Chris Underwood, deputy director of communications, National Deaf Children's Society

Chris Underwood moved from a lobbying role to take on a wider brief as deputy director of communications at the deaf children's charity the National Deaf Children's Society

Chris Underwood
Chris Underwood
What does your job involve?

I have overall responsibility for communications at NDCS. I deal with campaign work, media relations, public relations, online communications and our publications and their design.

How did you move into this role?

Previously, I was head of campaigns at the RNID for about five years. I have hearing loss myself, so working here is a personal issue for me. However, I also wanted to move from focusing only on lobbying to dealing with a wider brief. I'm also passionate about the issues facing deaf children, especially about their education rights, so NDCS was a good move for me.

What's the best piece of training you've ever received?

Project management training has been good for me. It was useful learning about time-management, resource allocation and prioritising what it is I want to do.

What's been your greatest career achievement to date?

Overturning a decision made by one of the UK's examinations authorities - the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. When the Disability Discrimination Act was extended to cover education, the authority interpreted it to mean that all disabled students taking exams needed to be treated on a level playing field and so removed any adjustments previously available. Suddenly, deaf children were required to do things like taking aural listening components in foreign languages, which they couldn't fulfil because they couldn't hear.

In the summer of 2006, we engaged parliamentarians and instigated a debate. A year later, we managed to get the authority's ruling overturned.

What's the best career-related advice you've ever received?

It's a piece of generally received wisdom rather than advice from one person, and that's not to bite off more than you can chew. I've seen people taking on jobs that they haven't been ready for but would have been in a few years' time. It's been damaging for them, knocking their confidence in their careers, and obviously is quite damaging for the organisation too.


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