"Join a board, what me? No chance...! I can't do that; I don't think they are looking for someone like me."
When I came across the 'Board Diversity Programme' advert to apply to be part of the board at Progress Housing Group, my thought process sounded a lot like the above! Well, two years on, I am now a board member, and it would not have been possible without this programme.
In 2018, I completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Housing Studies, and I was looking for opportunities to continue my development and apply my learning. I did not for one minute believe it would be as a board trainee!
The programme was a unique experience of on the job learning, mentoring and training workshops. Everything about this programme was different, the access to expert speakers, the support from Progress Housing Group and the range of skills and experiences of the rest of my cohort.
No other training course has given me direct access to experts from across the housing sector, who deliver training on complex topics, but in a very easy to understand format. The training built up my skills, knowledge and confidence in many areas, which included:
I spent two years observing the Board and committee meetings, giving me the real-life experience of what goes on in the boardroom. It demystified what goes on in a board, brought to life the learning I had completed and gave me a real insight into the behaviours of experienced board members.
The real benefit of the observations was knowing that I would never be put on the spot, but that my contribution was always welcomed. I was lucky to observe key decisions, understand the information presented to make them and follow the impact of the decisions made on the business over time — a truly unique experience.
To tie it all together, I was mentored by the CEO of Progress Housing Group, Jacqui De-Rose, and an experienced Non-Executive Director in the NHS. This gave me the opportunity to ask the 'silly questions' in a comfortable and supportive environment. The support from other team members at Progress Housing Group was ever-present; I could ask for anything I needed and receive the support immediately.
All in all, the Board Diversity Programme was a fantastic experience that has benefitted me with both personal and professional development. I have made friends for life with the other learners and allies right across the sector. I cannot thank Progress enough for supporting me through this journey.
Progress aimed to 'Harness and Achieve Board Diversity', and they did just that. My whole cohort was always encouraged to be ourselves, our differences celebrated, and our voices heard. It was about developing us as people, regardless of our qualifications, experience or current level of seniority.
I would strongly recommend it to anyone interested in working at an organisation with amazing values and with a social purpose and its customers at its heart. Your life experience will be valued above everything else.