The more you learn, the more you realise you don’t know
I learnt a lot during my PhD in Optoelectronics. I learned about argon ion lasers and how to fix them, quantum physics, the chemistry of glass formation and how to make an optical fibre. I also learned a lot about myself – my strengths, my weaknesses and what I wanted to do in life. And I learned that there’s a huge amount that I don’t know!
After working in industry for a couple of years, I wanted to understand more about how businesses work so I trained as an accountant. I worked on a wide range of projects from listing a South African diamond mine on the stock exchange, to auditing an aviation charity in Folkestone. Unsurprisingly, the rules for these organisations are quite different from the laws of physics. For example, in physics we make assumptions based on the best theoretical or empirical evidence. Whereas in business, assumptions are based on a combination of precedence, risk appetite, gut feeling, politics and pragmatism.
When I joined Monitor (now NHS Improvement), I quickly learned that pragmatism was the key to getting things done. The NHS is so large, so complex and so important that no single approach, ideology or set of rules will work. I realised that, rather than “regulating”, I preferred working alongside trusts and commissioners, helping them to solve their problems. So I joined a consultancy and have since worked on many mergers and transformation programmes. Through these projects, being pragmatic has taught me that talking to people (“stakeholder engagement”) is often the most valuable part of a project. It helps when developing assumptions and, luckily for me, it’s also the part I find most interesting and rewarding.
I left a Big 4 consultancy to join Prederi because I wanted to spend less time on internal administration and politics and more time with clients. I also wanted to broaden my experience by working across different areas of the public sector. I’m now four months into my new job, working in a team with an impressive breadth and depth of skills and experience and a single-minded commitment to doing the right thing for their clients. But what has impressed me most is the team’s humility; appreciating what we don’t know. And this is particularly important for consultants, because it leads us to collaborating and continually learning from others to find the best solutions for our clients.
So while I know I’ll never have all the answers, I look forward to continue my learning with Prederi.