Leaders Plus Fellow, Cheryl Andani, is a Capital Programme Manager at the London Borough of Brent. She shares her thoughts on being a role model for her daughter, finding inspiration from her Fellows and realising that she is actually ambitious after all!
Tell us a little bit about your role and responsibilities at work
I’m responsible for delivering major building projects and programmes for the Council. For the last few years my team has been focussed on expanding the borough’s primary schools to make sure we had enough school places for every child. I’m now starting to work on secondary schools and another big council priority – more housing. As Programme Manager I oversee the whole programme and look after a team of Project Managers who directly deliver projects. I’m responsible for the programme budget, for delivering on time for our stakeholders and for ensuring the buildings we create are really great places to be. My role is really varied and no day is the same.
Tell us about your family
I have one little girl; she’s 19 months. Our daughter is already fine-tuning her leadership skills! She loves to tell us to “sit there” or “sit down” whilst pointing to your designated seat.
What work/family arrangement do you have that enables you to continue your career?
I work 4 days compressed into 3 days in the office and one half day at home. My husband takes our daughter to nursery and picks her up which enables me to work a longer day. On my half day I work flexibly from early to mid-morning and then collect her from nursery to go for our baby swimming lesson! The combination of the work and family flexibility has enabled me to continue in my role and in an organisation within which I have opportunities for progression.
What motivated you to apply for the Leaders Plus Fellowship programme?
I was just delighted someone else was asking the same questions I was asking myself! I was hoping we might be able to find some answers together. I was on maternity leave when I saw the programme advertised. I was at home thinking about having to take a side or backward step in my career now I had a baby and then up popped a group of people saying I could develop my career while having a baby. It was an amazing opportunity I just couldn’t pass up.
What 3 things did you learn about yourself on the programme?
I learnt that I’m actually ambitious; that I need interesting and challenging work. I also realised how much it matters to me to be a role model both for my daughter and at work; to show other parents and parents-to-be that it is possible. The third thing I learned about myself is that I have the capacity to focus and give my all to more than one thing and that all of those things make me who I am.
What was the highlight of the programme for you?
Can I have two highlights? My first has to be the uplifting power of a group of women coming together in mutual support. My second is my mentor. She has given me really practical help which has been invaluable. She has also been a real cheerleader for me, encouraging me to be proud of my achievements and possibilities.
Was there anything that surprised you about the programme?
I was surprised by how much self-reflection and thinking space we would have. I really appreciated it though and it has given me tools for the future.
What does the future hold for you and your family?
We hope the future is very bright for us. We hope our daughter continues to thrive at nursery. My husband and I continue to have conversations about how we balance our careers and family life. Work-wise I’ve started taking on new responsibilities and am broadening my knowledge and experience. I’ve signed up to become a mentor. I’m working on a project to implement the Leaders Plus recommendations within the Council and I’m already building my network of people to be champions for that. Alongside work and family, and as a direct result of being on the Leaders Plus Programme, I’ve since accepted the role of Trustee/Director of a charity.