Profile: Sahil Patel, City and Hackney Mind – Vol. 2 Author: Amy Pettipher     
Date: 28th December 2016

Last time we spoke to Sahil, a Charityworks alumnus, he was working in an operational managerial role at City and Hackney Mind. We’ve caught up with Sahil for an update on what he has been doing recently and to see how professional skills and opportunities have helped him progress in the social sector.


“It’s possible to go in and shape what a big organisation does from day one”

Tell us what you’ve been upto since we last spoke

The last time we spoke, I held the interim role of the manager of the Single Point of Entry team at City and Hackney Mind. At that time, I had applied for the role permanently and am pleased to say I was successful! The role covers a lot of diverse areas. I get to contribute to strategy, business development, service delivery, project management and managing staff. I am finding it to be an interesting and challenging role to navigate, especially in light of resource constraints and a time of growing demand for our services. One thing that’s really important to me is to work in a role that offers me the chance to make the biggest difference. This role is the ideal blend of challenge, learning and job satisfaction!

What has been your career highlight?

For me, it’s probably a progression of smaller victories, that add up a greater whole. An example of one of these would be people management. After I had been in the interim post for about three months, I undertook a really useful 360-degree feedback exercise. This is where you receive anonymous feedback from people you manage, your peers and people managing you. I received some great, productive feedback that I was really pleased with and has helped me to improve further!

What skills do you feel that you learned from Charityworks and how have these prepared you for your subsequent role?

One of the key things that Charityworks gives you is a focus on emotional intelligence and using feedback, both positive and constructively critical, to develop yourself. To a certain extent, it is debatable how far Charityworks attracts people already with these qualities, as against specifically introducing them, but once on the scheme it really sets you up to maintain and develop that. The big thing that I took away from the scheme was about challenge. This is one of the five ‘C’s that Charityworks puts at the centre of its values. What I always ask myself is: ‘am I being challenged here and am I providing challenge?’. This challenges you to refresh your approach and prevents you from resting on your laurels. It allows you to maintain your trajectory.

The network aspect of Charityworks is really important too. I should perhaps use it more than I do! But if I’m faced with a long term problem that’s hard to solve, then speaking to people who may have run across something similar can be really helpful. If I’d not been on Charityworks then I probably would not have thought of this!

Another really strong thing from Charityworks was the training. I learned a lot about marketing and branding and was able to apply this in my current organisation. This knowledge allowed me to make a strong contribution to a recent organisational communication meeting for service managers. The knowledge that Charityworks training had instilled gave me the ability to contribute something appropriate and exposed me to great ideas and concepts.

“What I always ask myself is: ‘am I being challenged here and am I providing challenge?’”

What do you like about working in this sector? What sort of roles would you be interested in in the future?

I like the chance it gives me to tackle social issues outside of a policy or central government context. I’d like to see more innovation within the sector particularly in design to build really effective services.

How have your thoughts on having a career in social impact changed since we last spoke?

I’m still really committed to social change and would like to work more with the Charityworks network to achieve this! I still meet with people from my year for social occasions. It’s great to keep up with them and see the progress of their careers. It’s great to be able to discuss problems and issues within the social sector with them. I still work with another former Charityworks trainee and will be managing some of the intake for this year too!

How well do you feel the sector reflects society?

Recruitment seems to still lag somewhat behind where it needs to be. We serve a very diverse area and our workforce needs to reflect this in its composition. If there was an easy solution, I’d be more than happy to share it! We need to get better at sharing knowledge about the range of roles on offer within the sector. We need to get on campus and inform people about what’s out there, strategy roles, business development, it’s possible to go in and shape what a big organisation does from day one. A person in my cohort has just been appointed a social care commissioner, this is a tremendous success. We need to celebrate this and the positive impact people can make!

There are systemic issues in the sector, around perceptions about pay and perks. Salaries can be more generous than people often imagine.

It’s also important to think about where we advertise jobs and opportunities. Certain channels only reach relatively homogeneous groups.

“We need to get better at sharing knowledge about the range of roles on offer within the sector”

Have you got any tips to anyone thinking of applying?

Not really, it’s a challenging process, but just be yourself and you’ll be fine.

What challenges do you feel the sector is facing, how can these best be addressed?

It’s a challenging time for the mental health sector. Things which are foundational to good mental health are under pressure; housing, financial security. As the level of challenge increases, episodes of poor mental health are likely to increase.

We are also struggling with interventions. Historically, these have been a little crude within the sector, our diagnostic tools need to become more sophisticated.

For me, a big opportunity is to work more collaboratively. Within the Mind network there are nearly 150 organisations, we have a great opportunity to share thinking to develop new solutions. Ideally we’d widen this to other organisations, but as it stands the model is set up to compete so this is not really encouraged. International collaboration and sharing practice also offers scope to improve things, but again, this is challenging to organise.


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