Cara Cash, Chief Executive of Nexus NI, continues our “Leaders in Business” series. Cara has successfully completed the Developing Managers programme leading to the Advanced Diploma in Management Practice and is contemplating the undertaking of a Masters at the Ulster University Business School.
What is your current role?
I am Chief Executive of Nexus NI; our organisation provides services and support to victims of sexual violence across Northern Ireland. Last year we delivered 17,000 counselling sessions alone.
I have been in my post for 18 months and my role involves providing strategic leadership and direction to the organisation and our team of 50 staff across three sites. We work with 15 volunteers and a management committee of 14.
It is vitally important that I lead and communicate with each of these groups as well as with our clients, partners, funders and advocates. I strive to ensure that people who need us know about us, and the people who don’t need us know the ways they can help.
I sit on several all-party working groups, regional committees and strategic partnerships to ensure sure the voice of the victim is heard. Our current hashtag is #breakthesilence
My role as Chief Executive and the ever-changing landscape is undoubtedly challenging but knowing that we are helping and supporting people every day by coming to work is a huge driver to me.
“I’m very lucky and proud to work as part of a sector that’s delivering real change in Northern Ireland.”
How did you choose this career and what has been your driver?
My biggest driver has been my parents who both worked in jobs that involved helping and supporting people, coupled with the birth of my son both changed my path from commercial business to the community and voluntary sector. When my son was small I accessed services from Gingerbread (Charity for Single Parents) who were invaluable to me and my son. I felt the impact of a Charity directly and I wanted to be involved in helping other people.
The outcome was that I returned to studying to retrain and gain further qualifications that were relevant within the community and voluntary sector.
My community career started in the women’s sector 13 years ago followed by a range of roles in the Third Sector including training, education, disability, arts and mental health and I have loved every second.
What is the most rewarding part?
The most rewarding part of my role is knowing that the services we deliver are having a real impact on people and the community. I make a point of reading client feedback, of meeting with our client forum, of talking with staff and the powerful messages of hope following engagement with us are incredible.
We have clients telling us that we saved their lives, that their lives are better because of our work, to me that’s the reward.
I am also very lucky to work with amazing and resourceful staff and an engaged and motivated board who are all as ambitious as I am for Nexus and our clients.
What was your own educational background?
After GSCE and A ‘Level I studied a HND in Business Studies at Ulster University, Jordanstown. I left without completing after my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. Shortly after my mum passed away I had my son and found myself a single mum.
It was at this time I felt there was a shift in my thinking and outlook, I didn’t just want a job that was profit driven, I wanted to help people and work for an organisation that had a social purpose.
The way that charities had helped me, my mum, and my son was a key driver. I engaged in training, upskilled myself completing a Certificates in Education Principles and Practice and Adult Education delivery as well ILM qualifications ranging from level 2 to 5.
I then went onto Ulster University where I undertook an Advanced Diploma in Management Practice – the Developing Managers Programme. The Developing Managers Programme was practical and yet underpinned with academic rigor.
I found that this was another turning point in my career, the management theory and experience the programme gave me, the sharing of best practice with others and the increase in my personal confidence was hugely beneficial.
Within a few years of completing the Developing Managers Programme I had completed the recognised university teacher training with Ulster University Business School and continue to be a regular guest speaker on Business School programmes.
I have since completed a Degree in Leadership and Management. Within a year of that I had secured my first Chief Executive position at 33. My investment in my own learning has been instrumental in my career development and will continue undoubtedly. I am currently looking at the possibility of a Masters and looking forward to my next challenge.
If you would like to hear more about how you can “Model your Future” with our Developing Managers Programme leading to the BSc Hons Management Practice contact Janette Sheerman [email protected] or 0779 353 9280.
Follow the link for further information on NEXUS NI http://www.nexusni.org #breakthesilence