How I got here: Ashlie Burgess

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I left school at 16 with a raft of Grade 1 CSEs including typing, office practice and audio typing so I naturally went into secretarial/admin work right from the get go.  My first ever job was as an Office Junior for a small engineering company where I stayed for a year.  After a while I felt ready for a greater challenge and subsequently secured a position with the TSB as a Counter Clerk where I stayed for six years.  A house move due to my husband’s work forced a move to Peterborough.

Relocation brought about a number of different jobs for me, all of them involving working with the public; a library, leisure centre, estate agents and law firm.  My legal career started as a PA to the senior partner of a large law firm where I also gained experience of working in private client (wills and probate) and domestic conveyancing.  I also worked for the Coroner for Peterborough as his Clerk as well as his legal PA.  My final job in the Peterborough area was as a Legal Clerk working for RNIB in their Legacy Department.  It was whilst living here that I started a degree course with the Open University, which I completed and graduated in 2006, with a 2:1 in Natural Sciences with Biology.

When I came back to Nottingham in 2006 I resumed my legal career in the Private Client department at a Nottinghamshire law firm.  I have always believed in investing in myself academically and have undertaken many self-funded courses to improve my employment chances including one in Counselling which I studied to Level 3.  It was this course which prompted me to look at working for the NHS but realising I had no NHS experience I looked for a course that would help me.  I signed up for a Pitman Medical Secretary’s Diploma which updated all of my skills in the Microsoft packages including refreshers in audio transcription and copy typing etc but primarily it gave me a piece of paper that showed prospective employers that  I could do it.  On the back of this I secured temporary positions initially with the NHS before applying for and getting a Band 3 Ward Administrator role at the City Hospital.

After 18 months as a ward administrator I applied for and got a Band 4 Specialty PA role working for three consultants which I have been doing now for 2½ years.  I have only recently applied for another Band 4 role as a Project Support Administrator on a Macmillan project. I was successful in getting the post which I will be taking up shortly.


My career advice: Always be prepared to invest in your own development; if you show prospective employers that you invest in yourself, they will be prepared to invest in you too.

How I got here: Billy Khalifa

                                               Billy Khalifa Image

I got married at the very early age of 16, had a child at 17 and my family life was important to me. One day a friend of mine asked what I wanted to do as a career which was something I had never thought of.  I wasn’t sure what to do but she mentioned there was a Medical Records clerk needed part time. So I applied and I got it….

I joined the NHS working part-time at Leicester General Hospital in March 1990. My role comprised of collecting notes from different departments for clinics and elective admissions. Some of the notes were very heavy and it was hard work but I found it interesting and I enjoyed going that extra mile to ensure patients could get the right care.

I then applied for a clinic co-ordinator role which was the next step up for me, and more hours, but still allowed time for my family. To my surprise I got the job and I was assigned to look after a Cardiologist. It was very interesting getting to know and meet patients on a daily basis.  I enjoyed making them feel comfortable as I knew they were worried about coming into the hospital. So communication was key.

Following a period of maternity leave I came back to work in the Orthopaedics department and I loved getting to know more about referrals from GP’s and other hospital and different types of treatment. I stayed there for 16 years and loved every moment.  

Then an opportunity arose to work with the 2 week wait team where I learnt about Cancer Wait times.  It very rewarding knowing I was able to get patients seen in the right time frame. During this time I also did bank work for the Orthopaedic Waiting List Team, eventually moving to work there full-time.

After 22 years in the NHS as I felt there was no further route to progression so I left to work as a PA for a packing firm.  I stayed there for 18 months but there was something missing.  It was the patient contact and the ethos of the NHS I was missing out on!

I returned to the NHS on a temporary contract at NUH as a band 2 but soon progressed to band 3 and am now a band 4 in Urology. I love my job, love talking to and helping the patients.


My career advice:  Follow your heart and do what is important to you so you can give the best possible service.  Knowing you have made even a small difference to a patient makes working in the NHS very rewarding.  Your hard work and attitude will be recognised and enable you to progress.

