Strengthening my appeal to employers and establishing a professional network

16 August 2021

Catherine Gillespie discusses how the Executive Diploma in Strategic Leadership has helped develop her professional network and strengthen her appeal to employers. 

As a registered nurse, it is essential that I am able to demonstrate ongoing professional development and therefore I have studied throughout my career, both in a clinical context but also to develop my communication, leadership and management skills. I have been working as a clinical leader since 2005, both in the UK and in the Middle East. 

When I was planning to return to the UK in early 2020, I looked for professional development opportunities that would enable me to re-engage with communities in the UK whilst undertaking a programme of study that would strengthen my appeal to future employers. As I already have a Master’s degree I wasn’t keen to undertake an Executive MBA, so the Executive Diploma in Strategic Leadership was an ideal option.  I also wanted an opportunity that would enable me to re-establish my professional network, as I had been out of the country for over seven years. Finally, I was keen to look beyond my professional sector as I felt I had a great deal to learn from peers in leadership positions in other industries. 

The programme offered me the opportunity to consolidate my experience with a formal programme. In addition to my clinical experience, I have significant knowledge in operational healthcare service delivery and in the development, application and implementation of national health strategy and experience working across complex organisations with large numbers of stakeholders. Many of the theories of organisational leadership and tools to support organisational change that were introduced and discussed throughout the programme helped me understand how I have worked in the past and how, through utilising these theories and tools, I could successfully lead projects or changes within an organisation in the future. The content also helped me understand the importance of learning when things haven’t gone so well; there is great value in reflecting on and learning from challenges when in a leadership position.

My colleagues on the programme were mostly individuals in senior leadership positions from a wide range of businesses. They would not have been people that I would have had the opportunity to encounter and work with in my day to day working life and so this brought valuable insight into the discussions. It also provided a great deal of reassurance that many leaders encounter similar challenges regardless of whether we work in retail, finance, or healthcare. 

Due to the pandemic, the course was delivered online which was disappointing in terms of the opportunity to network in person, however, the online platform was easy to use and was well supported by the WBS staff. Communication with the team and the availability of learning resources was timely and I feel that everyone adapted well to the way we worked. To be honest, it was actually far more convenient working online than commuting to London would have been! 

I found the assignments useful and many of them were reflective in nature which was great for me as reflection is a key component to much of the learning I have done as a nurse and is something that is encouraged and valued in nursing practice. I am taking the opportunity of the final project assignment to reflect upon, scrutinise and therefore learn from a large organisational change I was involved in, and I am confident that this learning can be applied to future roles.

Overall, I enjoyed the programme. I found it intellectually stimulating, interesting to meet leaders from other professions, and although it was hard work at times, I feel that it really suited my needs and met my personal objectives for undertaking the programme.

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