I started at the Skipton Building Soceity when I was 19 – young, full of energy and a little unruly if I’m truthful! I started as an administrator at the contact centre, and if you asked 19 year old me what her chances of progression were, she’d be pretty surprised now! I didn’t think I had much potential, or so I’d been told at school.

In my time at Skipton I’ve learnt that I am intrinsically motivated – I love to learn new things and I’ve had five different careers so far! When it comes to formal qualifications however, I left school with minimal GCSEs and I have always put myself down, assuming others were more ‘academic’ than me. However, in 2020 I began to realise that this self-doubt was impacting my ability to progress.

I’d seen the Senior Leader Apprenticeship with the top-up to MSc in Strategic Leadership and always wondered if I’d be brave enough to apply. Would I be good enough? I was 30 something with a husband, a son about to start school and a fat labrador, so applying for something so intensive was a big decision. Two years on, I know it was the right one.

When colleagues ask me for advice about applying for the programme, I always ask them about their motivation. Is it for the CV, for self-confidence or something else? Understanding your intent is important as it helps you assess the impact it may have on your life. For me it was about my self-confidence, so I needed to know I had sufficient time to plan, learn, read and ask questions – I therefore planned to put time aside with my employer to make sure I wasn’t overwhelmed (the University recommend 7 to 10 hours a week).

For those considering it I thought I’d share what I’ve learnt and offer some advice:

  • Being at University is like starting a new project at work: you listen, learn, ask questions, explore and make a recommendation.
  • You don’t need to be ‘academic’ to be successful – the programme has given me confidence to be my authentic self, to understand who I am and how I show up in different environments.
  • Some of the most useful skills I learned that I use every day are how to conduct research, think critically and write a clear business report.
  • Build a network of support. I’m thankful for my cohort on the programme – I have made some true friends who are there to support, listen, moan and laugh together!

While the programme has given me the knowledge of how an organisation is most effectively run and the moving parts it needs to be successful, the most important things I’ve learned are about myself. I’ve grown as a person, gained the confidence to try new things, to push and challenge myself on what I can achieve. Most recently that has been accepting the position of Chief of Staff, a role that I wouldn’t have thought possible two years ago.

So if you’re considering taking the leap, what are you waiting for?

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