How I got here: Claire Leatherland

When I left school in 2001 I was certain that I wanted to go to college and complete an Administration NVQ Level 2 qualification. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to end up, but this is the type of work I was initially interested in and passionate about. When I was part way through college I found out I was pregnant at just 16 years old; I continued to be determined to complete the qualification so alongside my college course I participated in extensive work experience to gain further understanding and increase my knowledge base.

4 weeks prior to having my daughter I collected the evidence towards my portfolio and during August I got a call to say I had passed my course. As delighted as I was that I had completed the qualification, I was still a new mum and needed time to adjust therefore, I put my career on hold for 6 months. Initially I found it challenging to apply for roles as I didn’t have enough experience and after applying numerous times I started to look at other options and took to working in the pub industry and retail. From January 2003 to March 2013 I started to gain skills in the office from cashing up tills, to ordering stock and some voluntary work with Nottinghamshire County Council. During this 10 year period life took over and I had another child, got married and built a Hypnotherapy business which has all contributed to where I am today.

In April 2013 I started work with the NUH Learning and Organisational Development Team as an Administration Assistant.  Was very shy but once settled in I began to show that I was keen to learn and developed skills in coordinating tasks and being proactive in my approach. Within 12 months I was successful in gaining the position of L&OD Coordinator where I was given the opportunity to adopt leadership skills and teach others within their roles. In September 2014 I stepped up to the Team Leader post within the L&OD team which included more in-depth leadership tasks such as staff appraisals, one to ones, delegation, etc. Within the short space of 18 months I felt a huge sense of achievement that I had been given these opportunities and it helped me to be confident to gain further experience to be successful in applying for the Administration Managers position in April 2015. I was then responsible for the support staff development across NUH and allocating funding to individuals that required it vs the priority to the Trust position on top of what I was doing as a Team Leader.

Since being in my current role of an Administration Manager, I have strengthened my skills and stepped up to the Professional Deputy Lead position when our management team was changing. This has been really valuable to me as I have self-taught and pushed myself considerably to be the best I can be to support the new management team settling into the team and also for me to take on new projects and tasks to support my Level 5 Leadership and Management Apprenticeship I am currently completing.


My career advice: Don’t get comfortable in a role if you want to do more, push yourself to be the best ‘you’ where you are able to whilst remaining healthy. Don’t be afraid to say sorry and admit to errors. The best way of dealing with errors is as a team as they can be rectified quicker and informing someone of the error can save a lot of work and embarrassment in the long run. Work life balance is also key to ensuring that you aren’t taking home the worries and leaving them at the door of NUH to come back to the next day – work to live, don’t live to work!

How I got here: Laura Hallam

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Following on from studying Health and Social Care at college, I went on to study at Nottingham Trent University graduating with a 2:1 in Health and Social Sciences.

I was stood on the steps of the Newton building a short time after my graduation ceremony and it was at that moment that I knew I needed to decide where I wanted to start my career. The two areas that I have always been interested in working in is the NHS and the Education sector, and so my first real job after graduating was at a private junior school as a Play Leader. This is where my confidence in my ability grew and I put a lot of what I learnt at university into practice.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and was offered a teaching assistant positon after a short time, but I realised that it just wasn’t where I really wanted to be.

I then went onto explore the other area of interest, the NHS.

I knew that Paediatrics was the area I wanted to be within and from there I started volunteering at the Children’s Hospital on ward E17. I absolutely loved everything about volunteering on the children’s ward which I saw as a great platform to start my career in the NHS.

A few weeks later, a Band 3 position came up for a Patient Pathway Administrator in Neonatal.

I knew that this was the kind of role that I was looking for; not only did the job specification attract me in that I felt that I could use my skills to do the job and do it well, but also the department and the work they do. I applied for the job and haven’t looked back since.

I am now coming up to my second year in the role. I have learnt so much and feel that I have already progressed immensely in just a short time. I have stepped out of the constraints of my job description and am currently covering a Band 4 Specialty PA position as well as being partly responsible for the production of the monthly staff newsletter.

