My Career Clock Name: Alison Randle
Interviewer: Sally Higham
Where are you based for work and what do you do?
I’m based in Stroud, and I’m a development consultant and facilitator, and I support the work of volunteer-run organisations. I get involved in the governance, planning, strategic work and the scaffolding around the organisation so the people within it can get on with their work effectively. Sometimes I help them get over a tricky hump or sometimes it can be long term – I’ve been working for my longest-term client for 11 years!
Did you train for a specific job?
I am a trained scientist – I have a degree in Applied Biology. I came into this field of work via volunteering and I was involved in running the local playgroup through a period of change until it became an official charity. We also converted a building in the village as a community enterprise. Then I started out as a sole trader and I worked with the council and voluntary service in Cornwall. Since then I have begun training in a Masters in Development Management, which I have almost finished! I use my scientific training every day – it’s never wasted.
What’s a typical working day for you?
A really typical day is working from home, checking emails and doing the desk work. I support the Gliding Association – I am their National Development Officer and we support their 80 gliding clubs. I do a lot of work for them and I might help a club with issues that either need a quick reaction – perhaps a planning issue, for example if a wind turbine planning request comes in close to a gliding club – which could be a big risk for a club. They will be looking for my support to manage this potential problem. Or it could be a project that involves writing resources for policies or websites for example. I also meet clubs and committees and I help them with governance, project planning and funding. Sometimes I get involved in strategic work as well. I have also sat on the HMRC forum for CASC – Community Amateur Sports Clubs – who have looked at the review of the CASC schemes and the governance around them.
What are your aspirations for your career in the future?
I have been a single parent for years and now they have grown up. I have re- gathered my energy and now I am ready to be full time – I have been part time for some years. I want to push myself out of my comfort zone. It has made me consider whether I want a full-time CEO role or whether I might look for other interesting opportunities alongside my other current work. I’m open to ideas!
Can you tell me about a defining moment of your career?
It was when I was chairing the Playgroup – I had so much positive feedback and it gave me ideas for my future careers. The other one was a European club development project looking at why Gliding numbers are shrinking across the world – that was a high profile project and it was a pivotal point for me.
Who helped you along the way? Did you have formal or informal mentors?
I have had the opposite, which has been tough – someone who really affected my confidence and took me some years to recover from. This was in a work environment. I feel that we have a strong permission ethos and if someone in authority erodes that permission, it can be very difficult to manage. They were micro managing me and then dripping negative stuff to other people. It was her own insecurities that brought this about.
However, when I worked with the East Cornwall Voluntary Service there was a woman who taught me a lot about how to work with volunteers and community development and helped me a great deal. And another – male – Director of that service was also pivotal in encouraging me forward.
Have you changed direction in your career? Did you ever swerve off course?
Yes twice! I went from research in Biology to financial services and then moving into development off the back of volunteering.
What are the worst and best bits about your job?
The worst bit is when a group of volunteers come and ask your advice, you help them and then they ignore that advice – that can be hard to see. The best bits are watching people you have helped go from thinking they can’t do something, to then go and achieve great things.
Have you ever considered a board/NED/trustee role?
I was doing a lot of voluntary work when I lived in Cornwall and I have been a trustee of a local Arboretum board for a while. The time has come when I need to do more as a paid role rather than just as an unpaid volunteer.
What helps you to stay interested/excited in what you do?
The people! The people I work with are mostly volunteers, but they all care really deeply about what they do and the people they help. They are really passionate and interesting people.
It’s always varied – I’m off to Scotland after this call to a Gliding meeting!