We’ve definitely been put through our paces in the past six months, as we prepared for the Young Leaders Experience! First, there was the public vote, a presentation for the semi-final, and of course, the final speech at the National Housing Federation Annual Conference last week.
The topics that we’ve debated – leadership and the big topics in housing – have challenged me to think about how I see the role of the sector, and go back to some fundamental questions. And whilst the semi-finals gave me a chance to expand on my thinking, the atmosphere and pressure during the final was something else! Saying anything meaningful in under two minutes is always a challenge – and what an incredible opportunity to share the stage with established sector leaders and have my ideas heard in comparison with theirs.
It was difficult to decide what argument to take in the final – there’s always pressure to say something radically different and go really left field, but ultimately I said what I believed in. The ideas I brought to the table reflect my experiences working in enterprise and innovation, and now in housing. It felt natural to take the position I did, and I think it spoke to people because it wasn’t about seeing digital as the end goal, but as a means to an end that we should decide for ourselves.
It means everything to win, because this is not just an award but an opportunity. The support I received from Stockport Homes has been incredible. I’ve met so many people during the competition, and got to share the experience with other candidates who bring so much to the table.
Now, speaking with the outgoing winner, Steve Ellard, I have a good idea about what the coming year might hold and I am so excited about that. I think there will be a steep learning curve in my understanding of how the Federation runs and how it interacts with the Government. I want to contribute to national projects and make my mark on the things that really matter to me: cross-discipline collaboration, regional governance and homelessness prevention strategy.
Ultimately it means so much that this kind of award exists because it shows the sector is listening and wants to help us develop. It’s a wonderful thing and I intend to make the most of it.