So I was given this incredible opportunity. It was to open a new office branch of a Norwegian NGO working in the Middle East. They realized that to be sustainable in the future, their funding would need to be more diverse than just Norway.
I'd been in this space for a handful of years and my previous experience lent well to the role I was taking on. It was a leap of faith for sure, but I was excited for the opportunity. I wasn't looking for new work, as I was incredibly content and happy where I was. But this was new levels of responsibility, a chance to build something from the ground up. I couldn't refuse and accepted.
My office environment was one where the senior members of the team had a voice and a valued opinion and members further down the line were invisible. Actually, those of us in the engine room of the company knew much more about how effectively the business was working and could have offered great insight.
Working in social services, particularly with children, can feel like you're under siege from all sides. Job security is a concern, particularly in the current climate; the media attacks social workers (damned if you do and damned if you don't). And rather than addressing issues with perpetrators of child abuse, social workers lose their jobs for failing to protect them; the problem often actually being that many services have failed to share information well or, sadly, harm could not have been prevented anyway.
Why do I feel like an outsider? I'm gay - and despite all of the progress in society - I am still worried that this will impact how I'm viewed at work. That said, this is the first organisation in which I've been properly 'out' and I feel generally accepted. But I still have that horrible feeling that people will see me as an outsider.
Although it was early on in my career, the memory of her suffering has stayed with me. When I was a junior, I had a more senior colleague who was really struggling with her role. It wasn't that she was particularly bad at it, but we were all being micromanaged into irrelevance and, for her, it built up and up until it was too much. The assumption she couldn't shake was that she was not trusted, seen as incompetent and always one step from a dressing down; although I can't remember that ever actually happening.
We were running a leadership programme for a group of senior project managers for a global company. As part of a one-week programme, we had a half-day session with a poet around the importance of the need to have what he termed "courageous conversations" with the different aspects of your life. The session had a huge impact on everyone, as it made them reflect on the balance and tensions between their personal and work live.