29 years in scientific publishing at Blackwell Publishing and John Wiley & Sons. I learnt a lot about imagining and managing change, as well as leadership, international collaboration and, very simply, what it takes to bring people together to make things happen.
Then a period of exploration and of meeting very different people in Europe, India, Sinai and the US. I also acquired new skills, notably non-violent communication, focusing and meditation, all of which have been crucial in my own personal growth and professional effectiveness.
It was on the eve of a silent retreat in the Himalayas that I got a phone call asking if I would take on an interim CEO role in a small NGO in Oxford. Once I realised quite how interesting the work of INASP was, I agreed to stay on.
It turned out to be a golden opportunity to work in international development in the emerging area of knowledge for development and evidence-informed policymaking. This is about as far as you can imagine from traditional images of humanitarian aid or work with the very poor. Instead we engaged with the educated middle class in universities, research institutes and governments – smart, driven people keen to make positive change in societies that are changing fast but are still poor and often isolated from global trends. What they needed were connections into global communities and professional knowhow.
From a leadership point of view, there was everything to do – getting new funding, starting new programmes, rebranding, a new website, restructuring, revising the financial management and even moving office. Over four years, we went from 17 to over 30 staff with a huge increase in the ambition and complexity of the programme work and the acquisition of the skills needed to satisfy ever more rigorous donor requirements.
And then I had done what I went there to do and it was, once more, time to hand over and find the next adventure.