free of support and guidance.

"I wouldn’t have got to where I am without training, support and investment from my former colleagues, clients and candidates. They chose to work with me."

Melbury Wood is a values-based company, conducting its business with four core principles running through it: knowledge, integrity, meritocracy and responsibility.

“I am always looking for something different, what do clients want and can I do that, if I can, how to monetise it in a commercial model,” said Amandeep.

Not short of ambitions, instilled in him all those years ago, Amandeep is serious about growth and expansion.

“I want to built my own little empire. I have ambitions having come from humble backgrounds… I think anyone can do it,” said Amandeep.

“In time, I would like to bring other people into my business, Partners and junior employees. I am keen to embark on training and development, much like what I had received myself early in my career,” he added.

Melbury Wood is not just about making money. Amandeep is passionate about corporate social responsibility and giving back to community projects, which share the same values as the company.

With some big clients under his belt already, there’s clearly an exciting journey ahead for Amandeep and Melbury Wood.

"My potential is only limited by my own vision."

I couldn’t agree more and wish all the best to Amandeep. If you would like to learn more about Melbury Wood, please visit: https://melburywood.com/

Priya Shah, Founder of BAME in Property