Sian James – Career Story

“All our hopes and dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them”

We sat down with Project Co-ordinator Sian to discuss how the road to success is never straightforward but always an adventure. The outcome? An encouraging career story that teaches us to embrace uncertainty and enjoy the beauty of becoming; when nothing is certain, anything is possible!

Did you pursue further or higher education?

When I left school, I planned to go to college to study an NNEB diploma, pursuing my first career goal of becoming a Nanny (ideally on a cruise ship or for the Royal Family!). Unfortunately, the course was full and instead I was offered a place on a BTEC course studying Care. At the time I felt that this was my only option so I started the course, but I quickly lost interest and started looking for employment options. I was very fortunate to come across a job opportunity to become a nanny, and I applied and was successful.

I was so glad to finally be doing what I wanted, but I quickly learned that following your dream doesn’t always align with your expectations, and I realised that the role was not the right fit for me. I had to re-evaluate my next steps and assess my current skillset; I knew I was highly organised and able to perform well under pressure, so I decided to look for an office administration role. I started as a Junior Administrator working my way up to bookkeeper and Senior Administrator for a small IT company based in London, and even dealt with Lord Alan Sugar a few times! I really enjoyed the variety of this role and was disappointed to have to leave due to relocating. I found a similar role for another IT firm, but sadly this was short lived as I left to move back to Wales whereupon I had my son, Thomas.

3 months after Thomas was born, I was eager to return to the labour market and found a part-time data entry role with Swansea Council, visiting various departments and inputting customer data into a database from paper-based records. After this contract came to an end, and needing a better work-life balance, I decided to become a self-employed registered childminder with the council. Drawing on my previous experience of working with children this enabled me to spend quality time with my son especially as he was at a critical stage in his early years development. Once I felt my son no longer needed me to be based at home, I secured a range of short-term roles in order to support myself and son. This was definitely a transitionary time in my career journey where upon I gained invaluable skills and experience within private, public and 3rd sector organisations, learning about their core values, ethics and standards. However, I did feel a little lost and unfulfilled as I wanted to secure a career path.

How has your career journey developed?

After years of moving around different roles, I decided that it was time to return to education, using a humanities access course as a springboard to get into higher education. I felt that having a degree would help me succeed in my career, so went onto study English Literature alongside running a pub with my partner. After completing my degree and upon leaving the pub trade, I worked a short time in various temporary office roles before securing a permanent position as an External Funding Administrator at Gower College Swansea, being prepared to work my way up the career ladder. I had worked at the college in various capacities and temporary roles so I had good knowledge and understanding of the administration processes and how the different departments operated. After 2 years, my determination, diligence and perseverance was rewarded when I secured a promotion to Monitoring & Compliance Officer for all externally funded projects – working with partners, stakeholders and working across regions, educating and maintaining audit processes, meeting eligibility criteria and adhering to the strict funding regulations.

From this role I moved into my current position at Better Jobs, Better Futures as an Employability Project Co-ordinator, supporting with the day-to-day operations at our Employment Hub. I have had the opportunity to further develop my professional skillset including undertaking management training and first aid qualifications, as well as the NEBOSH certificate I am currently working towards, with the aim of gaining a formal health and safety qualification.

Are there any career decisions that you regret?

I don’t have many regrets, but I do wish I had taken more risks and chased opportunities when they were presented to me, as I feel I could have progressed in my career sooner.

Did your career direction change after having children?

After having my son, I was far more determined and focused on securing a better life for us. It was after having Thomas that I felt a renewed sense of purpose and decided to pursue education again. My advice to any new parents is to just go for it and not let your additional responsibilities hold you back from achieving your goals – you don’t have to have it all figured out to take meaningful steps forward.

Is there one thing you wish you’d known when you were younger?

I wish I had more courage to ‘try’; the worst thing that could happen is you fail, but there is no failure in trying. What is important is that you learn from your mistakes and use this to make better decisions and improvements to your life – failure is just part of the journey!

What is your ultimate piece of advice?

Not every day is going to be a good day, but you can find the good in every day. You just have to show up and that is half the battle, take control of your journey, enjoy the small moments in life as these will lead to the great moments; when nothing is certain, anything is possible!