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Aneela’s secret to success: Passion, passion, passion

5 mins read

Working out what you’re working for

Coming from a broken family, Aneela McKenna used to struggle with a lack of identity and sense of belonging growing up. Her mother was mentally unstable as a result of her father’s violent nature and she died prematurely, during Aneela’s teenage years.

“I think accepting that I was carrying around my emotional baggage for so long, was the catalyst that helped me flourish into the space in which I find myself today,” she reflects. 

Today, Aneela is the Manager of Diversity, Inclusion and Wellbeing at the Scottish Parliament and Partner/Mountain Bike Guide of cycle adventure and consultancy business, Go Where Scotland. Letting that inner-fire lead the way, her life took on a life of its own.

Credit: Cat Topham

Working out which people you work with

Running Go-Where together with her husband Andy McKenna, there is plenty of room for creative freedom when choosing which projects to take on. 

With a strong passion for gender diversity, Aneela’s main focus over the past few years has been to bring more women into mountain bike riding. And so, she has.

“I live and breathe equality and inclusion, that’s what drives me. I want to make a positive difference, not just at work but in all aspects of my life”

To combat the lack of female riders within the mountain biking world, she introduced women’s only riding adventures into the Go Where schedule in 2015. The results, she says, have been progressive. What you focus on expands: a steadily increasing number of female riders are now hitting bike-trails across the country. 

Credit: Chris Bryant

Working for someone else’s life to work

This summer, Aneela took on another project incorporating her two passions of biking and inclusivity. Following the tragic incident in Park Inn hotel in Glasgow this summer, which saw the deaths of three asylum seekers, Go-Where joined forces with housing and human rights charity Positive Action in Housing to launch The Refugees in Glasgow Bike Appeal. 

The initiative aims to provide freedom and independence to refugees and asylum seekers, who lack finances for public transport and often live in the outskirts of the city.

“For some this is a lifeline, receiving a bike means that they will have enough money to buy food,” Aneela says, urging anyone with spare bikes or accessories to donate to the cause.

So far, over 20 refugees have received a bike through the initiative. Another 20 are still waiting for theirs. Together with a strong team of volunteers, she continues working hard to ensure all 40 refugees receive one. Working within such a supportive environment amongst like-minded people, makes you go the extra mile. Passion is contagious.

Credit: Andy McCandlish

Working life into your work

“My career is my life and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else,” says Aneela. In her eyes, linking passion and community is the key to true success – in every definition of the word. 

As far as career goes, Aneela has nailed it. She finds true purpose in what she does, gets to share her love for biking with other enthusiasts, whilst pushing for diversity and inclusion across various sectors of society. Needless to say, she’s an exceptionally driven woman.

Her best piece of advice for reaching your career-goals: Be patient and share your Ideas with others. Also, she stresses the importance of finding what truly drives you. Look within and go deep.  

“Nothing happens over-night; things take time. Create your own opportunities. Collaborate with like-minded people, find your passion and just go for it.”

Feature photo credit: Andy McCandlish

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