According to the Knox Academy Leavers’ 2000 yearbook, I was destined to be “Working in Africa for an NGO* by 2005”. Hhmm… not quite sure what that self-proclaimed “hippy chick” at 18 would have made of me at 34, getting ready to leave a 12-year career with an Oil and Gas major.
That chirpy, idealistic 18-old was preparing to go to Uganda for a year’s volunteering with the educational charity, Project Trust. After a ridiculous amount of preparation and fundraising (24-hour silence, anyone?!), medical things happened in the last few weeks before my departure and all of a sudden, I couldn’t go. Devastated.
With no degree and no real clue, I floated about aimlessly for a while until my friend’s lovely dad suggested I interview with his company, Scottish & Newcastle. Volunteering in Africa was put on indefinite hold as I jumped in to the corporate world with both feet.
Fast-forward a couple of years and I’d moved from the East coast of Scotland to Glasgow in the West. After a brief stint as a telephone debt collector <shudder…>, I joined Royal Dutch Shell in 2005 as an enthusiastic, malleable and somewhat naïve 22-year old in their internal debt collection team.
Twelve and a half years later and I’ve been a system trainer in Denmark; a manager of a team of twenty-one; an external relationship manager; a management information analyst; a finance analyst; a risk analyst; and finally, project support for the closure of the centre. I’ve had poor managers (few) and excellent managers (many).
I’ve grown-up here. During this time, I’ve had four long-term relationships; four flats; one cat. I’ve passed my driving test; discovered a love of fitness and the outdoors; learned to swim front-crawl. I’ve made friends. I’ve moved from binge-drinking and clubbing every weekend to supping responsibly like a grown-up (more or less). I’ve even learned to like mushrooms. Throughout it all, Shell has been there in the background, acting as a safety-net against my big or small, and brave or brash decisions, regardless of the outcome.
Now, the centre is closing and along with 400 of my colleagues, I’m being made redundant. Eeekk!
With true 1st world sensitivities, the initial reaction after the announcement was panic. We work in a world of virtual teams and global centres of excellence (all of whom are cheaper than our centre in Glasgow) so while it wasn’t a surprise, it was still a shock. Some people cried in the corridors. Lots of my colleagues have families and mortgages and commitments. For the first time ever, I am grateful to have very little of any of these! Instead, I’ve got this amazing opportunity to travel, volunteer and figure out what I want to do with the next stage of my life. Eeeekk indeed!