History was my favourite subject at school; however, in those days career advice in schools was mostly provided by teachers who were double-jobbing and there weren’t many History-based careers outlined to me.
1990-93: Politics and History degree at QUB
1993-94: PGCE Politics/History at QUB
Teaching was not necessarily my first choice of career, but at that stage there was a recession and there were not a lot of jobs available. I was the only student on my PGCE cohort to have a job to go to on finishing the course; however, this meant teaching in England.
1994-98: King Edward VII School, Lytham, Lancashire – HMC, 500 boys, day school. Teaching History and Politics to A Level.
Teaching was a revelation. Being paid to talk about subjects I loved was wonderful. I was lucky that I was in a private school where discipline was not a problem, but the enjoyment that can be derived from teaching should not be underestimated. The work is degree relevant and, in the private sector, you are not a slave to the national curriculum. As long as you cover what the curriculum required and your exam results are good, you can indulge your interests in other areas of History that pupils will often never learn about. Unfortunately, the Labour government’s ending of the Assisted Places Scheme, meant the school had to merge with the sister school next door and redundancies would be plentiful. To avoid that stress I returned to NI.
1998-99: Recruitment Consultant for supply teacher agency.
Allowed me to use my understanding of teaching/schools and contacts to dramatically expand the business.
1999-2002: British West Indies Collegiate, Providenciales, Turks & Caicos Islands, BWI. Small international school teaching the British curriculum. Head of Sixth Form, teaching History and Business Studies to A Level.
Living in paradise and still enjoying teaching the subjects that I loved. This job saw me acquire a huge number of useful skills in management and dealing with government. It also allowed me to use the analytical and writing skills I had acquired studying History to good use.
2003-05: Department of Finance and Personnel, Central Personnel Group, Employment Conditions and Relations Branch. Graduate recruit.
This initial NI Civil Service posting provided me with a huge range of experience on a variety of personnel issues and industrial relations. Again, my training in History and my tangential understanding of Politics and Economics allowed me to perform at a high level, which got me noticed and caused specialist work to be sent my way. History related skills such as understanding cause and effect, contextualisation, analysis and many more, provided me with the ability to undertake work that was generally allocated to those at a higher grade including, during the NICS strike at the time, providing an analysis of the impact of the strike action on NICS function across the NI government departments directly to the DFP Minister. This proved to be excellent preparation for my next NICS post.
2005-08: Private Secretary to the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment. Competitive developmental post.
The three years I spent as Ministerial PS were incredibly hard work and very pressurised, but also an incredible learning experience. Effectively the PS acts as the gateway to and from the Minister. The organisation of the Minister’s work regarding the department is largely the PS’s job. The post came with a staff of 7, including the 2 staff working in the Permanent Secretary’s Office. Again, the analytical and written communication skills I learned pursuing my study of History were essential. Being able to put issues in an historical context, particularly after the advent of Devolution, was incredibly important. An understanding of History also provided me with a greater ability to understand the momentous nature of the times in which I was living. The experience gained working for the Minister provided me with the political and general government experience that helped me get my current post.
2008 onwards: Clerk to the Committee for Employment and Learning, NI Assembly.
In this post I organize the work of the Committee. This comprises scrutiny of the work of the Department for Employment and Learning and its Minister, Sir Reg Empey. In addition, I plan and facilitate the policy development work of the Committee and the Committee’s contribution to the work of the department. My analytical abilities my experience in putting ideas and concepts on paper, again learned studying History, allow me to fulfill this role. This job is tremendously interesting and it puts me at the heart of government and politics here.
I have no doubt that the degree I took and the subject-related skills that it provided me with have allowed me to follow the career path that I have.