CAREERS: HOW I GOT HERE - Ian Acheson, executive director, Prisoners Abroad

What was your first job?

After my degree in politics at Durham University, I became a trainee manager at the bank Coutts in 1989. I was asked (and wanted) to leave after four months because my heart was definitely not in it.

What does your current role involve? We are a human rights charity that works with people who often don't have a voice. I ensure the delivery of effective and professional services for UK citizens who are detained abroad, their families and returning ex-offenders. We operate in 80 countries and have an increasing role in the Caribbean, which is used as a drugs route by people targeting vulnerable women. We provide practical and emotional support to those people caught out, get them medical services and a case worker. However, a lot of our work is done behind the scenes, lobbying the Foreign Office.

Roughly outline your career path? I was a freelance radio journalist in Northern Ireland and wrote political pieces for radio. In 1992, I joined the prison service on a graduate scheme, starting as a prison officer and ending it as acting governor at Earlstoke,Wiltshire. I left in January to move to Prisoners Abroad.

What training or course has most enhanced your career?

The diploma in management and criminology I completed last year at Cambridge University.

It gave me a greater understanding of criminal behaviour.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Setting up a drugs rehab unit inside Earlstoke prison in the face of a great deal of scepticism.

What is your advice to people starting out in the sector?

Don't throw away skills that you learned in previous jobs. The sector has had and could still do with an injection of change.

Are there any charities you support financially, or with time?

I give regularly to Amnesty International and sponsor an African child with my wife.

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