What degree course did you study and when did you graduate
My degree was BSc Philosophy, Politics & Economics (Economics Major) with Intercalated Year Abroad (Melbourne, Australia). I did this from 2014-2018.
Why did you choose that particular degree course?
I actually initially intended on studying medicine! I moved to the UK as a baby because my parents were doctors and were recruited to work for the NHS. Growing up, all of my surrounding adult family and friends were also doctors.
Healthcare - hospitals in particular - fascinated me and felt familiar. Plus I enjoyed science and working with people, so medicine seemed like a good fit. I took Philosophy & Ethics alongside the standard science A Levels required for medicine and loved learning about different philosophies and developing my critical analysis skills.
My inspiring teachers encouraged me to study this at a higher level, but I had my reservations, particularly around the lack of career structure in contrast to medicine.
However, this all changed a few weeks before UCAS submissions (to mixed reception, as you can imagine!). I went to a King's College lecture on Global Health and Social Medicine - their new flagship course - and mid-way through it 'clicked' that this - improving broader healthcare systems, delivery and outcomes - was what really inspired me.
I decided to apply for Politics, Philosophy & Economics in pursuit of better understanding the social world through both a quantitative and qualitative lens, which I eventually wanted to apply to the field of healthcare.
Warwick University was my top choice because of its excellent reputation backed up by my cousin who recently did the course there, opportunities for study abroad and the range of interesting modules to do and societies to join.
Tell us about your employer
After University I was accepted onto the NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme (GMTS), specifically on the 'General Management' stream. This involved 3 placements over 2 years, whilst studying for an MSc in Healthcare Leadership & Management, amongst other training and experiential learning.
I spent one year in NHS England working in policy and strategy in the National Patient Safety team. I then spent 3 months on an elective at Deloitte, working in healthcare consulting. In my final placement I worked as a Service Manager at Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust. Royal Free is one of the largest trusts in the country, consisting of three hospitals and employing around 11,000 staff.
I worked operationally over COVID-19, leading work locally such as developing virtual visiting when relatives weren't able to visit loved ones and managing our hospital's vaccination service, and supporting work such as intensive care bed expansion and the hospital's incident command centre.
What was the position you were recruited for. Please briefly outline the position you were recruited to within your organisation and summarise the business needs and role you fulfil
I remained at Royal Free after the GMTS - I had learned so much and had strong bonds and camaraderie with the people I worked with over the peak of the pandemic.
My post-scheme role is in quality and service improvement. Here, I help to take a systematic approach to making the improvements that matter most to our patients and staff, and support delivering on organisational priorities such as high-quality and safe care and operational performance.
The four main parts of my role involve: project management, particularly around elective recovery given the current backlogs of NHS care and challenges with waiting times and access; quality management system development i.e. embedding quality and improvement into the way we work; building capability e.g. teaching about how to use improvement methodologies to solve problems; and staff and patient engagement i.e. working to meaningfully involve patients and staff in decision-making.
Other responsibilities include being on the operational on-call rota so navigating problems out-of-hours, and supporting testing new technologies and innovations, e.g. we recently live-streamed a total hip replacement to a cohort of medical students!
What attracted you to this position?
I enjoyed how hands-on and exciting working operationally in a hospital felt, but found reactively responding to the same issues over and over to be frustrating e.g. poor flow through the hospital and numerous capacity bottlenecks. I wanted the headspace to be able to work with people to proactively address these problems.
Healthcare delivery is complex, important and risky; everyone comes to work to do a good job but too often our systems, processes and/or cultures get in the way of this. Effective quality and service improvement, much like medicine, is both a science and art, and this attracted me to it. My job requires working with diverse patients and staff, everyone from nurses, doctors, allied health professionals, porters, estates and facilities, and many many more. It also requires constant problem solving and data analysis.
Through the combination of stories/experiences and data we understand problems and opportunities, test changes iteratively and measure improvements, undertaking this process in a way that, unlike most traditional consultancies, values and involves those closest to the point of care.
I have been in this role for over two years and what stands out is the variety - it's very busy but never dull, and feedback from staff and patients about how new ways of working have positively impacted them is the ultimate motivation.
What are the key skills you learnt at Warwick that have helped you with your career to date?
Studying PPE often involved trying to make sense of some of the most difficult issues in society through a philosophical, political and economic lens. Untangling issues such as climate change and humanitarian disasters, debating what makes a just and fair society, all of this helped me to embrace complexity and nuance, critically analyse different viewpoints, take a systematic approach to solving problems and make compelling arguments orally and in writing and be able to articulate the rationale behind these.
These skills are incredibly useful in the NHS which is rife with complex, 'wicked' problems where there are few perfect, simple answers as there are so many unintended consequences and wellmeaning actions in one part of the system can have a negative impact on another part. For example, discharging patients earlier to free up beds can create pressure on over-stretched community and social care services.
