Take a look at our latest member success story with Sue Noyes
Sue Noyes joined the NHS as a chartered accountant in the early 90s and enjoyed 25 years in a variety of healthcare organisations., mainly as a Finance Director , but with her final position being Chief Executive of East Midlands Ambulance Service.
In 2016 Sue decided to leave the NHS to pursue a portfolio career, joining In Touch in 2017 and taking part in one of the first cohorts of our acclaimed Ahead of the Curve development programme. Read on to find out how In Touch supported Sue to build the skills needed to create a diverse and rewarding portfolio of roles.
I’d wanted to pursue a portfolio career for quite some years, and had always imagined a time where I’d build a second career around things I really wanted to do.
Although I had worked with executives and non-executives extensively, and had worked on a board for the last 15 years of my full-time career, I realised that I could probably benefit from a fresh perspective . While I had a good idea of what being a non-executive director entailed, I still thought it was worth going through some training to reorientate myself a bit in readiness for my new direction. That’s when I came to In Touch and the Ahead of the Curve (AOTC) programme.
I thought it looked like a good opportunity and I really liked the fact that it was virtual, allowing you to work at your own pace between the regular seminars. I really enjoyed the experience and the group I was in had some great conversations throughout the course. For me, the highlights were the content focused on personal branding, how to redefine yourself and crafting your elevator pitch. I really took away the importance of looking at who you are now, rather than who you were - that was a paradigm shift for me.
AOTC was really positive and allowed me to realise I wanted to pursue a combination of paid and voluntary work. I heard of an opportunity locally to become the chair of a charity, which meant learning a great deal but it was overwhelmingly positive. At the same time I applied for a paid role at a local clinical commissioning group in the NHS, which was in a sector I obviously knew well. I was then approached about applying for a non-executive Director role at Birmingham Women’s and Children’s hospital at the end of 2017. I’d always had my eye on that organisation so that was an easy decision to apply and I was delighted to be successful, joining in April 2018.
But just before that move, I was also approached in 2017 about applying for the chair of my local Further Education college and that was a role I really had to think about. I liked the challenge of a different sector – I knew I didn’t want to be an NED in the health sector alone. However, in taking on non-executive, voluntary and trustee roles, I realised you must engage with a role and an organisation with passion. After visiting the college to see it for myself,II realised I felt a connection, and so chose to apply and was successful.
I’m currently chair of the National Ambulance Staff Charity which really resonates with my last executive role, as does the fact that we are building the charity - it’s great to be involved from the start.
On the days when I’m not doing these roles, I also have my own Executive and career coaching business – so I now have the portfolio career I was looking for !
The qualities that make a good non-executive are very similar to those I use in my coaching - the ability to listen, reflect back, challenge and support, and work collaboratively to achieve goals.
Critical too is your own time management, and being clear on your boundaries - if you have multiple roles you need to be organised and designate time to each role but don’t let it consume you. You need your own time and space and a portfolio career does allow that if you manage your time and are clear and firm about your level of commitment from the outset..
You must also recognise that there is a time and a season for everything. When you take on non-executive roles it won’t be forever. After two years I always ask ‘Am I still relevant or is it time for a change?’ Check in that you are still engaged and connected to the organisation is important
If not, that’s when you start planning your exit strategy - there are lots and lots of opportunities out there and its important to choose one you feel passionate about.
It is absolutely possible to create a great non-executive career but it takes flexibility, confidence, being clear about the role. But you can be just as proud of the things you achieve in the second phase of your career, as you were in your first. You really can find a very fulfilling portfolio career if you keep these things in mind.