After qualifying NNEB in 1986, yes 30 years ago, I held a variety of newly qualified roles, which in those days were hard to find. I worked 72 hours per week as a nanny and had a very interesting summer as a nursery nurse at a holiday camp.
In 1990 I moved to Derby and worked for eight years in social care as a family support worker. The role changed over time and once it became apparent I was no longer making a positive contribution to families it was time to move on. I completed my Higher National Certificate in Business to open up my options into leadership.
In 1998 I took a pay cut to move to a charity that was clearly making a positive difference, I started as the nursery manager and as the charity grew I became the chief executive. Reflecting on the last 18 years, I have had some incredible opportunities that most people would not even dream of, including:
- Developing and successfully delivering countless projects supporting children and families, securing millions of pounds in the process
- Project managing a £3.2m new build that involved 2 moves and a purpose built building
- Developing new service areas including family support, careers advice and training
- Winning awards such as Community Champion of the Year and a regional RICS award for the building
- Completing a BA Hons in Business and Voluntary Sector Management
- Securing a place on the pilot for National Professional Qualification in Integrated Centre Leadership and gaining a Post Graduate Certificate in Early Childhood Studies
At the start of my time at Derwent Stepping Stones our turnover was £200,000 with a staff team of 11, in our most successful year we employed over 90 people and our turnover reached £1.8 million. The financial crisis has hit us all and difficult decisions needed to be made in 2015, an unfortunate incident and ensuing negative publicity knocked us again. We have been forced to reduce service areas and focus on high quality childcare in four locations. I once again find myself as nursery manager, wading though the changes that have taken place over the years.
For years I have considered sharing my valuable experience of leading through growth, difficult times, reducing and everything in between. Now seems like a perfect time to go for it, I intend to use my experience and theoretical knowledge to practically support those in my sector who undertake a difficult role because they are passionate about shaping the lives of young children.
At 18 I abandoned plans to go to university and with no idea of what to do other than to earn a living I fell into a job as an accounts clerk. For someone who had been planning to be a primary school teacher this was an about-turn. I enjoyed the work and soon realised I had an aptitude for it. Over the next 15 years I gained a wide variety of experience across different businesses and sectors.
As a newly single parent looking for a role that would fit around school hours I came across a job at Derwent Stepping Stones, where my children had been cared for in their early years. The role started off as a small part-time job but my inherent curiosity led me to become involved in many different aspects of the business and before long I became the finance manager. The organisation was entering a period of growth and change and a large part of my role was to put in place the processes, policies and procedures to meet the needs of the business, legislative requirements and the local, national and European funders we were working with.
The staff team grew in size and complexity and HR matters took up increasing amounts of time. After several years as the unofficial HR advisor my role and my job title expanded to Finance & HR Manager. The demands of finance and HR are quite different and at times it can be difficult to balance the two, particularly when multiple crises occur. Being part of a strong team, with shared values, in a no blame culture certainly helps me to get the job done.
I have worked with and seen many different management styles and I know the difference good leadership can make to a business, to its staff and customers. Our children deserve to be cared for by people who enjoy their work, who feel valued and supported, who are clear about what their responsibilities are and are enabled to fulfil them. That’s a hard task; I hope our knowledge and experience will be useful to you in achieving it.