What was your first break in business?
After graduating in applied chemistry in 1991, I drove to Newcastle to visit my girlfriend for the weekend. I read through the Evening Chronicle’s jobs page and saw an advert for a laboratory technician for the National Rivers Authority. I rang the number and started the following Tuesday. I’ve been in the North East ever since (with my girlfriend who soon became my wife).
What did you want to be growing up?
I grew up living in a flat above a butcher’s shop and thought this was the career for me until I got accidentally locked in the walk-in freezer when I was eight. After that, there wasn’t a specific career that I wanted to pursue – although I was always told I’d end up in retail or sales as I talked too much at school!
What attracted you to your current role?
Prior to joining Gateshead College, I worked for Northumbrian Water for 24 years, where I had the opportunity to get to know many of the region’s employers. In 2011, I was invited to join the board of Gateshead College and over the course of four years found myself becoming immersed in the further education sector and the vital role it has for the North East’s future. To get the chance to work in the skills sector alongside the North East’s employers was too good an opportunity to turn down.
What is your organisation’s mission?
Our mission at Gateshead College is to shape and nurture the most highly prized students in the jobs market. I am a great believer in collaboration and making meaningful links between further education, schools, universities and employers that will, ultimately, create an improved regional economy.
How do you get the best out of your team?
I look to lead by example and create an environment of open communication, encouragement and support. Developing trust in a team is critical and I always try and ensure there are open lines of communication, where all opinions can be heard, and focus on the strengths of individuals, rather than dwell on the weaknesses.
What has been your career highlight?
There have been many highlights for me over my career, however being part of the Gateshead College board when we were graded Outstanding by Ofsted in the summer of 2015 will stay with me for a long time. It was a privilege to listen to the feedback from the inspectors on their observations of how we put our students and employers at the heart of everything we do, our focus on delivering skills for regional priorities and giving every student the employment edge.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Taking the step to leave Northumbrian Water to join Gateshead College. I knew I was leaving one outstanding North East organisation for another, however I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and testing myself in a completely different sector.
Who or what inspires you?
I’ve met so many people over the years whose advice I’ve respected and that has helped shape me into the leadership role at Gateshead College today. I’ve also been involved with the charity WaterAid for several years and this has given me the chance to meet some inspirational people who, in the face of adversity, demonstrate resilience, passion and ambition for their families and their communities – qualities that are needed equally in organisations. Thinking about the people I’ve met inspires me to play my part in improving our region’s future.
What are Gateshead College’s short and long-term goals?
Gateshead College’s goals – both in the short and long term – are to help regional employers meet the skills challenges they face and to provide them with young people with a real employment edge. It’s never been more important that we take a lead on the skills agenda, working closely with employers, to ensure they can recruit skilled people for growth.
How do you achieve a good work/life balance?
It’s taken time to find the formula, however, I’ve learnt that to perform at my best at work, I need to plan quality time away from work, too.