The year is 2010 and I’m a second year Social Care student looking for somewhere to do my next round of work placement. I have no experience in the field of social care and the thoughts of working with people with intellectual disabilities terrifies me…..so I do it anyway. I make initial contact with WALK and my placement is set up. Thinking back to the first day of placement, two things still resonate with me eight years later. The first of these is that I was unable to identify staff from people being supported. The old school model of staff in uniforms with keys hanging from their pockets was certainly not in place here and I loved it for that. The second thing that I distinctly remember was a conversation I had with my supervisor in which she told me that WALK’s ethos and ways would become the standard on which I judged other services on and I would find it very difficult to move to any other service after experiencing life in WALK. I didn’t fully believe her the day she told me this but eight years down the road and still happily working in WALK, I see her point J
Time hop forward a year and my placement has now come to an end. After drying the tears at the thought of leaving, I use the relationships I have built throughout my placement and take on a weekly volunteering role with a person supported in the day centre. I meet this person every Tuesday afternoon, we go for lunch and a bit of shopping and then I drop her home. Little did I know this would be the doorway into my next venture with WALK. An opportunity for “Community Inclusion” hours for opens up. With my college work, placement and volunteer role I feel I have the right skills mix and experience for this role. I go for it and get the job!!! Over the course of the next year and a half I get myself onto the “Relief Panel” and work a lot of shifts in one particular house. I also interview for and am successful in getting a number of community inclusion hours with several people we support in different areas of the organisation. I get a real feel for both the residential and community support side of WALK engaging in all types of supports including personal care, educational support, crisis support and even supporting people to the odd concert or two!
It is now July 2014 and WALK have advertised for “Community Connector” roles in their day service. My heart has remained with day service since my placement and I jump at the chance to go back to it. In September, I begin day service work with the LINC team. This is the making of me!!! Under the guidance of an extremely supportive and encouraging manager, I take on as many opportunities and challenges as possible. I become staff rep and begin supervising and mentoring students on work placement. I also put myself onto the Quality Committee within the organisation. I channel my efforts into taking on as many responsibilities as I can within the team. As staff rep, I am provided with the opportunity to participate in outside trainings run by Bank of Ireland which include Leadership Skills, Conflict Management Skills and Managing people skills. I am also sent on a NALA run training course on Plain English as part of my Quality Committee Role.
I lap up every opportunity available to me over the next two years. I have identified a career path towards a management position in my Performance Development Review, so, when I am offered a place on a nine-month leadership training course being run within WALK by Arcadia, an outside company, I very willingly accept. I use the skills and tools learned in this training to progress my end goal. When the LINC team splits into two at the end of 2016 and opens a new support hub in Tallaght, I work closely with my manager on the planning, organising and development of the new Tallaght-based service. I am entrusted with much more responsibility in the new centre and learn a huge amount. I put everything I have into making Tallaght the successful hub it is today and am offered the position of Hub Coordinator at the end of 2017.
I enter 2018 well on my way down the right path towards my desired career goal. I love my role in the Tallaght centre and am so proud of how the LINC Tallaght service has developed over the past year. I know the ins and outs of LINC Tallaght like the back of my hand and cannot envision myself working anywhere else…until I see a vacancy for maternity cover for a team leader position in the Longmile Road centre. The thought of moving somewhere new after working so long as part of the same team terrifies but intrigues me. I speak to my manager about putting myself forward for the position and, true to form, I receive nothing but encouragement and support so I bite the bullet and go for it. I interview for the position and am offered it and, in June 2018, I begin the next step in my WALK journey as acting Team Leader of the Progression Group in Longmile Road.
My eight years in WALK have led me down a winding, ever changing career path filled with challenges and opportunities. I have had the pleasure to have worked under managers who have constantly encouraged and supported me to think big, aim high and do things that push me out of my comfort zone. The highs in this job have well outnumbered the lows and no two days have ever been the same. I would encourage anyone who is looking for a career that will challenge, push and fulfil them to take a WALK in our shoes and see where the road takes them….