High Flyers: Ellen believes strongly in equality, justice and fairness

In the High Flyers spotlight this week is Ellen Finlay, policy & development manager for Samaritans Northern Ireland

Ellen Finlay

What was your first job?

My first job was working in an insurance company called Eagle Star straight from school. Instead of A-levels, I opted for going down the secretarial route, completing typing, shorthand and back then it was word-processing!

What qualifications do you have?

I studied for my degree in social policy when I was working through the Open University. I really enjoyed it, the OU was an amazing organisation, so well organised, excellent tutors and the weekend classes were fun. I also studied for my masters in social research skills while working. This was undertaken through distance-learning through Ulster University.

What do you attribute your success to?

Finding meaning in what I do. Working in the third sector I can make a positive impact on the lives of people through policy and advocacy. I have spent over 20 years in the sector and it was an honour to have worked to campaign and lobby to improve outcomes for children, young people and their families. A few of my successes included a piece of legislation that received Royal Ascent called the Children’s Services Co-operation Act which was about improving working between government departments in Northern Ireland. Another success was securing direct payments for those on free school meals during the Covid-19 pandemic. I’m a social scientist by training, therefore social inclusion and methodologies for effective community consultation and engagement is important to me.

How would you describe yourself to someone who’d never met you?

I’m someone who believes strongly in equality, justice, fairness. Someone who has compassion for others, who is grateful to be involved in helping to change people’s lives for the better, someone who never stops learning and who likes to take time to reflect. A person who believes in working together and developing relationships with others of like-minded people to work towards the same goal.

Who do you look up to in business?

For me, running a country is just as hard as running a business, therefore I would have to say the person I look up to is Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand. Unity and social change has been at the forefront of her leadership all while raising a family.

How do you get the best out of people who work for you?

By promoting a clear vision and empowering others to be the best they can be and ensuring they are given the tools to grow.

If you could change one thing about doing business in Northern Ireland, what would it be?

That all leaders put the personal development of staff at the centre of their business. To allow them to grow, develop and flourish.

What website or app could you not do without?

Weather app – checking for frost as I’m a keen gardener!

What was the last book you read?

Centered Leadership by Joanna Barsh

What car do you drive?

I don’t drive that often, instead opting for public transport.

Tell us something interesting about yourself?

I’m a keen amateur photographer. I completed a photography course several years ago and my photos were included in an art exhibition in a local gallery. Photography is a great outlet for my creatively and looking after my wellbeing.

What’s your greatest passion outside work and family?

I love gardening. During the first lockdown, I started growing my own vegetables. I now have 10 raised beds and a polytunnel. I’m growing the majority of my vegetables from seed this year!

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