Concepts we learned in economics, such as trade-offs and constrained optimisation, have been very useful to help making difficult decisions around prioritisation and optimising what services we can deliver and how, given funding and resourcing levels.
Econometrics comes in particularly useful too. The rigour associated with evidence-based medical interventions is increasingly attached to process and system interventions so being able to use statistics to isolate and quantify the impact of different changes in a system is powerful. As of course is the more general ability to understand data, analyse and interpret it then tell a story to make a case for change or evaluate an initiative.
More broadly the style of teaching at Warwick with its combination of independent study, tutorials and seminars helped me to become more resourceful and proactive, and being involved in a range of societies made me better at planning and prioritisation and learn how to work effectively in a team - skills which I use every day in the NHS!
What has been your greatest career challenge to date and how did your experience and skills help overcome it?
My greatest career challenge has been planning and operationally managing our hospital's vaccination service during the peak of the COVID pandemic. This was one of the first in the world to go live with Oxford-AstraZeneca, and throw in a few days preparation time, a change of vaccine from Pfizer to AZ the day before launching, and a last minute announcement that the Prime Minister was visiting on day 1!
In the first few weeks of the service, the only constant was change. These changes included who could be vaccinated, how the vaccine was stored, who could give vaccinations, and much more as new information emerged.
Being agile and responsive to changing priorities and requirements was key. My PPE degree and the NHS graduate scheme prepared me well for this, as I was used to being (metaphorically!) thrown in the deep end, I was comfortable being a generalist rather than an expert, and practised in alternating between taking a more strategic, big-picture view and seeing the details - or more eloquently 'moving between the balcony and the dance floor' (HBR).
These experiences and skills helped me to build relationships and trust with the team, to constantly test new changes to improve vaccine safety, access, equity, cost-effectiveness and staff and patient experience without becoming complacent and crucially, to value and integrate the expertise of staff and patients into decision-making.
What top tips would you give to students looking for a career in your market sector?
AI don't think there has ever been a more important time for the NHS or healthcare in general. There's no shortage of complex problems to work through, and talented people who are motivated by working towards delivering highquality, accessible, equitable healthcare are critical for this. Healthcare is a broad field so get a feel for what's out there and what interests you, think NHS, start-ups, think-tanks, pharmaceuticals, civil service, NGOs - and so much more.
Do your research, use LinkedIn to see different people's career journeys and reach out to people to find out more. If you're interested in working for the NHS, I'd really recommend looking into the NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme (GMTS), as the rotational placements mean you get exposure across UK healthcare, lots of investment in your professional development and access to a powerful network, all of which prepare you to be a compassionate and strong healthcare leader.
I wrote a blog with some tips here: https://graduates.nhs.uk/general-management/5-things-i-wish-i-knew-before-applying/, and I'd recommend following @NHSGraduateScheme on Instagram and watching the 'day in the life of' stories to get a feel for what kind of things you'd be doing.
Individual hospital trusts now host their own internal versions of the scheme too. If you wanted to try out working for the NHS without commitment you could also apply to Trust banks, which offer short-term and flexible employment opportunities.
Essentially if you enjoy problem-solving, seek a varied job where no day is boring, and your values align - think healthcare/NHS!
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were applying for jobs?
For me, the process was like a diamond: learning more about and opening up all the possibilities, then systematically prioritising and narrowing these down - but the latter could feel difficult and sometimes overwhelming.
I wish I'd known about the concept of 'Ikigai' to help with this! It's a Japanese concept translated roughly to 'a reason for being' or purpose. The ikigai framework is usually presented as a Venn diagram with four intersecting circles:
- what you love doing
- what you're good at
- what you can be paid for, and
- what the world needs.
Your personal ikigai is the convergence of these four circles.
Thinking about these questions and starting to develop an idea of what kinds of job might be your career ikigai may be a helpful and practical way to navigate career decisions. On a similar theme, I wish I'd reflected more on my previous experiences and squeezed as much learning from these as possible - everything from university and school to part-time jobs, volunteering etc. What are you doing when you get into a flow and time just flies by? What do you love doing that others find challenging or tedious? There are so many new and emerging roles even within traditional industries - these skills or attributes could become your niche!
Any additional advice or comments?
I know this is easy advice to give and hard to take but - try not to put too much pressure on yourself to make all the 'right' decisions. When it comes to your career there's rarely objectively right and wrong answers, just what's right for you at that point in time! People change jobs, industries, locations etc. throughout their career, no decision is forever! The process is iterative and you'll learn so much from whatever you do post-university, and can use this to inform your next steps, and so on... The road is long so try to make time to enjoy the scenery along the way!