CAREERS: How I Got Here - Maureen O'Callaghan, operations director, Weston Spirit

What was your first job? I was a laboratory assistant with the Automatic Energy Authority. I got bored after the novelty of messing around with Geiger counters wore off.

What does your current role involve? I have overall responsibility for Weston Spirit's youth work portfolio. This means I must ensure high standards and that it reaches the young people it would benefit most.

Roughly outline your career path. I was in my early 30s before I realised that I wanted to work with children and young people. Having made that decision, I became far more focused and trained as a play worker. This led to an interest in working with adolescents. I have since been a youth worker and a social worker at Buckinghamshire County Council, a fundraiser at Youth Clubs UK (now UK Youth), and a project manager and programme manager at Save the Children. I moved to Weston Spirit last summer as regional manager, becoming operations director last December.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Setting up Save the Children's youth education programme and making it a leading body in helping young people gain a better understanding of the world.

What is your greatest career regret? Because of my commitment to the work and to my staff (and a degree of stubbornness on my part), I stayed too long in an organisation that didn't value the work of my team.

What is your advice to people starting out in this sector? Maintain a healthy work-life balance. Being passionate about what you do can lead to working long hours and some parts of the sector do little to discourage it. Are there any charities you support financially? I give to the NSPCC because I've seen the devastating impact of child abuse and I support a charity working with young women in India.

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