Elaine McCulloch

Organisation: Sage

Years of secondment: 2020 – 2022

Role before secondment: Foundation Manager UKI, Sage

Role after secondment: Foundation Manager UKI, Sage

“’Stop blubbering and just write the damn thing’ – are the words I’ve been mumbling to myself all weekend as I attempt to write my Movement to Work ‘Farewell Blog’. So here it goes… 

I have finally, officially finished my secondment at Movement to Work (MTW) and it feels so surreal. I’ve had a taste of departure over the last few months as I’ve been working part-time at MTW since June, hastily returning to Sage to run our flagship summer events (but more on this in next week’s blog )

Going on secondment was something I’d never thought of before, and I was sceptical. After 3 years full-time at Sage Foundation and a year of virtual volunteering, keeping our UKI colleagues and charity partners going through the pandemic, I was burnt out and knackered. I love my job but wasn’t sure how a change would do me any good.

Well, here I am! 15 months later: a new person. (Ok, well a slightly more chilled, strategic thinking person – don’t worry I am still mostly bonkers)

The MtW model is based on everyone being a secondee from a leading UK business coming together to tackle youth unemployment.

That means you are surrounded by people who are there because they care and can look at social issues through a business lens. You can learn different working styles, you get to have really punchy conversations with government and leaders of industry, and still get to speak to charities and young people, keeping it real every day.

What a job and what a year.

Blogs are about reflection. It’s easy to only look back with rose-tinted glasses. The job was hard at times, and I’ve laughed, cried, sworn, swooned, and smiled. No day was ever the same. But working within a secondment model doesn’t come without challenges.

So what have I learned? To slow down.

It took me 4 months to wind down enough to stop and ‘breathe’. Something I will forever need to remind myself, (so much so that I went and got it tattooed on my wrist )

I learned that slowing down and using your brain so you have space to think is just as important as being busy and having 100 things to do. Thank you Sam Olsen for teaching me this important life lesson.

I know my stuff.

I’d previously taken my ‘jack of all trades’ career as a bad thing and always struggled in the corporate world with my lack of degree and any ‘real’ qualifications. It gave me massive imposter syndrome.

But actually, I now know that I have a unique insight into a complex world, able to see things from all angles. I can talk to senior civil servants about policy, advise a new employer about funding, challenge a charity over their outputs and be real with young people because I’ve been there myself before. Thank you Dal Channa, Nicola Reid, Simon Beckman, Kathryn Fedun, Debs Gordon and Davy Cowie for opening my eyes to this and giving me the confidence to feel proud of a long C.V.!

Knowledge is power.

I always worried that sharing your knowledge is being a ‘big head’ or a bore but people do want and need to know what you’ve learned in life. I’ve learned how to share without being overbearing (I hope!) and learned how to tailor my approach depending on the person I’m with. I know that sharing your story with people at the start of their careers can help them to learn from your past experiences, and equally, their enthusiasm and commitment keep your passion ignited. Thank you Jess Henderson, Ash Harper, Hema Mistry, Sophie Fletcher, Jack Houghton, Scott Keegan , Gavin Phipps, for making me feel valued.

Striving to be a thought leader isn’t everything.

I was getting a bit obsessed with my development area of ‘bringing people with me’ this year, but the reality is, this needs to get parked when the chips are down and things just need to get done. I’ve learned to be proud of my ability to get stuck in and make it happen. That my strength is that reality check. It means even though it can be difficult pushing people instead of leading them – with kindness and transparency, they also know you have their back and the best interest of the organisation at heart. Working in a lean team to create spectacular events is a craft and it’s been a privilege to learn from Maria O’Connor.

I need a leader to follow, rather than being one myself.

I learned that having strong people that you know have your back, and that inspire you, but also take on board your thoughts and views and need for reassurance is a massive part of who I am. I often feel like a leaf blowing in the wind on my own, and because I ask a million questions, people think I’m being difficult. I have learned that it’s ok to explain my brain and my needs, and be upfront about who I am. So my biggest ‘THANK YOU’ goes to Gillian Churchill and James McCann for being everything I have needed these past few months.

My heart lies in community engagement and job creation for young people.

When economic inactivity in young people is at an all-time high and we have a million vacancies – you know the system is broken. I will never stop fighting to level the playing field for young people who grew up like me. Everyone just needs one chance to do amazing things and I have come to realise that I need to be part of the solution to feel like I am making a difference in the world.

I have loved working as part of the Movement and still get “OMG pinch me” moments to think about all I have been involved in this past year. There are too many amazing people that I have met, spoken to, ranted at, and built solid long-lasting relationships with to tag into this blog. But I am most proud that I have reached into my old world, reconnected with some total legends, and brought them to the Movement to share their goodness with the world.

I am excited to return to Sage Foundation, to get to work under Elisa Moscolin to implement the sustainability and society strategy in the UKI. Who knows what my next adventure will be!

So if you are part of my LinkedIn family and you haven’t joined the Movement yet – what are you waiting for? Get in touch with the member of the team to find out more info@movementtowork.com and give them a Follow!

If you’re up for it, you get to do amazing things and change lives, and if you are lucky enough to be a secondee you get to go on a voyage of self-discovery.

For all my Sage family hold onto your hats – I’m back