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Leadership Academy advocate: Sam Collins

Leadership Advocate - Adam Simmonds

A Q&A where graduates share their experiences of Leadership Academy training. What has it added to their life, both personally and professionally?


Sam Collins

Current role

Assistant Director Digital and Information, City of London Corporation 

Which Leadership academy programme did you join?

Top Talent (London 2019)

What were your initial thoughts about participating?

I wasn’t too sure about what to expect. But my IT Director suggested that I should attend, so I was very happy to give it a go. 

What were your first impressions?

Straightaway I was impressed by:

  1. The professionalism and enthusiasm of the trainers.
    They clearly knew their stuff and were excellent at communicating the theory; supported by their career experience.
  2. I was also really surprised by the energy in the room.
  3. The calibre of my fellow attendees.
    They had travelled the length and breadth of the country to be there and covered the full spectrum of IT roles and experience levels.

What were the most powerful elements of the programme for you?

Over the last few years, I have found it useful both personally and professionally to think about my own Circle of Influence. Rather than concentrating on wider frustrations and anxieties, it has led me to focus on things that I can do something about.

For me this has meant focussing on the wellbeing of my family and friends. As a senior manager, I have also tried to focus on the wellbeing of my team and colleagues. Sometimes this has meant providing motivation, reassurance or support. As well as being clear around priorities or helping colleagues to manage their own work-life balance. 

After graduation, what were the key things you took away with you?

Day 3 of the programme focussed on the need to build networks. Through Top Talent I have met fellow IT professionals from across the country – stretching from Sunderland to the Isle of Wight. As someone that has mainly worked in the more customer facing elements of IT, I am prepared to admit that I don’t often go out of my way to speak to the applications support team or solution architects. But Top Talent has been a useful experience in bringing together a wide range of IT disciplines. I have kept in touch with some of those contacts since the end of the programme and have a number of others that I can count upon in the future. 

The culmination of the project and the highlight of the course for me, was the opportunity to present to the London Socitm regional conference, held at the Amazon London office. Not only was it a great venue, but it was also a great opportunity to demonstrate the findings of our project. It was particularly nerve wracking for me with my IT Director sat in the front row. There were also representatives from MHCLG [as it was then], and we were able to discuss our findings with them following the presentation, and on subsequent calls. 

How did you apply these professionally and what are the direct benefits?

A key talking point on the programme was the need for a leader to be authentic. And this is something that I have always aspired to.

For me, being an authentic leader is:

  • accepting that you don’t always have the right answer
  • recognising your flaws or limitations and
  • being open about your own mistakes, as well as your own successes.

Essentially it is about being a human being.

One of the benefits of the last few years has been the opportunity to be more human and share more of personal life with my work colleagues when working from home. Joining video calls in less than formal attire, sharing my kitchen, bedroom or home office and introducing my work colleagues to my wife and children – intentionally or otherwise! 

What would you say to anyone thinking about joining the programme you enjoyed?

Do it. I found it really useful and energising for a whole variety of reasons, and the Top Talent Programme  has undoubtedly helped to shape and prepare me for my current and future roles. 

Read more about the Empowering Women and Top Talent programmes. Places are subject to availability and membership level. Check with our Leadership Academy Manager for all  the information you need.