5 years, and counting

Monday 7 December 2020 is the 5 year anniversary of my first day as a School Business Manager. I cannot believe how fast the last 5 years has gone.

For many years I had coveted the School Business Manager role from my position in the Education department in the Local Authority. I was confident I could do the job, I just needed the chance to get into it. I applied for a few roles between 2009 and 2011 and successful in getting to interview but it must have been painfully clear that I had no real grasp of what the role entailed in reality.

Fast forward to 2014 and I was on my second maternity leave and thinking about how to progress. I made the decision to study for a Certificate in School Business Management whilst I was off work. Studying with two children under two was no easy thing but I was determined to get through it and get through it I did.

I returned to work in June 2015 and by the September I had secured my first SBM role in a primary, community school in South East London. I nervously submitted my resignation and began to work my 2 month notice period. It marked the end of 14 years at the Local Authority but I was ready to venture into a new profession.

Along came 7 December 2015 and I was finally an SBM. I was very fortunate to have an induction process in place that meant I had an experienced SBM working with me one day a week for the first month. That was invaluable in getting my head around the basics of the finance. The thing I soon realised is that you have no idea how much work there is in a school until you are working in one! Having now been in the profession 5 years and being onto my 3rd school I can honestly say that I thought I would enjoy the job but I had no idea how much I would come to love it.

In celebration of my 5 years in the business I thought I’d reflect on the top 5 moments of the last 5 years (in no particular order):

1. SBL Twitter

Becoming part of the SBL Twitter community has been an amazing part of my journey. There isn’t a specific date I can pinpoint as it was a gradual build up over time however I have made some fast friends and know that there is always someone I can turn to for advice, support or reassurance (or all of the above!) Without this support network I’d find it much harder to do my job.

2. Not getting my dream job

Yes, I know this sounds very odd but bear with me here. Having been an SBM for 3.5 years I saw what looked like my dream job being advertised. There was absolutely nothing about the job that didn’t sound just perfect to me. However, I was really not confident about going for it and felt like it was too much of a leap from my current role. With the support and encouragement of my family and (of course) SBL Twitter I put my application in and crossed my fingers. I was delighted to be invited to part 1 of the process after making the long list. I went along and was pleasantly surprised to have an interview that flowed like a lovely chat.

A few days later I was at a conference in London surrounded by a few of my lovely SBL Twitter buddies. I took a call letting me know that although I’d impressed the panel they would not be taking my application forward to the next stage. The feedback was brilliant. They said that they had absolutely nothing negative to say but my lack of experience in a secondary school meant I’d been pipped to the post. Like I say, it sounds odd but I was over the moon with the feedback I got. I’d been so lacking in confidence when I put the application in so that was a massive boost. The cherry on the cake was that the next day they called back to say a candidate had dropped out so they’d like to invite me to be one of the final 3 after all. The following day after that I attended the rigorous interview process and I was offered the job. My dream job!

3. Flying to America

In October 2019 I was fortunate enough to fly to Maryland, USA to attend the ASBO International Annual Conference & Expo. It was an absolutely amazing experience that I was only able to achieve because I’d been awarded an Emerging Leaders Scholarship. I spent 4 days immersed in the US culture of School Business Leadership and learned that we are facing the same issues on both sides of the pond. I very much intend to attend the conference again one day. It was fantastic CPD for me and I am so proud of myself for being courageous enough to do it alone.

4. Facing my fears

As I started my SBM journey I was painfully aware that I was absolutely clueless when it came to H&S and my responsibilities. I was terrified that something would go terribly wrong because of my lack of knowledge in that particular area of my role. As luck would have it, my predecessor was so clued up on H&S that everything was left in such a good place. As well as that I had a long serving premises manager who was very on top of the paperwork side of things. I stumbled through my first H&S audit and got a great score (with no thanks to me at all really). As I moved on to my next school I encountered a crumbling Victorian building and I knew I had to face my fears and throw myself into premises management. I booked myself a full day session with a H&S consultant and we combed through the policies and inspection records. We looked at what needed to be in place and then we came up with a plan of action. 3 courses later (Legionella Awareness, Asbestos Management Awareness and IOSH Managing H&S in Schools) and my confidence had doubled, so much so that’s H&S is now one of my favourite parts of the role.

5. A chance to help others

At the end of August 2019, just before school restarted, I came up with the idea of SBM Mentors. I have always been an advocate of being proactive in steering your career path and I believe strongly that the use of a mentor is one way to do this. Within days of setting up the Twitter handle @SBMMentors I was overwhelmed by the number of colleagues coming forward to volunteer themselves as mentors. I matched up a good number of SBMs with a volunteer mentor and bagged myself a mentor in the process too. I’m pleased with the overall progress of the programme although I have come across those who ask for a mentor but once matched up they never engage. I can’t say I’ll ever understand that but despite this I’ve had some really good feedback from some very grateful SBMs. It’s lovely to see some of these relationships flourish.

Those are some of my highlights from the last 5 years and I am so looking forward to what the future holds. This job is amazing and I know I have so much more to learn. I just love those “penny drop” moments when yet another piece of the SBL puzzle slots into place.

One Reply to “5 years, and counting”

  1. Congratulations on making it through the first five years. School business is certainly a rewarding job. Wishing you the best as you continue this journey.

    Derick D. Sibley
    Director of Finance/CFO
    Pleasant Grove ISD
    Texarkana, Texas


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