Career Advice from a Charity Champion: Brian Walshe
Brian is the Director of Marketing and Operations at Mercy Ships, an international, faith-based organisation with a mission to increase access to health care throughout the world. He has a passion to see the work of Mercy Ships transform the lives of many more people in Western Africa.
Brian has a background in Sales, Marketing, HR and Operations Management in the Medical device, Telecommunications and Professional Service sectors. For 5 years, he spent time coaching and developing young leaders at BT. They focused on immersing the future leaders of the organisation in experiences that required different behaviours using action learning, appreciative enquiry and old fashioned ‘diving in’ to the experience. Brian described seeing young leaders grow as ‘perhaps the most rewarding experience that [he] had at BT’.
Can you imagine… No hospital or midwife when having a baby, no dentist when you have tooth pain. Imagine watching your child’s life ebb away due to a preventable cause because there are no doctors. Now imagine a hospital ship crewed by volunteer surgeons, dentists, nurses, engineers and Gurkhas and imagine their services offered free of charge to the world’s poorest people.
Mercy Ships. A ship like no other.
“Don’t ever be afraid of the next level of responsibility. When you look at how someone else has done that role, don’t be distracted by their ways, hours or behaviours. You are not them!” – Brian Walshe
How did you get into the charity sector?
“I was working for a medical device manufacturer and it became evident to me that the work I was doing, though rewarding, was not the plan that God had for me. In November 2014, I was given an ‘opportunity’ to leave that company and it led to my applying for this role in Mercy Ships. I can safely say that I chose Mercy Ships as opposed to choosing to work in the sector.”
What made you stay and progress within the sector?
“I am a newbie with just one year in the sector so I suppose I may be able to answer that one in 15 years’ time!”
What’s the one thing that the charity sector provides that you can’t get anywhere else?
“This is a tough one but, if pushed, I would say a desire from others to really help with your cause. Most people really understand the positive change that can be made with a floating hospital so they sign up for commitment very willingly.”
Have you seen any major shifts in the way that charities and not for profits recruit?
“At Mercy Ships, we look for professional and capable people rather than professional charity workers. My observation from outside the sector has been that there is a ‘charity merry go round’. I believe that most charities are open to people who have the capabilities to do the role that is being advertised. Yes, experience is crucial with many roles but many of the skills that are needed in commercial organisations are needed more in the charity sector.”
What would you say to encourage someone that has started a new job and is struggling to find their feet?
“It’s a big and steep learning curve coming from the commercial sector into charity. Focus on your organisations cause and ask yourself each week ‘ am I making progress with our cause?'”
What can people do to really prove their worth in the first few months of a job?
“Establish some quick wins where can you really make a difference without having to change minds or get a major investment. Focus on the small things that you do well and that nobody else does around you. If you are struggling to work out what those things are buy someone a coffee in your previous life and ask them.They are very likely to tell you honestly what you did well and not so well.”
Does your current role resonate with your own values? And how did your values guide you in your career?
“Very much so. At Mercy Ships, we strive to Love God, Love and Serve Others and be people of excellence in all that we do. It’s great to have a ‘match up’ of personal and organisation values. I strive to sacrifice myself in service of others (I don’t always manage it but it is a goal). This approach has not always gone down well in my career and I can think of one organisation in particular where this was laughed at. So, always be on the look-out for a place where you have a good match for your values.”
What’s the next step for you? Where would you like your career to go?
“Well, it’s always good to have a plan but then God comes in and interferes with our plans. I look forward to the next interference.”
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