Woman sitting at park bench

This is where we make the most of transferable skills

Angela Ham, Head of Business Support Services

This is where we make the most of transferable skills and where I push myself more than ever before.

Set over 350 acres of land, the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire is part of the Royal British Legion family of charities. And today, it’s where Angela joins me.

I ask Angela to explain what her role entails as Head of Business Support.

“First and foremost, I make sure the administrative systems run efficiently and effectively. And I’m responsible for IT. So, anything IT and systems related really – although I haven’t got an IT background. I’m also responsible for the recruitment, training, and welfare of our volunteer team, which is quite a big task with 240 people.”

She pauses for a moment. Before I can ask the next question she adds, “Oh, and I’m also the main assistant to the Managing Director.”

I then make a joke about how much she does. But she assures me that it’s a good kind of busy. She enjoys the job diversity.

“You never know what each day is going to be like really. It’s great.” She says.

So great in fact, that she’s still here, 12 years after starting.

Woman sitting outside on bench

Before joining RBL

"Before RBL, Angela explains that she worked in welfare support for the police service. She worked on a project for the Arboretum when it was just a muddy field, and here she caught wind of the exciting plans for its future. “When I asked questions at the job interview about what the future holds for the Arboretum, they literally spent more time telling me about that than they did interview me."

Angela describes to me how the Arboretum has grown over the years.

From the empty field, it once was into a site with 380 memorials that holds countless events and hosts 360,000 visitors a year. I start to get a sense of how much Angela has contributed to that.

“One of the big things that I’ve worked on over the last 18 months, I was Project Coordinator for the planning of Aspects, which is our events building. I was asked if I’d take on the role. Originally, I was shocked because I’d not even thought of doing a role like that. And also, I didn’t feel as though I’d got the technical expertise either.

“I remember a couple of nights beforehand thinking, ‘Is this the right thing for me to do?’ and going home and talking to my family about it. They said, ‘Yes, you can do it! Of course, you can do it.’ So, I thought, ok, perhaps I can. And I soon got into it after a few meetings.

“At times, I was pushed out of my comfort zone because I didn’t know what on earth people were talking about. But it was just having the confidence to say, ‘Can you just talk to me in layman’s terms?’. The whole project helped me because it showed that you don’t have to be an expert on something, in particular, to use the transferrable skills that you have, and actually you can play a really big part in that. I didn’t have the specific qualifications or experience for constructing a new building, but it was the experience built up from working at the NMA over the years which really helped me to be able to deliver it. On-time and within budget.

“Bouncing things off other colleagues really helped. Getting them to explain things and not being afraid to ask when you don’t know something. You’ve got colleagues spread across RBL who you can ask for advice and help.”

We talk about Angela’s journey and the extensive list of things that go on at the National Memorial Arboretum. And she leaves me with this comment.

“It’s an infectious place. People used to think of it as a care home with a garden, which absolutely it is not. You need to come here, and you’ll see it. And you’ll absolutely appreciate it.”

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