Graduate journey: from podiatry graduate to Chief Executive

Every graduate has a different journey, Siobhan Melia (Podiatry BSc, Podiatry MSc) tells us hers, from podiatry graduate to Chief Executive of Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust.

Siobhan Melia, CEO, Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust

“My journey began in the Brighton Centre when I graduated with a Podiatry degree in 1996. I am now Chief Executive of Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust. One of the country’s leading community health and care providers. With around 5,000 members of staff serving a population of 1.3 million people.
I can confidently say that I had no idea all those years ago that this was where my journey was heading.

“I look back on my time as a student at the University of Brighton as formative and fulfilling. The degree programme was eclectic and challenging. It was the perfect place to start a career that has had quite a few twists and turns.

“My degree introduced me to frontline patient care a few months into my first year. And that memory of fear and responsibility when I treated a patient for the first time on my own is still with me.

“The podiatry degree prepared me for a career in healthcare with a broad foundation of knowledge and skills, combined with a strong focus on understanding patient’s needs. I think that approach, and the values instilled by the faculty here gave me the ability to overcome challenges, and take advantage of opportunities as they arose.

“My own career began in the NHS, working as a podiatrist in North West London, a job I stayed in for 4 years. My next challenge was a promotion to Team Leader. I can remember how big a transition this felt as I was managing a team of 7 people. Suddenly I was responsible for more than my own clinical care delivery. I was responsible for other professionals and for their development and wellbeing. This was something I really loved, and inspired me to look to improve my leadership and management skills.

“That led me to take on a podiatry master’s degree, again here at the University of Brighton.

“I have also been given the opportunity to undertake professional development throughout my career including leadership skills, reflective practice and coaching. That continual learning has been crucial, and I would encourage you to seek out opportunities to develop wherever you can.

“Over the following years I seized a number of career opportunities, including being the clinical lead podiatrist for Broadmoor Special Secure Hospital, and also became a Trust clinical executive chair, which was a position typically only held by GPs.

‘I eventually left my podiatry practice behind and transitioned into senior management.

“The next phase of my career took me into business and strategy director roles. And even into a role outside of the NHS for a couple of years, leading a team developing health technology solutions at Telefonica. In parallel I completed an MBA, ensuring that I had the right skills for these new roles. And most recently in 2016 to this position, as leader of an NHS organisation.

“My advice to students would be this:

“Seek breadth, development and learning throughout your career.

“Seize the opportunities and persevere with the challenges. Learn how to build personal resilience, and be adaptable to change.

“Most importantly be proud of who you are, and what you do. I’m certainly very proud of the career journey that has taken me from my Podiatry graduation, to becoming an NHS chief executive. Nothing is out of reach, and anything is possible.”

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