I’ve spent the last 20 years in various leadership positions in community/voluntary and public sector organisations. I even spent some time running a café whilst working full time in one of these positions. So why now? Why make the move? Was this the direction I had envisaged….?
Primarily – the timing was right. The stars were aligned. It made sense. Mostly a lot of personal factors influenced the decision but I saw professionally endless opportunities and countless possibilities.
I was in a rat race of epic proportions. I was navigating through a perfect and endless storm. I was working full time in Belfast. I had a great employer and for the past 6 years or so enjoyed a flexible working pattern which meant one day remote working. However, that still meant 4 days a week with a 3-hour round trip commute. In Northern Ireland that’s considered a bit of a big deal. I know many of my peers in GB think nothing of that, but they are usually blessed with a connective public transport system, not a rural road network. A typical day involved leaving my home at 6.40am with my two children in tow and not returning to 6.30/7.00pm. Throw in a husband working abroad, homework and extracurricular activities and it was apparent that the books could not continue to balance for much longer. Personally, I knew I couldn’t keep at the pace, well perhaps I could but family life was suffering, as was my passion for a job I loved.
I’ve always been ambitious, wanting to succeed and excel in what I do. I always take pride in my work and achieve to the best of my ability. I thought my career path was carved out, promotion after promotion, not necessarily in the same organisation, but moving into more senior positions until finally I’d land a CEO post…..maybe someday I will… but for now there is so much to do, and so many better ways I believe I can help a plethora of organisations.
A different perfect storm was brewing. The new look and feel draft Programme for Government – love or hate it, NI Executive or Direct Rule – it provides a framework for the future delivery of public services. Then there is local council Community Planning, regardless of the future political masters it is now enshrined in legislation, but many stakeholders are still scratching their head about the how. Add to that the Voluntary Exit Scheme (VES) in the Public Sector, with a lot of expertise being lost. And, did I mention, my opportunity to apply for VES….? And so, it all came together. Is it possible, could it be, what would my future hold?
I took a leap of faith. A leap of faith in myself to do it, to move into a consultancy role, and a leap of faith in my family and many close friends to support me. I had encouraging comments – you’ll never look back. Reassuring comments – it takes time. Kick up the posterior comments – stop criticising yourself! And I’ve had help and support from far flung corners I’d never have expected. Acquaintances and distant contacts highlighting opportunities to me or expressing how much they’d like to work with me. It’s a buzz, it keeps me sane.
Okay I know it’s a cliché but I want to make a difference. I want to help others make a difference. I have had the privilege to work with many great individuals over the years. When working with them I was a sponge, absorbing, learning. I’ve worked on many great projects over the years. In fact, I’ve led, designed, developed and implemented many great projects over the years. Imagine if all my energy wasn’t dedicated to doing most the work for these projects, but my role was strategic and advisory? I would have the ability to influence and guide 10-fold more great projects making a difference to the lives of so many people in Northern Ireland and further afield. Intuitively I have worked in an “Outcomes Based Accountability” manner for years with evidential results. Not everyone has. (It just so happens that OBA is the framework for the draft Programme for Government and many of the Community Action Plans.)
Consultancy will provide me with opportunity. The opportunity to make a difference, to pass on what I have learnt and move on. The opportunity to support leaders with different skill sets to mine. The opportunity to assist in the process of Northern Ireland realising its vision. The opportunity to help deliver on the Programme for Government and the development and delivery of local council Community Action Plans. The opportunity to work on projects that excite me and fit with my values. The opportunity to meet new people from lots of walks of life. And very importantly ….. the opportunity to achieve a satisfactory work life balance and the opportunity to reinvigorate my passion.
The opportunities are there. The rest is up to me.