Make your directorial debut with ISE

Sep 27, 2021 | Sector & policy

As ISE looks for new board directors, Debs McCormack, ISE Chair and Head of Early Talent at Pinsent Masons, shares her story.

Simon Mainwaring, a brand futurist (an incredibly cool job!) and author of ‘We First’ and ‘Lead with We’ said: “Effectively, change is almost impossible without industry-wide collaboration, cooperation and consensus.”

Simon’s words struck a chord when I started to revisit the reasons for putting myself forward to be a part of the ISE’s leadership team.

If we want to make a substantive difference within our sector, whether that’s to diversify our organisations, increase awareness of the value of apprenticeships or simply to give something back by sharing knowledge and expertise, a silo mentality can only get you so far.

Prior to applying for a position on the ISE board, I’ve always been, and have encouraged my early talent colleagues to be, active members and contributors to the ISE. There’s little point in paying a membership fee and remaining passive – where’s the benefit and value for money in that approach? You get out of a membership organisation what you put in.

With that ethos in mind, a few years ago, I was invited to join the ISE’s Scotland & the North Steering Group. Becoming active in that community and committee enabled me to grow my network outside of Scotland, contribute to the local early talent agenda and gain better insight into how the ISE operated as a business. Taking on Vice-Chair and then Chair roles within that steering group, helped give me the confidence to apply for a Director role when the ISE launched its 2017 recruitment campaign.

The drivers to stick my hat in the ring for a directorship will be familiar to many of you, particularly if you have reached a stage in your career journey where you feel you have experience, a network and ideas you want to share.

As a Head of Early Talent within my organisation, I had come up through the ranks, nurtured a successful team, participated in, designed and delivered lots of training, coaching and mentoring. I was asking myself ‘what next?’ in terms of my personal professional development.

Recognising that I wanted to continue to expand my cross-sector network, learn from senior colleagues in a variety of organisations and gain practical experience of running a business, securing a ‘board’s eye view’ was one way to achieve those goals.

The other catalyst was the desire to give something back to an organisation I have found invaluable in my role as I’ve evolved the early talent function for which I have strategic and operational responsibility.

So, what’s in it for you if you feel ready, willing and able to make your directorial debut?!

The quid pro quo for giving your time to the ISE board on a voluntary basis is very definitely the benefit of experience.

The role has helped me to become:

  • a more attentive listener
  • more consultative, collaborative and cognisant of other people’s perspectives and ideas. In the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, “many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up”
  • more strategic in my approach
  • more commercially minded – the ISE is a business which needs to be solvent and sustainable
  • more creative and solutions-focused. For example, suggesting new revenue streams
  • a more mindful networker, deepening relationships and starting new ones
  • more confident in pitching ideas and presenting to large audiences
  • more appreciative that running an organisation with many stakeholders and moving parts, during a global pandemic, is both challenging and rewarding in equal measure!

If any of this experience resonates, I would encourage you to nurture the spark within. Speak to any of the ISE directors, past and present, to do your diligence, and if it’s an opportunity you would relish, get involved! The board is striving to be representative of our membership and to achieve true diversity of thought.

Steve Jobs was spot on when he said, “Great things in business are never done by one person: they’re done by a team of people.” So, if you are seeking challenge, brimming with ideas and want to contribute to the future of a dynamic organisation as we emerge from a global economic downturn, I would encourage you to make your directorial debut…

Our future leadership already exists within our network – does that sound like you?

Find out more about applying to be an ISE Board Director

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