Q&A with Sandra Holliday

Q&A with Sandra

On International Women’s Day, we chat to Managing Director Sandra Holliday!

Name: Sandra Holliday.

Job title: Managing Director.

Where are you from? Born in Penrith, lived in Lazonby until 4 then moved to Carlisle.

Where do you live now? Stockdalewath.

Where do you work? Choose Occupational Health. I work with clients across Cumbria so can regularly work in Workington, Kendal, Cockermouth or Carlisle.

How long have you done this job? I started working in Occupational Health in 2008.

Take us through a typical day: I don’t have a typical day which is what I love so much about the role.  Generally, I start the day by reviewing my urgent actions list and planning out the first three to work on.  Review of emails, catch up with the team to check if there are any issues or support they need.  If I am in a clinic, I’ll get prepared for the appointments.  I like to have a break from the PC at lunchtime and if I’m working in the office I have a short walk to stretch my legs and clear my mind.  I try to finish my working day no later than 7pm so that I can have dinner with my family and have some time to relax.

What do you like most about the job? The variety. I also really enjoy meeting so many varied people in clinics and working with our client management teams.  I find it fascinating to gain an understanding of how products are made and enjoy observing manufacturing processes and working with businesses to limit the impact of these on a person’s health.

What do you like least? My driver at work is to deliver a high-quality service so I find it hard when the client or the employee are unhappy with the experience they have had.  A work colleague a few years ago shared that she sees these situations as a gift and an opportunity to learn. Changing my outlook to this has helped to lessen the knock for me.

Why did you want to do this job? I didn’t consciously choose to work in occupational health.  I was approached to work with a company called Cuedoc Holdings Ltd back in 2006 as a training manager.  My mum was working in an organisation based in the same offices and I had always followed her around the health service locally and would love to have worked nearer her.  She was being treated for mouth cancer at the time so when I was approached for this role I said yes without thinking it all through.  Sadly, she died the week before I started the post which was tough, and when I came back from maternity leave early in 2008 I was asked to develop an occupational health business. I threw myself into that to avoid my feelings of grief losing mum.

What jobs have you done previously? I have worked in the Cumberland Infirmary on a dermatology (skin) ward; I spent 4 years working on the renal ward then moved to community nursing in Carlisle & Penrith, then NHS Direct before moving into governance and development roles.

What qualifications or experience do you need? Life skills and broad nursing experience are very helpful.  Being able to communicate effectively is also vital. There are specific qualifications in Occupational Health Nursing from Diploma up to Masters level as well as short accredited courses for specific aspects of the role such as audiometry and spirometry screening.  My plan is to start a masters in organisational psychology when my youngest is settled at senior school, which I am looking forward to.

Any advice for people wanting to get into your profession? It is hard to get a foothold in occupational health, often you need experience to get the role and the role to get experience.  Researching and increasing your knowledge of public health issues and reading occupational health journals will help to increase your understanding of occupational health issues.  Contacting occupational health departments asking for experience/shadowing opportunities can help you understand more about what the role entails.

What do you like doing in your spare time? I love being outdoors, walking near home and in the local fells with our daft Labrador Bess. I also enjoy making crafts and spending time with my family and friends.

Which female do you most admire and why? Oh, this is hard, I admire Dame Judi Dench and Helen Mirren for being strong role models in their profession, as well as Malala Yousafzai for having the courage to stand up to a brutal regime.  Lastly, I admire my mum for the love, strength, courage and bravery she had coping with her worst nightmare in the year leading up to her death and trying to protect us from it as much as she did.

Any advice for your childhood self? Stop worrying about what people think and do what feels right for you, it will be the right choice.