I’m a bit of a jack-of-all trades, my career to date has seen me managing teams of 40 young people, building organisation-wide databases, and constructing communications strategies. I have lived and worked in Uganda, Ghana, and Tanzania (and my home country of the UK, of course). Whatever I’m doing, I fundamentally believe that we should use our skills and knowledge for the betterment of people and planet – I managed three sentences before using a cliche, not bad going for a personal website…
This varied work experience is likely a result of a combination of my core traits and values. My flexibility and desire to learn has seen me jump at opportunities that others might be hesitant about. I work hard, I am resilient, and I prioritise long-term success of projects over quick wins. I am an intrapreneur. I will get the job done, and in the background build processes and templates to get it done faster and to a better quality.
I have recently become interested by history, a subject area I have overlooked in the past (sort of pun sort of unintended). What is interesting about it is the context it provides for the present. So here is (some of) my personal history.
University (First and Second Year)
During college, I didn’t have the motivation to go to university, fortunately, my Head of Sixth Form was wiser than I was and encouraged me to submit an application. But for what subject? It was just after the 2008 financial crisis, so I hedged my bets and chose Business Management with Marketing … what do companies always need? Marketing. What do companies need even more of when consumer confidence is low? Marketing. This younger me was aiming for the big bucks.
So, off I went on my merry way to the University of Brighton to get my Bachelor’s. I soon found that I suited the academic life well, my first marketing paper – a critique of the 4Ps model – received the best mark in my cohort. In my first year, I became Course Representative, and in my second, I became Business School Representative with Brighton Students’ Union.
University (Placement Year)
I was fortunate enough to go to a Business School with an excellent track record of work-based placements; my four-year course option required me to complete one.
A member of staff from Brighton Students’ Union who knew me from my volunteering approached me to apply for an up-coming role. I went for an interview and three days later I was on my way to Loughborough University to attend a conference as the Raise and Give (RaG) Coordinator – responsible for growing participation in Brighton RaG.
And that, I did. With a great team of passionate people, we rose £96,000 during the academic year of 12/13 (compared to £32,000 the year before).
University (Final Year)
Final year was, to understate, hectic. I took on voluntary roles: RaG Chair, Big Build Volunteer, & Business School Representative; worked part-time: Marketing & Communications Assistant for Brighton Students’ Union; and managed to find time to achieve First Class Honours in Business Management (I dropped the ‘with Marketing’ as the core module it required wasn’t what I wanted to do).
I graduated Best in Class in the final year ‘Managing and Developing People’ module, and top 5% in ‘Consumer Psychology’. At my graduation ceremony, I was awarded ‘Best Digital Marketing Student’ and ‘Student who has made an outstanding contribution to the business school community’.
In short, I kinda nailed it.
Having spent almost every second of my final year doing the activities above, rather than applying for jobs, I did not have a job lined up for when I finished. Imprudent? Probably. Regretful? Not at all.
I spent a number of months working on a start-up social enterprise (in hindsight, not effectively), went to Morocco for two weeks (in hindsight, not ethical) and took on part-time work helping unemployed people gain employment (in hindsight, worthwhile – though the funding requirements weren’t helpful for the end goal, as is often the case).
This period is what we would call a ‘learning experience’. The main lesson being that trying succeed in getting a graduate job at the same time as starting a social enterprise is a good way to fail at both. As Ron Swanson (or rather, the writers of Parks and Recreation) says: ‘Never half-ass two things; whole-ass one thing’.
That said, applying for graduate opportunities allowed me to take on an opportunity that will forever be ‘worth it’.
…technically for the second time, but this time led to much more.
In March, I went to Uganda for a three-month private sector development project – having fundraised since the following November, which included doing a brutal 22-minute 10 Tonne Challenge and a substantially less brutal, but more stressful, local gig.
Partnered with an incredible young Ugandan, Joel, I was placed in a banana juice company. Over the course of the three months we analysed the business and implemented short-term changes. As it would have been impossible to get everything done, we researched and created ‘implementation guides’, so the business owner could put in place changes himself.
Shortly after completing my voluntary placement, the organisation offered me full-time employment. As it was their intent for me to go overseas, I spent the first two weeks of my new role in Uganda shadowing the management. An overseas role wasn’t immediately available, so, in the interim, I delivered a project to design a communications strategy, while managing a Social Media Assistant.
My move to Ghana was abrupt, with three days’ notice I was in country. My first day involved standing on a beach after a I-don’t-know-how-long-flight while volunteers complained about various issues they had encountered in their first week. After two-days of shadowing the Regional Manager, I was left to my own devices to be the Programme Manager for a DFID-funded programme worth over £400,000 annually, at the ripe age of 25.
I have plenty of stories from this experience, probably enough to fill another personal blog. I spent just over a year managing this programme, and I have never experienced such extreme highs and lows; the personal and professional challenges were intense and frequent. Did the highs make the lows worth it? Absolutely. Did the lows make me grow as a person? Undoubtedly.
Working in Monitoring and Evaluation
One thing that intrigued me during my time as Programme Manager, was the monitoring and evaluation of the project. Having completed four cycles of volunteers, I had learnt a lot about what type of work I enjoy, and the work that I sincerely don’t. I loved training & event management, staff management, programme development, being behind any type of spreadsheet. I did not enjoy trying to balance making volunteers happy with the strict code of conduct that was an inherent part of a government-funded project.
Time to do more of the work I enjoy, then. I transferred to headquarters to take on a project to analyse three years’ worth of data and write a report. With that done, I was promoted to Finance & Information Coordinator, where I provided support to the Director of Finance and led on the organisation’s monitoring and evaluation efforts.
Towards the end of a year in this capacity, I was offered a promotion to lead the development of the organisation’s online learning and reporting platform. This opportunity, and the direction of the organisation generally, wasn’t right for me, so I resigned.
Through a personal connection, I had the opportunity to live in Dar es Salaam for three months, which I jumped at. While there, I took on a few pro bono consultancies – including a security management workshop and planning project for an international community mapping organisation – and took time to work out next steps for when I returned to the UK.
Now – Moving to London and TTT Operations CIC
Now I’m back in the UK; and I’m in he process of relocating to London by securing full-time employment. I’m also building a social enterprise as a side project, which may grow into a full time occupation in a few years, we’ll see: TTT Operations CIC improves operations of impact organisations with templates, training, and technical assistance.
You may note that taking on too much was the downfall of my last start-up. This is duly noted. The difference this time is the approach, a deliberate effort to build this project over time as a side-hustle, instead of not making up my mind one way or the other.
I am really positive about the future, my mental and physical resilience has been honed through high responsibility roles in tough environments early in my career. I’m hardened and it’s about damn time I start building a name for myself in the big city.