I have realised just how important the admin team are to the department and how smoothly they keep things running. I am really excited to see where this role takes me.


My career advice: I feel that I am far too young and inexperienced to be giving career advice but I would just always say build positive relationships, don’t be afraid of putting yourself out there, be happy, enjoy what you do and the rest will follow.

How I got here: Sharon Campbell

My first job after completing A levels was as a travel agent in West Bridgford – they started me initially writing out the National Express Coach Tickets for people and slowly I was let loose booking far away destination holidays for customers.  I loved this role at the time and went on several educational trips and enjoyed frequent stays at top class hotels in London, but then the recession hit sending my little company into liquidation. I then worked in various administrative roles, working my way up to an Admin Management Position but it was around this time in my life that I had my two sons and wanted to enjoy mummyhood but still contribute financially so I enjoyed three years being a childminder - and quite a successful one with a waiting list!  I also ran a mother and toddler group in my local community. 


When it felt like the right time to enter back into the workforce I was lucky enough to return to a secretarial role with CARE Fertility  and was primarily the PA for the Medical Director for around 13 years.    I loved my time there as the job was so diverse in nature and was a really rewarding one when you got to see patients returning with their own little bundles of joy. It was at this time that one of my friends was thinking about training to be a counsellor and had asked me to ask the Counsellor at Care Fertility how she had qualified.   The counsellor told me to tell my friend to perhaps try volunteering initially at somewhere like Childline and I thought “I fancy doing that.” So I did. My friend decided to go on an accountancy course instead!!  


I volunteered with Childline for approximately two years (1 night a week) and this really opened my eyes to just how valuable a service this is. No two calls were ever the same but the callers all shared a need to be heard.   I decided to start training to be a counsellor officially and did so over the next four years gradually on a part time basis whilst still working at CARE Fertility.


Once I was qualified and looking for a counselling job, an agency saw my CV online and asked if I would like some flexi work as a PA here at NUH with The Department of Clinical Psychology.  On the first day I met the team and remember going home that night thinking everyone is lovely and the whole atmosphere within the trust felt exciting and vibrant.  I realised that NUH was the place that I wanted to be.  In 2015 the role I was covering became an official role and I applied and was successful.

I have recently returned from a 12 month secondment as PA To the Chief Executive. I was fortunate enough to meet and get to know Peter Homa which felt like a real honour to me.  He was very inspirational and also very encouraging around my own development here.   I was also here to greet Tracy Taylor on her first day and helped her in her early days here.   Working with Tracy provided me further insight into working for a great Inspirational leader who has also worked her way through the ranks within the NHS. I enjoyed the whole experience as her PA immensely. 

The counselling side hasn’t been forgotten.  I maintained a voluntary counselling role outside of work working with young people which has been extremely rewarding and currently I am in a paid role on a part time basis alongside my NUH role at a counselling agency in West Bridgford  - on the same street I started all those years ago as a Travel Agent.

How I got here: Stephen Henaghan

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I chose to leave school after my GCSE’s aged 16 with not much of an idea what I wanted to do.There was an Apprenticeship advertised in my local Career Advice Bureau and I decided to apply. I started work at a local architectural practice near Burnley and attended college one and a half days each week.Five years later I was an Architectural Technician with a HNC in Building Studies.

The work was enjoyable, but I soon realised the world was a much bigger place - and I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.

I looked into various options and decided to have a complete change to work, life and everything and applied for a job as a Holiday Rep Overseas. I travelled the world and climbed the career ladder, enjoying summers in the Spanish Costas and Balearics, and winters in the Austrian Alps and the Caribbean. This is where I learned and developed my customer service and people skills, and I quickly progressed into Team Leading and Management.

I absolutely loved this lifestyle and the amazing opportunities it brought to me but decided after several years that I ought to return to the UK and get a “proper job” (as all my family and friends referred to it). There was still time for one last jaunt before maturity fully set in, so I bought a Round the World ticket and disappeared with my backpack for twelve months. This took me through South America, New Zealand and South East Asia.

