'I was self-conscious, as the only one married with children'

April 9, 1999

Bright young things need only apply

Vanessa Walker, 42, contracts manager, Mid-Kent Healthcare Trust Vanessa Walker graduated from Goldsmiths College, London, with a degree in psychology and anthropology when she was 37, and went straight into the National Health Service management training scheme.

She felt slightly self-conscious among the other trainees, she said, as she was the only one who was married with children. (The NHS regularly recruits mature students, including recently, a 52-year-old.) During the first two years of her training she had to move between placements every three to six months.

But they were always within commuting distance of her home.

Since then she has been in several senior posts; next month she is seconded to her first job at director level.

To rise that fast in five years is attributable to her enthusiasm for studying, she says. She has just finished an Open University MBA.

She chose the NHS - having discarded the idea of law because she thought her age would preclude her from getting articles - as an employer likely to encourage women.

She found that her past work experience - she had taught in Africa and run an after-school child-care business while doing her degree - was recognised as obviously helpful in management.

"I've done more with my life than someone who has gone straight from school to university and out again, and I think that my promotion has been faster because of that."

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