An Interview With Sarah Wallbank
During my time interning at Yes Futures, I learned first hand what it was like work for a charity . This organisation does such great, work with students and it was such an amazing experience to be able to contribute to this. However, one thing that I always wondered was what it was like to be the person that started this all. As a genuinely interested intern, I finally asked our CEO, Sarah Wallbank, if she could sit down with me for lunch so I could interview her on some questions I had about her daily life as CEO. Sarah gladly said yes, and we sat down for lunch where I was able to learn more about her role, life, and goals regarding Yes Futures. The following are the questions and responses from our lunchtime interview.
Q: How did Yes Futures begin?
A: Yes Futures didn’t just start one day; it was a progression. I had always been passionate about the extra-curricular side of education, as well as the personal development of young people. In my early career I was lucky enough to be in roles that worked with particularly vulnerable groups. I noticed how these groups were unable to access extra-curricular activities that would provide them with life skills they needed. As a teacher I also saw that there was little support for teachers to implement personal development programmes as well as the other demands of education. I started Yes Futures in order to provide that support and a solution to the need for extra-curricular activities and personal character development.
Q: Why did you start Yes Futures?
A: I started the charity because there was a lack of focus on what I saw as important in education. It was falling on the teacher’s heads to be able to provide character development for students, yet there was limited support for the teachers in order to do this. Teachers are over-stressed as it is, and they are not specialists in personal development theory. Yes Futures aims to provide capacity and resources so schools and teachers can best support their students.
Q: What is a day in the life like?
A: This may sounds like a real cliché, but every single day is different! It depends on the time of year how much I am in schools vs in the office, but there are always common themes. Every day there is some kind of team management, some kind of strategic thinking and planning, email checking and organising calendars. Yes, all of those daily tasks that don’t go away just because you are CEO! Depending on the time of year these daily activities can also include: school site visits, visiting with potential schools and school partners, working with partner organisations, and attending conferences or events.
Q: What is your favourite part about the job?
A: Being able to facilitate and see the development of other people. For instance, being able to see my colleagues’ progress, my interns’ progress, and of course see the student’s progress. I feel grateful to
be in that position of privilege; helping and being a key figure in other people’s progression. Also, seeing other people achieve things that they did not think they could achieve.
Q: What would you be doing if Yes Futures did not exist?
A: I would see myself in a management role in education. Supporting the progression of other people is really important to me.
Q: What are some challenges of running the organisation?
A: The lack of time is the biggest challenge. To put it in perspective, I have enough work that I could easily do two weeks’ worth of work for every week I have. Being able to prioritise and not do some of the things I may have wanted to do is really hard. Also, not being able to do the things as well as I would have liked because of the lack of time is something that my
perfectionist tendencies struggle with!
Q: What are some tips for people who want to start their own organisation?
A: There are so many! But if I have to choose one key piece of advice I would say: Understand that your very first idea may not work, and that you need to constantly need to learn and evaluate your ideas and goals.
Q: If you could tell your former self one piece of advice, what would it be?
A: Place a £10,000 bet on Brexit.
Q: What would you like to see for the future of the organization?
A: I would like to see us working with a lot more primary schools so as to make an impact earlier in young people’s lives. I would like to expand our coaching offer so more volunteers can get involved at different levels of commitment. I would also like us to expand to more in-need areas of the country.
Q: Finally, how can interested people get involved?
A: Lots of ways! You can apply to be a Coach, which is a life-changing experience for both students and the volunteers. We are also looking for companies to run World of Work days, individuals to be ‘Success Panel’ speakers, and keen beans to support with our in-office work as well!
With that, we finished up our lunch and I thanked Sarah for giving me insight on her daily life as CEO and the “behind the scenes” look into her role.