I started out working at the General Medical Council on a new policy initiative to license doctors to practice medicine. It was a really good grounding in policy work, and I decided to I wanted to keep on working in this area so studied for an MSc in Public Policy at the University of Bristol.
At this point I had been volunteering with young people’s charities for around 5 years, including Get Connected, an advice service for young people in distress, and was keen to use my policy knowledge in the charity sector.
After working freelance for a year with different charities I took up a policy role at a charity called Ambitious About Autism where I managed the policy team for nearly 4 years. I then worked on a project at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations building policy skills across the voluntary sector before being lucky enough to get the role of Head of Policy at Teenage Cancer Trust.
Policy work is really like sales – you’re just trying to get people on board for their support rather than money, but the key to it is developing and maintaining good relationships. The best way to do that is to be on the ball, keep up to date with what’s happening, be helpful and approachable, know what you can’t do and communicate really well with people, and for me to lead the team well.
One of my highlights of my time here is when we asked young people and their families to write to and meet with Nicola Sturgeon MSP, who at the time was Cabinet Secretary of Health in Scotland, about ensuring a new policy framework for children with cancer included teenagers and young adults. As a direct result of hearing from young people in Scotland she led changes to the policy so that it now includes young people up to 25, which is already making headway across the whole of Scotland.
Teenage Cancer Trust and me
As a teenager I was quite shy but with a little rebellious streak. I remember it being a really hard to balance having a social life and doing my school work, there’s so many exciting things going on at that age and of course lots of sleep time needed! I changed my mind all the time about what I wanted to be when I grew up – but probably a graphic designer was up there on the list, I always wanted to be a creative type.
Teenage Cancer Trust really has a unique offer and that’s what makes it so exciting working here. It’s fantastic to hear how our services really help improve young people’s lives and that of their families and that’s what is motivating. Seeing the impact on how our services have influenced national policy is really inspiring, we’re definitely leading the way in the UK and internationally.