CAREERS: How I got here - Gordon Pownall, chief executive, The Assisted Living Foundation

What was your first job? My first job was in social care, looking after children and young people in Haringey. I also had a part-time job as a counsellor.

What does your current role involve? My primary aim is to expand the provision of our specialist high-quality, user-led services, as well as working in partnership with voluntary and statutory agencies. My role is to ensure we remain responsive in everything we do, and remain compliant within a range of political and social influences.

Roughly outline your career path. After having worked with children as a mentor and counsellor, I joined Scope as team leader in adult residential services and was later promoted to the post of registered manager. I moved across to the private sector to become regional manager, again working with adults with physical and learning disabilities. I worked as director of care services at the Foundation in March, and was asked to take over as chief executive this summer.

What training has most enhanced your career? My training as a counsellor, and later as a psychotherapist, really stood me in good stead for being able to communicate effectively with people. You can never underestimate the value of being able to put your own thoughts on hold and gain a perspective that may be different to that of your own.

What is your greatest career achievement? Being appointed as chief executive is a very important achievement for me.

What is your advice to people starting out in this sector? Understand that while you may never become a millionaire or retire at 40, the opportunities offered by the voluntary sector are wide-ranging. It is not just about tin-rattling!

Are there any charities you support financially, or with time? I support the Samaritans and donate regularly to the British Heart Foundation.

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