Posted: Monday 8 March 2021, 10:44
How long have you been in the role?
Almost exactly a year, I think my interview was probably online, and it was the second week that we went into formal lockdown, so it was a bit scary.
Tell us a bit about it.
So it's a new role, so even now a year on still kind of finding my way through a little bit. I have responsibility for HR, for a department that we call People and Organisational Development - which captures an awful lot of the corporate work that we do - and also for our systems and information department. The challenges on a daily basis are; keeping up with the activities of all of those different departments, and the different functions, and the curveballs that come in on it on a daily basis.
What do you enjoy most?
Exactly that really. The variety that it brings, the fact that one day I'm talking about HR things, another time I could be talking about occupational health related things - you know getting involved with lots of other people. It's just really no day is the same and I think that's great. That's what keeps it keeps it fresh.
Tell us about your career path.
So I did go to university, but I went to university quite late in life actually, it was one of the final qualifications that I did. I started with the County Council many many years ago in social services and always had an ambition to get involved in HR things, which I was fortunate enough to be able to do; but, my career path was very much on the management development or training side of things.
Then I joined Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service, and was responsible for their operational training, a number of years ago now, and then was fortunate enough to come back to Derbyshire - which is where I revisited the broader church of HR if you like. That's where I did my qualifications, originally in management development and training delivery, and then laterally I went into HR and I did a master's degree in human resource management.
Did you ever see yourself as being part of a strategic leadership team?
I think I fell into a career as opposed to having a career path, I feel very envious - and I suppose that's the purpose of part of the conversation really - that for young women today, and children growing up, I do feel that the opportunities are endless. It's only limited by your own imagination. When I was growing up - as I say too many years ago than I care to remember now - as a woman you either became a nursery nurse if you were kind of going in that direction, or I think a medical secretary was one that was offered to me as I was leaving school, very very traditional clerical support roles. So the idea of being an oceanographer or an archaeologist or something like that, a surveyor or an engineer, was never really on the, firefighter, was never on the agenda for me growing up, you know in the 70s 80s.
Have you faced any challenges in your career?
I think one that always stands out and I was very young - I was only probably 18 or 19 - was “it's not your turn duck”. It was a comment that I got given by a colleague having just missed out on a promotion.
The other one, that is slightly tangential to your question but stands out for me - and links to what I was just saying I guess – is that, really that for those who know me I'm five foot two on a good day, and you know reasonably small in stature. I actually wanted to be an air fighter pilot, I also wanted to join the police, I also did look at the fire rescue service, and I also wanted to join the army, so I was quite orientated to those kinds of backgrounds. I suppose because I'm five foot two/five foot one and a half, it was they wouldn't even give me a second choice, a second look. So it was “oh you might want to go and try the army”, or because I was relatively small in stature that that wasn't an option for me, so those careers at that stage were kind of no-go areas.
How do you feel about the way your career path developed?
I'm really happy with the way it’s developed, and who wouldn't be! Really you know, I feel that I've had - have got - a very successful career and I've honestly loved 95% of it, genuinely; but, I do still wish that I had had the opportunity to do those things, to maybe be a police officer or join the army. Whether I would be cut out for it or not I'll leave for others to be the judge of. So I'm really pleased to be involved in a non-operational capacity in an emergency service, because I suppose, having had those barriers all those years ago it's the kind of closest I was going to get really, which is a bit of a regret I can't deny; but equally, I'm very very happy with the career I've got.
Do you feel you can help other females in their careers?
I think it's a bit like being the older sibling isn't it, in that you know you're the one who's expected to do all the things first. You know, whether that's move house, live with somebody you know, whatever it is. I'd like to think that irrespective of whether I'm from an operational background, or a non-operational background, I've been around a while and I'd like to think that people can turn to me - I hope they can turn to me - if they feel that they need some support or advice or guidance, whether that's male or female, I'd definitely see that that's my role and particularly for young women coming through or thinking about a career. The world's your oyster, and never more has it been the case. I know there's still more that we can do but the fire service is on the right trajectory and I'm really really proud to be a part of that.
What advice do you have for females starting their careers?
Be yourself, keep faith in yourself - which is kind of a different thing - be strong, and don't let your limitations be the extent of your imagination.