A return to the UK was inevitable and I registered with a Recruitment Agency who offered me a temporary Band 3 Admin position in Maternity Services at Nottingham University Hospitals. I saw this as a real foot-in-the-door opportunity and undertook the role with gusto, meeting lots of new people and learning a bit about how the NHS functions.

After a few short months I applied for a new Band 4 position which was being created to support the implementation and rollout of the new East Midlands Major Trauma Centre. This was a fantastic position with lots of variation and I learned a lot. I was supported to undertake development and via on-the-job learning achieved an NVQ Level 3 in Business Administration.

I obtained my first management position with Nottingham University Hospitals as a Band 5 Admin Manager in Paediatrics. This was a challenging role as it coincided with a Trust-wide Administration redesign which caused much uncertainty and stress throughout the staff.

I have always been grateful for the way my career has panned out and I am incredibly supportive of developing people.

My current position as a Band 6 Service Manager is allowing me to focus on the recognition and development of our Admin Teams and I am really excited about the way this is progressing and the possibilities it brings to our Administrative workforce. I am also undertaking a Chartered Manager Degree apprenticeship.

How I got here: Teah Thorpe

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When I finished school I had no idea what I wanted to do and the pressure to pick a career pathway loomed over me. I had just managed to get all round C’s in my GCSE’s. I did not like the school setting and was positive that I didn’t want to go to college, so I joined the apprenticeship company Prostart. Within two days I had an interview at Nottinghamshire County Council and accepted for the job on the same day. I spent just over one year completing my Level 2 diploma in customer service as a receptionist. Whilst doing this job role I met hundreds of councillors, members of parliament and members of the public on a daily basis, which really built up my confidence, communication skills and time management. Throughout my apprenticeship my assessor was pushing me to apply for an apprenticeship here at NUH, as she taught apprentices here and felt that I wasn’t pushing the boundaries of what I could accomplish.

I began looking on the NHS Jobs webpage and came across an opening for a permanent position in Urology as a General Clinical Administrator at band 2 level. I had initially set out looking for an apprenticeship, as I thought my chances of getting a full time permanent job at the age of 17 were too good to be true. However I went ahead and filled in the application form with help from my apprenticeship assessor. To my surprise I received an email invitation for an interview. Once the interview was over, I left the building feeling confident about the way I handled my interview, I felt very positive and believed that I would get the job based on how I presented myself. I spent a lot of time preparing and researching for my interview and asked for the question to be repeated on a few occasions, to ensure I met the criteria for each question. A few hours later, on returning to the council, I had a phone call to offer me the job and I could not believe that I had done it!

I started my role here at NUH and immediately fell in love with my job, the team ethic, the responsibility and working under pressure. From the beginning I have never said no to any challenge or job I have been given and this held me in high esteem with my managers. Showing that I was willing to learn has opened a lot of doors to opportunities. I had seen my colleagues audio typing and it immediately took my interest. I spent the next year in this role teaching myself how to type, becoming familiar with medical terminology and speeding up how fast I could complete a letter. A job opened within my office for a support secretary and I immediately applied for this. I am now a Band 3 Patient Pathway Administrator and love the problem solving and challenges I face on a day to day basis.


My career advice: Never allow anybody to tell you that you can’t. You can! Say yes to every opportunity and dive straight in at the deep end. You can learn and take something different from each and every colleague you work around, learn from their ways of working and you will then find a way that works best for you. There are no boundaries to what you can achieve if you believe in yourself.

How I got here: Tracey Crosby

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I left school at the age of 16 with a handful of CSE qualifications, including typewriting.  The typing was done on old fashion typewriters meant it was pure luck each and every time you chose to place your tiny fingers on those keys whether they remained intact!

Within the background of the social environment within which I was raised education was not pushed upon oneself.  I was raised within a mining community but nevertheless my father was a businessman and within this era I was extremely lucky to have been blessed within this social environment.

Upon leaving school with little idea of my path, career direction or a want to leave my family I embarked upon a secretarial diploma. This led me into law. I spent 13 years within this private establishment. I still felt lost within my career path but I loved the work. I met some amazing professionals and clients alike. The work was fascinating and no two days were ever the same. It was heart breaking on every level imaginable but so very rewarding.

