A year after On Purpose: where are they now? With Sinead Kirrane-Davis

Sinead Kirrane-Davis

A year after completing the On Purpose Programme, we catch up with our April 2020 Fellows to find out what they are up to these days. Today we speak to Sinead Kirrane-Davis.

Can you tell me about your background and your career prior to On Purpose? 

Before joining On Purpose, I worked as a management consultant in the People Consulting team at KPMG where I supported clients with workforce related challenges, such as attracting and retaining great people, change management and learning.  

How did you feel in your work before you decided to make a change?

I really liked parts of my work. When I joined as a graduate I really enjoyed it and there were many opportunities, like getting to work on challenging projects alongside senior management early on in my career. However, after a while, I started feeling disconnected from my clients and the outcome of my work. Who and what was I doing it for? I became less motivated and knew I wanted to make a change. 

It's been one year since you completed the Associate Programme. What are you doing now?

I am a Senior Development Manager at Lighthouse, which was my second placement on the Associate Programme. Lighthouse is a charity that creates children’s homes where children can thrive. My role is focused on People and Fundraising. We’ve recently opened our first children’s home and I designed and carried out the recruitment process to find the fantastic team we now have working in the home. I’ve also had the privilege of working with our volunteers, with groups of volunteers joining us at the home to help build furniture and get the home looking cosy and welcoming for the young people who will be living there. More recently, my focus has been shifted to developing a qualification and programme of support for residential care staff. 

Why did you join the On Purpose Associate Programme?

I knew I wanted a change. I started to get less engaged and motivated by the work I was doing and was keen to get into something that connected me to purpose. However, I found it difficult to narrow down what that purpose was. I wasn't sure about a specific sector or issue that I felt most connected to and found it hard to figure out where to start. When I came across the Associate Programme, what really appealed to me was the chance to get practical experience in the field on two different placements where I could explore different issues. I also appreciated that, on placement, there wasn't the expectation of being an expert in the field, but about the diverse perspective I could bring as someone coming from a different industry. Furthermore I really liked the learning and development part of the programme and saw the year as an opportunity to make a move and figure out what I might want to do next.

Can you tell me more about your placements?

My first placement was with Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity where I worked in two teams. One was the Trust Engagement team, which supports patients and staff across Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust through grant funding. On the placement I led on a project to identify opportunities to bring the patients’ views and voice into grant funding decisions. I joined Guy’s & St Thomas’ in April 2020, at the start of a global pandemic which saw a lot of attention on NHS charities and the health sector, so it was really interesting joining a team that was managing grants to hospitals and getting to witness the direct impact for staff and patients. I also worked in the Impact Investesting team. In this part of my role I was meeting with fund managers and conducting impact due diligence on potential funds for the charity's impact investing portfolio. This area was completely new to me and spending time with the charity really allowed me to learn a lot of new knowledge and skills. 

My second placement was with Lighthouse, where I still work today. When I first joined the organisation as an Associate, Lighthouse was in the process of opening its first children's home. On my first meeting with the team, we actually visited the building site, which at that time still needed a lot of work and love, and it's just amazing to see it now, as an open home that young people are living in. In my role as an Associate, I worked on how we could attract and recruit great people to work in the home. This involved figuring out how to assess for the skills and capabilities we needed in the team in a way that was consistent with our values and gave candidates a feel for what it would be like to work at Lighthouse. I also led on fundraising, so it was interesting to get to see the grant giving process from both sides - as the grant givers at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and as the applicant at Lighthouse.  

What’s the most important thing you learnt during your year as an Associate?

I think the most important thing I took away was to approach everything with a completely open mindset. When starting the Associate Programme, some people from my cohort thought that their journey would go one way, however oftentimes, especially with the start of the pandemic, it went a completely different way. Staying open minded and embracing new opportunities as a chance to learn and experience new things and meet new, interesting people, was definitely something I learnt through being on the programme.

What support did you get along the way?

I received lots of different support. In both placements I worked with great line managers who understood the Associate Programme and supported me throughout. It really felt like a mutually beneficial process, rather than a one-way relationship. 

My cohort played a really important role as well. Many of us were getting into completely new sectors and experiencing this new process together was good. Getting together on a Friday afternoon to share experiences, thoughts and emotions, especially in the context of a global pandemic where you couldn't build personal relationships with people in an office environment, created a real safe space.

Having access to mentoring and coaching was brilliant too. Being able to talk to someone who is outside of your day to day work, someone with a different perspective who you can test ideas with, was key. I had many conversations with my mentors that helped me with obstacles I was facing in my work on placements, as well as thinking about my life after On Purpose. Meanwhile, my coach supported my personal development while on the programme and beyond the end of the year.

Finally, the On Purpose core team did such a great job with being flexible and responding to ever-changing requirements. The whole team is very approachable and there was always someone you could speak to.

I think these different levels and layers of support really complemented each other and made the programme so much more than just an opportunity to experience two different work placements. 

How did you approach finding a job after the programme?

While on my second placement with Lighthouse, I started having conversations with my team about the job that I had been doing and the potential opportunity of staying on with them. As it became clear that I would continue my role with Lighthouse, I didn't do as much planning ‘beyond on purpose’ than other Associates would have done.  

What advice would you give to others in a similar situation?

Speak to someone from the community who has been on the programme. There are so many Fellows from different career backgrounds that the chance is that at least one of them will be able to relate to your current experience. 

Moreover, reading the profiles and case studies of people who have been through the programme will really help to get a sense of what it is like. A year goes by really fast and even though it may seem like a big thing to commit to, you’ll suddenly find yourself at the end of the programme, thinking about what's next! So definitely go for it, it’s just a fantastic experience. 

What do you miss about your old career, and what don’t you miss?

I miss some of the people I worked with. I had some really interesting colleagues I enjoyed working with and had a well established network. There were also some great opportunities to travel to other countries with my old job. 

However, what I don't miss is the feeling of doing work that needs to be done rather than doing something you feel connected to and that feeds your purpose.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

I like to start my day by getting outside in the fresh air. I usually get up and go for a walk first thing (when it's not completely chucking down with rain!) - that really helps my frame of mind for the day.