Sam Thomas on moving from fish to The Harbour

The chief executive of the charity that counsels people with life-threatening illnesses says he has gone to smaller organisations with each move

Sam Thomas
Sam Thomas

I did a degree in zoology because I enjoyed the outdoors and biology, so I know a lot about fish migration - though it's never come up in my career so far.

While I was trying to decide what to do, I became a sales rep for the pharmaceutical firm BASF. It was very pressurised, and it was hard to feel you were doing something meaningful. But it did give me experience in sales and relationship management.

I left to become a chugger and realised charities were looking for people with sales experience to work as fundraisers. So for three years I was a fundraising corporate executive for NCH - now Action for Children.

The work built on my sales experience, but was different: in pharmaceuticals, achieving sales targets and getting financial rewards were the main drivers for a lot of people, but in this job you could get emotional about the cause.

I moved to YouthNet, an online advice charity for young people, for six years, starting off as a corporate fundraising manager and progressing to head of corporate and events.

After developing an interest in counselling, I moved to Bristol to study the subject while doing a part-time job at the Bread Youth Project. A year later, the role at The Harbour came up, combining my interest in therapy with my skills as a fundraiser and manager.

In my career I've gone to smaller organisations with each move - I think that's because being connected to the work is very important to me.

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