Careers: Job Ladder - Bill Puddicombe, chief executive, Phoenix House

What was your first job? As a care assistant in a day centre for adults with learning difficulties in the north London borough of Enfield.

What were your two key career moves? Admitting to myself that I would not be the next Bob Dylan and deciding to work in social care. My second key move was studying for a degree in psychology after a few years in social care. I decided that being a clinical psychologist was not for me and that I should look instead for managerial roles in the social care sector.

Why do you think you got your present job? Although I did not have any experience of drug and alcohol treatment issues, Phoenix House was keen to bring in management skills from a wider background, and I had organised the development of housing association New Era as its chief executive.

Who's been your biggest influence? David Brandon, professor of community care at the Anglia Polytechnic University in Cambridge, was a mentor for me. He gave me guidance when I was trying to strike a balance between being the best service provider for my clients and being a viable social-care business.

What was the best moment of your career? At Mencap, when I helped two disabled people find accommodation.

... and your worst moment? Ten years ago, when the staff of an organisation I worked for threatened to walk out after allegations that a member of staff had an infectious skin disease. What's your tip for success? Feed your intellect with ideas that come from outside your immediate circles.

How do you find your balance between your personal and professional life? When can find some time for myself I take it. Too often, people go on a break feeling that they should not be taking one.

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