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“I’m a big supporter of training and staff development as without it I would never have had the opportunities I’ve had. I always try and promote from within and encourage self-development.”

Paul McGrady is Executive Director of Resources at ClwydAlyn and shared his inspirational story with us as part of the Executive’s social media takeover for this week.

‘I’m originally from Liverpool, and grew up on the council estates in Huyton, where my dad worked on the docks and my mum in a local factory. We moved to north Wales in the 1970s, and I did well at secondary school but then failed all my A levels, but nobody in my family had that level of education, so it didn’t matter to me then.

I initially did a course in electronics, but didn’t finish it, and worked a series of temporary jobs in my late teens to mid-20s. Then I decided to pack it all in and go travelling, bought a plane ticket to the Far East, and visited countries such as China, where I became very self-reliant to help get around.

I came back after a few months and found myself at the age of 25, unemployed, in debt and with few prospects. Many of my friends had been to university and had good jobs, and I realised I had to do something with my life. Luckily, I got a job with Wrexham Council as a debt recovery officer, and in the evenings started using the local library to teach myself bookkeeping. I then studied to be an accounting technician at night school, with the support of the Council, before a lucky break being offered a trainee accountant role and given day release to study chartered accountancy.

It was my manager at this time who gave me these opportunities. I became qualified and had by now been studying for over 5 years during evenings and at weekends. It wasn’t enough for me, so I started a Master’s degree in Business Administration with the Open University which I self-funded, and finished it 2½ years later. Suddenly after 8 years, Sundays became a free day.

I then moved on and worked for several councils doing long commutes, before coming back to north Wales. Having joined Wrexham Council as the most junior member of the finance department, I finally became director of finance for Denbighshire Council. At last, I felt I had nothing left to prove to myself and looked for opportunities to do other things.

Then I worked for Adra Housing Association in Bangor. The business language was Welsh so I decided I had to learn Welsh to fit in, and eventually I could give presentations to rooms full of Welsh speakers. I did night classes in Wrexham, and had a tutor from Bangor, where I would have lessons in the open office so people could see me making mistakes. Staff really appreciated the effort, and I saw again how supportive companies can be.

I joined, and still work on the Board of Wrexham Glyndwr University, which is recognised as the number 1 university in the UK for promoting social mobility among its students, 75% of which are mature.

I joined ClwydAlyn in 2019 as Executive Director of Resources, overseeing Finance, IT, Health and Safety, Procurement and Governance. At ClwydAlyn I was also appointed Chair of Well Fed, our anti-food poverty partnership, and have learnt about food production as we make up to 1,000 meals a day for vulnerable people.

I’m a big supporter of training and staff development as without it I would never have had the opportunities I’ve had. I always try and promote from within and encourage self-development.

My message to people is to never give up; when opportunities come up grab them and don’t wait to be asked: you can then prove that you’re up for it. I will always remember the manager that helped me at Wrexham Council and have enjoyed giving people similar opportunities when I can. My hobbies include running classic cars, and I go to shows and events in my spare time. I have always thrown myself into everything I do and have tried as hard as I could at everything. I enjoy a challenge; stuff that isn’t easy, as it makes life interesting!’

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