Like so many in the sector, I didn’t specifically aspire to work in social housing. I wouldn’t say I fell into housing – more that I took a particular route at a crossroads and haven’t looked back.
In a former life I co-founded and ran a small business for five years. It was infinitely rewarding but ultimately exhausting, and I knew that eventually I would quite like to work in the non-profit sector. At the start of 2017 I decided that it was the right time; I moved away from the business amicably, and my former business partner continues to run the company.
I wasn’t entirely sure what would come next, and this uncertainty was quite unsettling. I didn’t know where I fitted in the market since I was both under and over-qualified; I had developed project management, people management and finance skills, but not a lot of direct third sector experience.
After around a year working for a social enterprise supporting independent workers, I started at CHC on a 6 month contract in the Policy team. I was more than a little intimidated, but needn’t have worried. The team are fantastic, and were so welcoming and supportive. It didn’t take me long to feel very much at home, and after 18 months I was able to secure a permanent position.
I’ve always considered myself a bit of an activist, opposing inequality and inequity in all its forms, but tend to be more of a behind-the-scenes than front-line worker. Reading, writing and managing projects have always been my go-to activities, and these are essential parts of working in policy and external affairs. We absorb huge amounts of information from a number of sources, and have to distil it all down to the most pertinent points for various decision-makers and stakeholders. Policy work also requires the finding of consensus among those you represent, and conveying this view to decision-makers in a considered and compelling way.
I learn so much every day in my job and there are lots of opportunities to develop and grow. Housing really is an under-rated sector, and the diversity of roles available is something that surprised me. The folks in the sector are a friendly and helpful bunch and all do their best to deliver great homes and services to tenants in all parts of Wales – wherever they work and whatever role they do.
Sarah is a Policy and External Affairs Project Officer at Community Housing Cymru