Education and career

Educated at Sacred Heart RC Primary School Chorley by an eclectic mix of wonderful teachers (Mrs Turner was my first and most memorable) and then Holy Cross RC Secondary School Chorley, leaving in 1989 with 8 GCSEs. 

I was a very average student, a tom boy who’d rather play football or cricket and climb trees.  For some reason I will never truly understand I was nominated as Head Girl in my final year.  My inability to want to take study seriously persisted when I went to Rushaw College in Leyland to study A levels and dropped out after only eight weeks because learning to play the drums was a far more interesting use of my time and the social distractions were plentiful.

I could never fathom how someone so young was supposed to know what they wanted to do with the rest of their life.

I remember being terrified at the prospect of telling my parents I wanted to leave college.  After all, I was the eldest, most sensible of their four offspring and the one used to setting an example to my younger brother and two sisters.

I needn’t have worried, my mum and dad didn’t bat an eyelid. Considering they had both left school in Ireland around 13 years of age they didn’t have high academic expectations of me. All they did want was for me was to be happy in whatever I chose to do so with that they gave me their blessing to get a job.

My first job was as an Office Junior
at a manufacturing plant in Leyland.  I was trained as a Payroll Clerk too and pretty soon reckoned I was worth more than the £45 a week I was getting paid (though I had been given a raise from the £35 a week of started on).  Having been flatly refused a payrise I took to writing a four page resignation before leaving to start another job.

In 1990 you could walk into any Job Centre and literally leave with a schedule of interviews a mile long.  My first visit saw me leave with a list of seven but I only made two of them because I was offered a job straight away.  In fact I was offered both of them but took the one in Chorley because it was a 10 minute walk to work.  It was all so very easy then!

In January 1991 I began work as a Junior Typist at Latham Crossley & Davis, a large local firm of accountants.  So began a 21 year career working in that same beautiful new building which spanned five different company names, multiple buy-outs and take-overs and twelve different roles for me.  I steadily climbed the administrative ladder over the first 10 years before moving into the much more exciting field of IT, Customer Service and finally Information Security.  

It was my role as Information Security Manager which was made redundant in 2012 and thus a chapter in my career closed – well a door was more rudely slammed in my face leaving me feeling bereft if I’m being honest.  I took redundancy very personally and harshly.  It was the end of everything I had known in my personal and professional life up to that point.  I was being made to leave a job I loved with friends who were more like family as we’d all grown up together…and it wasn’t my fault, it felt so unfair.

What I’ve since learned and now firmly believe is that everything happens for a reason.  If redundancy had not given me the push I needed I would still be in a job where I’d gotten as far as I could, was severely underpaid and was reliant on the plans of others to take my career wherever it may go next.  It was genuinely the best possible thing that could have happened to me.

I spent the next 4 weeks in a state of abject panic…for the first time in my life I had my own apartment and I was responsible for the mortgage and all the bills.  I might have got a basic redundancy package but it wouldn’t last long. Cue frantic uploading of a CV, that took days to create because I’d not touched it in 20+ years, to every employment website I could find via Google.  I spoke to loads of recruiters and they all promised the world.  

In the end I got an interview with the Information Comissioners Office in Wilmslow (my dream job) and a week later I was offered it. At the same time a clever recruiter got hold of my CV and put the right emphasis on it to interest The Co-op Bank.  I was offered and accepted a role as a Data Governance Advisor – the salary was about right, the location was closer than the Wilmslow role but I had no real idea what Data Governance was!  Turns out it was a combination of data security, protection and general safeguarding of data in line with relevant legislation and best practices – right up my street.  I worked at Co-op Bank for the next two and a half years through some pretty tough, lean and scandal ridden times.  I went above and beyond the call of duty at every available opportunity to prove to Co-op Bank that they were right to give me a chance and to prove to myself that I could “do” Data Governance.

In 2015 I became aware of a Data Governance Manager role being advertised in Co-op Insurance (the Bank and Insurance were both part of the Co-op Group at the time).  Whilst I felt like the biggest Judas in the world for even showing a smidgen of interest in the role and felt that if I was lucky enough to secure an interview that they would see right through me, I went for it.  I’d interviewed for a managerial role 6 months earlier in a different Bank department and was turned down for “being too enthusiastic” so that had only added to feelings of self doubt in my own ability.  Turned out that being enthusiastic was exactly what Co-op Insurance were looking for and a month later I proudly (whilst pinching myself furiously and wondering when I’d get “found out”) took up my new position as Data Governance Manager.  I loved it.  I loved the organisation, the culture and the people and it was completely different to my Co-op experience so far.  I grew into role quickly with the help and support of some great colleagues and with an increasing confidence in my own abilities.

12 months later came my next opportunity, still in Co-op Group but working in Retail where the business wanted to set up a Data Governance Function from scratch.  It was as if the opportunity had been tailor made for me and was exactly what I should be looking at as my next career step.  It was still a Data Governance Manager role but with a much broader and deeper remit.  Enter stage left another self confidence crisis, but I eventually decided to apply even though I thought (A) I’ve not been performing at a senior enough level for long enough to be seriously considered and (B) what if being “over enthusiastic” once more would kill my chances?  I decided to go along to the various interviews as myself, transparent, honest and with my usual vim and vigour.  At the end of the day if I wasn’t successful then it wasn’t the end of the world because I still had a job I loved.  Turns out vim, vigour and enthusiasm were the order of the day as I was offered the job on the way home from my final interview.  In September 2016 I joined Co-op Retail as their Data Governance Manager.  

Subsequently I was promoted to Head of Data Governance, a role which I’m lucky enough to currently hold.