Friday 8th March 2019

Guild Care is pleased to support International Women's Day by speaking to three inspirational females who work for the charity.

Not surprisingly because the nature of our work within the charity and health care sector our workforce is over 70% female. Unusually though for a big organisation we have not one but two women leaders, Chief Executive Officer, Suzanne Millard and Debbie Dollner its Chief Operating Officer.

Suzanne first joined Guild Care in 1997 working in its transport department when she was mum to three young children having just completed a degree as a mature student. She left a few years later and during this time she studied for her CIPD qualification. In 2003 she applied for a senior HR role and returned to Guild Care where she has been ever since rising up the ranks from resources director to deputy CEO in 2006 and was appointed as CEO in 2009.

Guild Cares CEO, Suzanne Millard, sat at a table

Suzanne explains her journey to CEO of one of Worthing’s biggest and oldest charities. She said: “I left school at 16 and went to work for Brighton Council’s Housing Department. I was married at 18 and by 26 had three children, so not your typical route to CEO.”

She added: “It was just before I hit 30 thought that I decided I wanted to go back into education and I did a degree in humanities. I had never really seen myself as being driven or expected to become a CEO, but I do believe that my HR background has given me a good insight into management. I definitely couldn’t have done this role without the educational experiences I’ve had, which gave me that analytical way of thinking. University definitely helped my career.”

It was during 2007-9 that Suzanne studied for a Masters in Voluntary Administration. She added: “This is the time that I thought I really want to become a charity leader, I didn’t realise I was that ambitious but obviously I am!”

By coincidence both Suzanne and her deputy Debbie did the very same job at Brighton Housing Department working for the same person although a few years apart. Whilst there Debbie was able to complete a housing qualification on day release and worked her way up the career ladder doing various roles such as estates management and support worker and finally a neighbourhood manager.

By 1997 Debbie had two small children and was job sharing with a colleague. However they decided to go for an interview together for Hyde Housing Association which they got and continued to work together for another eight year and Debbie went on to have two more children. In this role she was responsible for the development of housing for older people and gained lots of practically and managerial experience. But 10 years ago with the need to balance her work and home life she applied for the operations director role at Guild Care.

Guild Cares COO, Debbie Dollner, sat a desk

She said: “I don’t believe that you can have it all, but I think when you are committed, you work hard and you love your job, then you will be recognised for that.  I’ve been very appreciative of the opportunities I’ve been given, I’ve not seen them as a right, and I feel I’ve earned them through the work and time I’ve put in.

“I’ve been given so many opportunities at Guild Care, no day is ever the same and at some points I’ve managed all our care homes and some of the services too which is a good way to keep connected. Suzanne and I work well as a team, family is both very important to us and we genuinely care about the organisation.  It’s a privilege to be in a position to influence and steer the direction of the charity, and we are very aware of Guild Care’s history and the need to protect is legacy.”

Another employee with an interesting Guild Care career is that of Leona Cameron who started on the night shift as a care assistant without any experience at its Caer Gwent care home in 2001 and is now its manager.

Originally from South Africa Leona came to the UK with her husband in 1993.  Her background was in event management, marketing and hospitality but due to the demands of a full-time job involving lots of travelling and having young children in 2001 she decided to try a change of career and applied for a care assistant role at one of Guild Care’s Caer Gwent home doing nights.  Over the years she moved up to the role of care supervisor, followed by senior carer and was then offered the role of deputy manager. In 2013 she got the prestigious role of job of manager of Caer Gwent.

Caer Gwents manager, Leona Cameron, sat with one of the care homes residents

“It didn’t know if I’d like it, I knew it was going to be totally different to anything else I’d done before and it did take a few months to get to use to. But once I took the time to get to know the residents and their routine I got into the swing of it and loved it from that day on. Every day is different you never quite know what’s going to happen when you walk through the door. But it’s the residents that make it – we laugh, we smile and we cry together. It feels like home not work most of the time. It’s a rewarding career.”