Having developed my career mainly in the services departments of third sector organisations I have now taken on a broader role, finding myself very much a part of the policy and public affairs world. Communications and fundraising all have a part to play in my current role and I will continue to develop this knowledge.
I started off working for Snowsport Scotland in their services department and then went on to the PBC Foundation, a health charity based in Edinburgh where I led on a lottery funded project in their services team. Four years ago I accepted a job with Bowel Cancer UK, again to the services department. In the past four year my role has developed taking on the public affairs and policy work of the organisation in Scotland, looking after a staff and volunteer team and certain communication and fundraising functions. It's challenging and diverse. I wouldn't have it any other way.
Business Studies and Health Sciences degree from The Open University.
What does your current role entail on a day to day basis?
My role with Bowel Cancer UK is currently made up of elements from all of our departments so there really isn't a set script for any day. At the heart of everything we do there are people with bowel cancer so I have regular contact with patients and family members who inform our work whether as volunteer, trainees or sharing their stories for media and campaigns. The services arm of my work means that I could be delivering training to NHS Health Improvement Teams or organising stakeholder engagement events with the Scottish Government. The communications element means that I might be on the radio taking about good bowel health or writing an editorial on bowel screening services.
An increasing amount of my time is spent in meetings with NHS, Scottish Government and other cancer charities, through the Scottish Cancer Coalition, to ensure that bowel cancer patients are getting the absolute best service that the NHS in Scotland can provide, making sure they are being listened to when important decisions are being made and what improvements need to be made and how can we as a charity help.
I couldn't do any of this without the support of the Bowel Cancer UK team especially the other three members of staff based in Scotland and the volunteers all of which I line manage.
How much of your current role is taken up with public affairs activities?
Our public affairs work has increased over the last two years in Scotland to great effect. I would say as much as a quarter of my time is now spent on our public affairs work in the region.
What do you enjoy about public affairs and campaigning?
The impact that one person can have. One experience, one voice, if used in the right way can help thousands. Of course it takes other people to make sure that they are heard but putting those mechanisms and relationships in place and to see the direct impact that that can have on peoples lives is pretty humbling at times. It makes you proud of what you do for a living.
What skills and characteristics are most important to be successful in public affairs?
I have never had bowel cancer, I need to constantly listen to those who have to try to understand their experiences of diagnosis, surgery, treatment and what is life like for them living with and beyond, how do people prepare for death. What services did they need and how could we help.
You need to have a good understanding of the political landscape you are operating in and who are the people that you are going to need to help you make the changes.
Use your team. Our staff team at Bowel Cancer UK have a wealth of skill and knowledge, you don't have to do it all yourself.
What advice would you offer to graduates seeking to break into the Scottish public affairs industry?
Internships and volunteering programmes can be an excellent way to gain that valuable experience you need in the sector. There are lots of great charities who offer such opportunities. If you can demonstrate that you have hands-on experience with a campaign then you will stand out from the crowd.