CAREERS: HOW I GOT HERE - Stephen Burgess, national director at Life Education Centres

What was your first job? I was a cost clerk for the light engineering company Delaney Gallay. My first qualified job was in 1974 as a management accountant for the Pillsbury Group.

What does your current role involve? Life Education Centres is a health education charity aimed primarily at drug prevention. I lead the overall strategy and the terms of developing and implementing our services to children. We reach 750,000 children a year, mainly in primary schools, educating them with audio, scientific equipment and role-playing. I am also a charities consultant for accountants Saffrey Champness.

Roughly outline your career path? First, I volunteered for Macmillan Nurses,then between 1992 and 1998 I took a paid job as financial director at Help The Aged where I founded the Charities Consortium. I was also chairman of the Charity Finance Directors Group. In January 1999, I became the charities director at Saffrey Champness.

What training or course has most enhanced your career? A media and public speaking course two decades ago. My last eight years with Pillsbury in the US were also very important.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Devising a commercially orientated business strategy for Life Education Centres. Meeting with lots of schools and funders and recommending proposals to our trustees that will help us move forward and help more children.

What do you regret most about your career? Not joining the voluntary sector sooner. What is your advice to people starting out in the sector? Be determined against all the odds.

Are there any charities you support financially, or with your time? I'm a donor to Life Education Centres and Help The Aged, and I also give to international appeals, Children in Need and English Heritage. In addition, I also sit on the PR policy committee of the Charity Finance Directors Group.

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