Nevertheless, I still felt that I was not reaching my potential within myself. I left this employment to raise my twins. I swapped paths and moved into the NHS as Passport Secretary part-time. I intended this job to be a “stop gap” until I had decided what it was that I wanted to do.

However, I loved the NHS so much that I decided this is where I truly wanted to be. My plan and goal was not to stay within this role for so long. 18 years later I am still within the role!

The position of Passport Secretary has evolved considerable since I started within this position and I evaluate and analyse data into reports. This was something of a Junior Doctor position originally and I am therefore, extremely proud that I have evolved this role and it is continually progressing forward. 

Within this time plan my son became very sick. This encouraged me to create a voluntary fundraising body and donate this money to Children Brain Tumour Research Centre which is part of the University Hospital.

In my spare time I also embarked on a Psychology Degree which I will have finished within a few weeks! As part of this Psychology Degree I volunteer within a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre. Hopefully this will further my career into a more helpful role of facilitating people promote wellbeing as the mind fascinates me. 


My career advice:  Try and be better than the person you were yesterday.  Be kind to everyone irrelevant of their roles in life; we never know what battles other people are fighting!

How I got here: Vicky Malia

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Following college I went to the University of Nottingham and graduated with a 2:1 in American and English studies.  I didn’t know what I wanted to do career wise but liked the idea of a graduate training scheme as I was keen to get working.  Someone recommended the NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme (GMTS) to me and I liked the idea of working in the public sector as it fitted with my values, so I applied from Uni and was lucky to be accepted.

I spent 2 years on the NHS GMTS with various NHS placements and an external placement with Nottinghamshire Police.  Although I joined the scheme on the HR strand I quickly realised that operational management was where my passion lay…I’m too nosey to watch from the outside!  The scheme was great for leadership development and I completed my Masters in HR Management.  Even though I knew a career in traditional HR wasn’t for me, I knew the skills and knowledge I’d gained would serve me well as people development is an absolute passion of mine.

I finished the GMTS and got a job as a band 7 patient information & support manager in the Cancer Network.  This job was all about improvement work and I loved going into different Trusts to work with them on projects around Cancer care.  An opportunity then arose for me to join the National Cancer Action Team on a partnership project with Macmillan Cancer Support so I spent 2 years working across the country in an 8a role which gave me brilliant exposure to the Department of Health and developed my line management skills as I managed a team of 8 people remotely.

The travelling then became tiring so I looked for an opportunity closer to home and NUH really was the only place I wanted to go – there’s just something about this place!  I applied for a side step into another 8a role as a project lead with Better for You and spent a year working in service improvement on a variety of projects.  I loved the project work but still didn’t feel I was close enough to the frontline action so when I was asked to cover the SGM role for ED I jumped at the chance.  It was a baptism of fire but I absolutely loved this role and knew general management was for me.  I then had a break for baby number 1 and when I came back I was asked to cover the SGM role for Respiratory while they recruited to the vacancy – I loved it so much I asked to stay and I spent 2 years working with the team.

I was then approaching maternity leave for baby number 2 when I spotted the advert for my current role as Associate General Manager in the newly formed Surgery Division, responsible for Operational Delivery – i.e. all things workforce and development.  This role excited me so much and having worked with the new GM Jo Fort previously in Medicine I knew the Division was going places under her leadership.  I was successful at interview and the rest as they say is history!


My career advice: If you’re keen to progress raise your profile through things like social media and shadowing senior meetings, and as cheesy as it sounds network network network!  Bar my first role off the GMTS, I found out about all my subsequent roles through relationships I’ve made along the way, your reputation really does precede you.  Don’t run yourself into the ground but say yes to opportunities if you can, be enthusiastic and positive, offer to work on things that may not be within your strict job description, and follow where your passion is, as I think this always leads to you putting in that bit of extra effort to make things succeed.  I’m truly lucky that I absolutely love my job!