'Networking is the fastest way up the ladder'

Kamel Hothi is the director of Lloyds TSB's Asian Markets Division. She was TSB's first female manager in the South-east and the bank's first Asian manager.

What did you want to be as a child?

A nurse or paediatrician.

What did you realistically think you'd end up doing?

I came to the UK from India at the age of six. There were six children in my family, and my role was to look after the family or work in a factory; there was no such thing as a career.

Did you go to university?

No, I wasn't allowed. I took science O-levels so I could go into nursing. I think my father was aware of what I wanted to do, but we never sat down and had the conversation about going to university until I was 16. He said no, because that meant living away from home, and females didn't do that.

How did you get into banking?

I saw an advert for a cashier at TSB. Banking didn't appeal, but my elder brother didn't want to see me work in a factory and he said to go for it. I thought I would be sitting at a desk all day counting money, but when Asian customers came in they found I could speak their language and they began asking for me. I realised I was helping people and began to enjoy it.

How did you work your way up?

The only way to progress was through courses, which were residential, so I had to decline that. I had an arranged marriage at 19 and my in-laws moved in with me. They didn't want me Westernised, so I did correspondence courses in the evenings. To begin with, I was softly spoken; beavering away, thinking my line manager would look after me. It took me a long time to realise I had to manage my own career.

Do you consider yourself to be successful?

Yes I do, taken within my own generation.

What qualities helped you to succeed?

A belief in myself, determination, and a vision that I could achieve clear goals.

What's the best decision you've made?

Adapting to change. When TSB merged with Lloyds, I made a key decision to move into group operations and the back office.

Any regrets?

I regret that I wasn't allowed to go to university. But family and culture mean a lot to me.

What are your tips for interview?

Be prepared. Research the company and its standing, and have suggestions and ideas that may come from being a customer.

What are your CV tips?

Keep to two pages. Personalise the opening paragraph. Adapt your CV to the job you're applying for; if the job requires IT skills, put them at the top.

What motivates you?

My two children; I live my dreams through them and they push me on.

Who are your heroes?

Entrepreneurs who have broken through glass ceilings, such as Pinky Lilani who founded the Asian Women of Achievement Awards. And I admire my mother, who came to the UK without a word of English.

How do I get where you are?

Always have a two-year plan; what you want to do, who will help you do it. Link yourself to associations, whether for women or ethnic minorities, because networking is the fastest way to get up the ladder.