We spoke to Felicity Parker Seale, Digital Programme Manager at Royal Papworth Hospital to discuss mentors, returning to work after maternity and leading technical teams.
Felicity’s story is part of a series of articles highlighting the careers of female tech leaders within the NHS. We’ve brought together these stories in an effort to prove that the route to leadership is never a straight line.
Having left school at 16, Felicity started her career in the NHS as a Medical Records assistant at her local Trust. Enjoying this role, and the culture of her Trust, Felicity moved up through primary and secondary care in a number of roles.
“I loved primary care. Knowing that you’re always helping patients is a massive deal for me.”
After taking a number of receptionist roles at larger and larger practices, Felicity got her first taste of digital transformation through the Choose and Book initiative when she moved to a local PCT. At the time, Felicity was still quite young and, with a lot of her work being done over the phone, she often came as quite a shock when she needed to visit in person.
“There was always a shock of this really young person turning up to help us. You just have to take that on board and work through it. Once people realised I knew what I was talking about – it was all fine.”
Driving this change for all the practices in the area, Felicity was quickly making a name for herself. She was doing all of this at the age of 23 with a young child.
“You have to juggle these things and people do understand that.”
Having gained a vast amount of experience transforming the patient journey, Felicity secured the role at Royal Papworth where she is using her experience to take a lead on massive digital programmes.
Transitioning back to work after parental leave is hard. You’ve been out of the flow of the office for weeks or months, and you’re returning as a different person with new priorities and concerns. (Not to mention the stress and strain of endless new logistics.) It’s jarring and often overwhelming.
For Felicity, who was travelling long distances from home to get to work, the process of returning to work after maternity leave was challenging. It forced her and her family to find a solution that ultimately meant Felicity would take a lower band role that was below her experience level.
“I did that for my own peace of mind. Even though I was part time, I wasn’t really able to commit to anything fully. Not my daughter, or my work. So I had to work myself back up again.”
Taking a role as deputy screening manager at a local hospital, Felicity really started to enjoy herself. This bought her time to make sure her daughter was settled in a Nursery so that she could return to a position worthy of her experience level with peace of mind.
Felicity, an avid runner and sports enthusiast, believes her competitive spirit and stubborn nature was a big part of her return to work.
“I am really stubborn in some ways, and I think that helped me come back. I always think: ‘if they can do it, I can do it ten times better.’”
Felicity, who never likes to remain stagnant, has worked hard with each new challenge she has sought. Along each step of the way, Felicity has made seeking mentors, advocates and allies a priority – but, crucially, she recognises that mentors can be right in front of you.
Good mentors can be pivotal during major junctures of your life, both personally and professionally. They can steer you clear of disaster, provide prescient views of the future that you can’t see, and give you support when you need it the most.
Everyone can find mentors. It’s up to you to cherish the relationships you have, cultivate new ones, and never take for granted the people who can help you. Above all, you must recognize that mentors can be everyday people, who have extraordinary advice. They don’t have to be superheroes or millionaires or big CEOs.
“I’ve had a couple of really amazing female line managers in a couple of my roles who would enable me to go after what I felt passionately about.”
With her current line manager continuing to give Felicity the freedom and autonomy to make a difference, Felicity is going from strength to strength.
Now leading digital transformation at her trust, Felicity is setting her sights to the future – a future where the rate of digital change in the NHS is moving ever faster. For those who are eyeing a leadership role within the NHS, Felicity has this advice:
“To lead you don’t need to know everything, you just need to support those around you who do. Always believe in what you’re doing and have the confidence to do it.”
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