Michael's journey: from work experience to Deputy Director of Finance
Michael Gilham (pictured right) is our Deputy Director of Finance and at the age of just 37 he has had an amazing career journey. He grew up locally, living in Cranham and attended Campion School in Hornchurch.
Michael kindly agreed to answer some questions in order to help students that might feel a little lost in what it is they want to do as a career and comfort those that might feel a little unsettled in what to do next.
What age did you complete your work experience?
I undertook my work experience at the age of 15 (1998).
Where was your work experience?
I did two to three weeks at Oldchurch Hospital with the finance team (Oldchurch has been replaced by Queen's). In the mornings I was with finance admin team opening the post, recording cheques, reconciling pay runs and in the afternoon I would go upstairs and work with the management accounts department. I did things like entering journals onto the financial ledger and searching for and matching invoices etc. I was supported by David Long who remains in the Trust finance team.
Michael performed various tasks, ones that are definitely not heard of now
I used microfiche which are tiny little slides that look like old photo frames to try and find snapshots of invoices that had been archived and then tried to match them up to resolve different queries. Times have moved on a tad. It was great going in as a 15-year-old and being able to talk to people about work. You learn a lot of interpersonal skills. It is good to be exposed to a bit of what working life is like.
What was your ideal career at the time?
I didn’t know. My family had worked in the hospital before and they helped me with the knowledge of the NHS. I came back to the Trust in the summer of 1998 and worked a summer job on the bank in finance. After my A-Levels in 2001 I came back again but this time I worked for about 14 months in the Goods Receiving team which receives and distributes deliveries ahead of going to university. I met so many people and I found out a lot about the services and what they did.
Even at university I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I just knew what I was good at maths IT, business studies and economics. They all just sat very easy with me. This led me into something fairly general.
So, what happened after University?
After Uni, I joined the Society of London Treasurers finance graduate scheme (local authority-based scheme) and worked at the London Borough of Havering – this is where I studied for my professional accountancy qualification. I knew I wanted the acceleration in my career that a graduate scheme offered. I didn’t even know I wanted a finance qualification to be honest; I could very easily have ended up in more general management within the NHS.
I meandered a bit for the first few years, trying different things, without a clear career ambition. It has only been in the last 5-6 years that I have had greater focus on where I would like to end up. It took me a while to reflect on my career and what I had learnt and what my gaps were. I wanted to broaden my horizons and start to think more strategically so I stepped out of finance in NHS hospitals and had a go with NHS England and NHS Improvement to broaden my experience and network. That was for about 3 years before I came back to working in an NHS Trust.
What have you learnt the most throughout your career path?
It is really important to try and understand the type of person you want to be and the attitude you have. People look more at appointing your behaviours and attitude and you can then be trained, it is not always about being technically brilliant.
What were your final steps before starting with BHRUT?
I took up my first job in the NHS as a Finance Manager at Mid Essex NHS Trust in 2012, before various roles at Great Ormond Street, Barts, NHS England and NHS Improvement before coming back to BHRUT in Feb 2019 initially on secondment for 6 months and then permanently from August 2019.
How have you found your career journey in BHRUT?
I like being at BHR. I really like working for my local Trust. It helps with work life balance and I find it incredibly helpful knowing about the area. Our chairman Joe Fielder may call it having Skin in the game because you are working to improve services that your family and friends may need. For me finance is not just about saving money, it’s about looking at things for the NHS that are good for patients and our staff. You start to think about if my wife or children become sick – I want to know that there will be great care and services available for them. It gives you a common purpose for working with clinical and operational colleagues.
The people at BHR are fab. This is the first finance team I have been a part of that has no vacancies. I have 60 plus in my team and one member that is bank which is incredible and it gives that family sense of belonging.
What impact do you feel Covid has had?
Covid has really made me realise that you need to be able to deal with change and be flexible. You can go away and learn exactly how to be technically great when actually if you have the can-do attitude and maturity you can adapt. This is the type of person I would want to find and hire to work.
What advice would you give Work Experience Students coming to BHRUT or using its Work Experience Services?
Most importantly, try to get some work experience. Gain interview experience, and learn more about yourself. Don’t be afraid to be yourself when you’re going through interviews. Yes, prepare but do not be scripted, be open minded and positive. Try a range of things. You have got to try stuff before you know what you like. It’s nice to have an end goal but you don’t have to go straight there, you can move around and experience a lot of opportunities as there is so much out there. Research into how broad job opportunities are may help. For example, people automatically think finance is all about invoices and payments but actually for me it is more about enabling strategic projects and service improvement. It’s definitely strategy that I prefer rather than transactional work.
Work Experience is a great thing to have, and as a Trust we are keen to support the local population and economy. I would suggest that you get yourself out there, as that is where you see good (and bad) practice, which can be equally good learning. Meet different people and learn about different leadership styles.