My first 40 days at VONNE

Apparently it takes 100 days to get into a new role.  I've been in post as the new CEO of VONNE for 40 days and thought it would be a good chance to reflect on my experiences so far.  For the first few weeks I felt totally overwhelmed as I had been in my previous job for 15 years so I knew it inside out and got used to feeling confident in my role. Now here I was feeling like the new kid on her first day at the new school not knowing how to do anything or how anything worked and that's a scary feeling for someone who likes to be in control.

I also knew it would be tough taking over from my extremely competent and well respected predecessor, Jo Curry, who had been in the role 8 years. Many people think the words VONNE and Jo Curry are synonymous as she was such a great ambassador for VONNE. However, I was given good advice at the start of this journey which was that I shouldn't try to fill her shoes, but to wear my own shoes and that's been my mantra so far.

As with any new job, so far it's been a juggling act.  This has been between the external stuff like getting out and about and networking and getting up to speed on the range of policy areas VONNE is involved in, and the internal stuff like getting to know the staff team and working on our strategy and structure for the coming year.  

On coming into post I had to manage the recruitment of a replacement for our excellent Health & Wellbeing Policy Office, Ross Cowan, who left at the end of March and I learned that my fabulous view of the Tyne Bridge from my office was to be short lived as we need to relocate to new offices. 

On the up side I already knew most of the staff team albeit in a different capacity having previously been Chair of VONNE and they've been really great at helping me bed in, particularly the wonderful Carol Botten, my deputy, who has ably carried the load in the gap between Jo leaving and my starting.  We've recruited a new Policy Officer, Alex Robson, who I know will hit the ground running and have identified new offices with a plan to move in July.

I have found it hard to adjust to running an infrastructure/umbrella body as opposed to a service provider organisation as my life used to be dominated by procurement deadlines and staff issues.  Now its lots of  external stakeholder engagement work and managing a tiny staff team in comparison.  I spend most of my time out and about and increasingly we are representing the sector at regional and in some case national forums so travel is a major part of my week.  I've discovered that I generally love travelling by train, getting work done whilst I travel and I'm gradually getting my bearings in Newcastle and learning to the bus routes.

Happily, I have found my direct experience of running a medium sized VCS provider organisation, being involved in a small start up CIC and working at grass-roots level with community organisations in Co. Durham and Tees Valley really useful and welcomed as it enables me to bring a 'reality' to the strategic table.

The other thing I've been surprised at is that everyone wants to engage with the sector, by everyone I mean public and private sector, government bodies and academia. They are all charged with engaging communities and the sector as providers or representatives of patients, service users or whatever they call real people this week so  we don't have to knock on their doors any more, they are coming to us. Long may it continue.

I'll get back to you after 100 days, hopefully I'll not only have survived but thrived!