Michelle Vickers the CEO of the Head & Neck Cancer Foundation (HNCF).
She has previously worked for various not-for-profit organisations including; Kick It Out, Sport England, National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society and most recently since 2017 HNCF.
Michelle is also a trustee for Women’s Aid and is a campaigner for equality and animal welfare.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
My name is Michelle Vickers and I am the CEO of a charity called The Head and Neck Cancer Foundation which focuses on minimising the impact to patients diagnosed with head and neck cancers. I have worked in the not for profit sector for over 20 years with the majority of that time in sport. I left school with minimal qualifications and a dream to work in the creative industry. I did that for many years living and working overseas before returning to the UK and settling very happily into the Third Sector.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
I never sat down and planned a career. My personal situations very much dictated the direction of my choices. Whether it was having to make a living, moving to another country or having children. I did however always explore and exploit opportunities. If there was a direction that I wanted to go in that worked with my personal circumstances then I would pursue that area. I very much made things happen for myself.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
There have been so many challenges on my journey to get to this point. Most of those challenges have been around achieving balance between home and career. I have also faced hurdles with poor behaviours in some workplaces. I have an intolerance to any kind of injustice, prejudice or unkindness and appear to have an inability to stand back and do nothing. Those have been the hardest challenges but also my most rewarding in many ways.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
My biggest achievement to date has been finding genuine happiness and a perfect work-life balance doing something that I love. I am also a Trustee for my local Women’s Aid which I am very proud of. My journey to this place has given me some incredible friends and experiences. It is a real drive to know that what you do is making a difference.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
I am extremely tenacious. I never give up and can always see a way to get things done ethically and in a kind way whilst still achieving excellence. I am also passionate about enjoying work and engaging with other like-minded people along the way. That route sometimes takes longer and definitely requires more patience but it is infinitely more rewarding for all concerned.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I have been mentored and have also been a mentee at various stages of my life. This has been both in a formal setting and informal setting. I’m a great believer in women mentoring women. The female experience and journey can be very different from our male counterparts. For my fiftieth birthday celebration I had a weekend with fifteen amazing women, of all ages and backgrounds, all of whom I had mentored or had mentored me in some way. It was powerful.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?
If only it was as easy as one thing! We need to see ourselves represented in positive leadership roles, in the boardroom, in our governments, in our workplaces and in the media. One way of achieving this is stepping up to hold doors open for other women. Lastly, flexible working and affordable childcare are still very much needed.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
Explore your natural empathy, listen hard to your intuition and realise that you can depend on you. You are responsible for your own peace and happiness and are smarter than you think.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
My next big challenge for the charity is to increase awareness of head and neck cancers and raise funds so that we can continue to provide NHS hospitals with much-needed training and technology. I want all NHS patients, wherever they are in the UK, to receive the cutting-edge treatment that they deserve.