NON-EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SELF-EMPLOYED, WRITER
Kate Richards is a professional senior leader with diverse public and private sector experience in high profile, politically sensitive areas. Proven record in senior executive and non-executive roles with six years in the Senior Civil Service.
Non-executive board roles at a glance
15 hours a week
5/5 - excellent
Super flexible. I know all of my meetings dates for the year ahead and so can schedule my writing and other activities around these.
For board positions, evidenced experience in sector
I travel to meetings about once a month.
Breadth and depth of experience
Boards seeking a wide variety of skill-sets
Experience of committee work
What were your first career steps and how did that work out?
I worked in farm practice for 14 years which I enjoyed, becoming a partner, then moved into industry as a vet advisor and brand manager which gave me a deeper understanding of the profession across the UK. After that I became a farm animal welfare advisor in Defra which drew on all my knowledge and experiences as a practitioner and industry vet.
So how did you decide to seek more non-executive board roles?
I had no idea my career would take this route, that I would be doing what I am now doing as my aspiration was to be a farm vet. At each stage I was looking for something different, a new challenge. I believe that every career choice provides the opportunity for experiences, new skills and insight, even if it turns out not to be the right 'fit.'
What did you need to do to get into this career path?
I did a DipM while working in industry and achieved a merit in Veterinary Public Health (distance learning) at the RVC. I am not sure if I needed to do either of these qualifications but I enjoy learning and it is good for my soul. The qualifications consolidated and underpinned what I was learning. I recently completed an MA in Creative and Life Writing, graduating with distinction which was driven by a desire to write my memoir. Certainly my practice experience was valuable to the roles in industry and government, and in my current role as a non-executive director and in my writing I draw on the experiences of all those sectors.
There are training courses for those wishing to become Non-Executive Directors, but they are not essential and the two positions I hold gave me a comprehensive induction.
“Some people could not see past my qualification - it was my job to convince them about the skills and expertise I had, which they could not work out for themselves. Motivation, self-belief and persistence were vital to overcome these barriers”
Were there any barriers to entry and how did you overcome them?
People pigeon-holing me as a vet was a barrier for my early non-veterinary roles. Some people could not see past my qualification - it was my job to convince them about the skills and expertise I had, which they could not work out for themselves. Motivation, self-belief and persistence were vital to overcome these barriers.
What are the best bits about your current role and are there any downsides?
I enjoy the variety of work, that no two days are the same and the stimulating discussions with those in the veterinary, agriculture, education and research sectors. The downside is having no weekly structure and learning to manage my time well to create my own structure, being flexible and prioritising competing demands.
Could you give us an overview of a typical day/tasks?
I have three part-time non-executive roles so no two days or weeks are the same. I could be reading papers and researching in preparation for a meeting, travelling to meetings (two of my roles are in Edinburgh and I live in London), juggling this with my own writing and reading.
Within Non-Exec roles my duties and responsibilities involved in discussions on strategy, financial and business performance, audit, risk and health and safety, positioning the organisations to maintain and build reputation as well as evaluating performance.
What sort of person would thrive in this career path?
A person who is comfortable both working on their own, as well as working with others, motivated, willing to be challenged, not afraid to take that leap of faith, and with a positive attitude.
What advice would you give to someone becoming board member?
Have confidence in your own abilities and don’t be put off by what people say. Ask for opportunities to shadow people in their roles, look for opportunities to expand knowledge and skills in the area you'd like to work in.