Taking a leap of faith

We recently spoke to Jennifer, who shares with us her experience of going from the financial sector to an energy and data consultancy firm, on secondment.

I was the Strategic Planning Manager at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and led the Corporate Strategy, Business Planning and Reporting functions. I worked with our Executive and Board to set out our objectives each year, alongside our analysis and expectations of the financial industry. I was looking for a secondment in a commercial sector so that I could learn and apply different approaches to problem solving. WIG found me a secondment opportunity at Gemserv, an energy and data consultancy that was looking for someone with my skill set.

At first, I was hesitant, I worked in the financial sector and couldn’t see the link, it would be a leap of faith on the part of both parties to make the secondment successful.

However, my concerns were unfounded, I met my new director and was encouraged by his attitude, Gemserv worked in regulated markets and there were clear links to my role in financial regulation. I also had the freedom to work on several creative projects that would broaden my personal skills - at the end of the secondment I would be able to describe delivering major pieces of work, and proudly say ‘I did that’. Before I started, we agreed the projects I would lead on and talked about the company’s culture so I could be sure that I was a good fit.

Once I started and as I settled into the role, I was able to find other synergies and arrange cross-sector learning opportunities, bringing together Ofgem, Gemserv and FCA to share experiences of risk management and how to use technology to share regulations with the industry. I learnt so much from being in an energetic commercial environment that was experiencing and responding to significant changes.

For other secondees I would say, focus on learning and listening, you’re only there for a short time, so you should share your most creative ideas. Find out as much as you can, even if it’s not something you would normally work on in the role you return to, it’s a test of how you assimilate information, and how you interpret and see problems and proposals. Gemserv encourages and supports its people to have varied opinions so it can look at issues from multiple viewpoints, which I found really refreshing.

The most vital ingredient to success is being supported by your host organisation, and that the're clear what they want from the relationship and have a plan for you. It’s also important that your home organisation keeps you in touch with what they’re doing and has given careful thought to integrating you back on your return. You may find that you want to check in with them on occassion.

I’m proud of what I achieved in such a short space of time. In particular, developing a new growth strategy, creating their first Innovation Plan, developing and delivering their Profit with Purpose: Sustainable Business Plan and forging stronger relationships with the charities they support.