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CIA agent turned entrepreneur delivers inspirational guest lecture

A woman wearing glasses and a blue and white dress stands in front of a wall with a Liverpool Hope Business School sign.

A former CIA agent who transformed her career to become an award-winning entrepreneur has delivered an inspiring lecture on leadership at Liverpool Hope University.

Rupal Patel, a renowned business leader, author and public speaker, shared her remarkable life story with students, staff, alumni and members of the local business community on Thursday 7 December.

A trailblazer in every sense of the word, Rupal’s career in the CIA saw her work as an intelligence analyst and field agent in jungles and war zones, earning her War Zone Service Medals and the recognition of the CIA Director who praised her ‘superior support to the President of the United States’.

She has since established herself as a sought-after international speaker and corporate advisor who has worked with The White House and Fortune 500 companies across the globe to develop and inspire the next generation of leaders.

Hosted by Liverpool Hope Business School, her guest lecture built on her best-selling book - From CIA to CEO: Unconventional Life Lessons for Thinking Bigger, Leading Better, and Being Bolder – sharing what she has learnt from her high-octane career.

“My message to students is definitely that success is not linear but also that anything is possible,” she said.

“I want to take the veil away about what success looks like and be very candid about the challenges [you face].

“When we hear success stories it is often an edited version of reality. I think it’s important for people to know the reality and to share very honestly about the downs, not just the ups, because that is part of the process of any level of success.

“I do firmly believe that anything is possible for anyone. One of the ways to make what is important to you to happen is to be aware of the challenges but also the need for persistence, sheer grit and determination.

“I hope everyone who attended left with a clear understanding that they can do anything but that it won’t be a smooth process and that’s OK. That’s just how it works.”

Rupal visited the University as it prepares to launch a new Women in Leadership course in 2024.

This postgraduate programme will aim to address the gender imbalance that exists in middle and senior leadership positions across the Liverpool City Region’s employer base.

Ran by men and women, it will combine leadership theory with practical examples of how leaders can affect real organisational change while empowering students to be the best versions of themselves and contribute to economic and societal growth.

Praising the University’s commitment to empowering a new generation of female leaders, Rupal added: “There is so much potential power in really focusing on women in leadership.

“This is the first time I have heard of a university doing a course like this and I think it is very forward thinking.

“This course acknowledges that a woman’s career journey is different because of the societal structures we are born into, but also that the change and evolution that we want cannot happen with women alone. It has to be collaborative and community-based and men are an integral part of that.

“It will give a fresh perspective and make you think about how you do things differently, which is important because we still have such a long way to go in achieving representation for women in all spheres and influence.”

Dr Craig Marsh, Dean of Liverpool Hope Business School, added: “Everyone who attended Rupal's talk - our staff, students, and external guests - found her talk both inspirational and insightful.

“It is rare that a speaker has the ability to change the way you think about a subject, but Rupal achieved this for everyone who attended - about personal effectiveness, about being a good role model, about succeeding in highly demanding environments - and much else besides.

“By popular demand, we look forward to welcoming her back to Hope soon.”

Published on 11/12/2023