NHS to HE: a new career pathway as a business analyst

Aabida Patel (she/her) Senior Business Analyst | Registry, Imperial College London

Development Monthly | #21 July 2023 | Conference Reflections

Hi, my name is Aabida and I am a Senior Business Analyst at Imperial College London. I have been working in the Higher Education sector for almost 8 months and have been loving it so far! Approximately one year ago I was also diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and ADHD.

To understand how I got here I should rewind a little bit and explain a little about my experience. After graduating university in 2017 I joined the NHS through a graduate scheme in Leicester, moving on to a full operational management role in January 2020. In September 2020 I decided to move to London and continued to build on my operational management experience in the NHS. Amongst the pandemic chaos and the daily firefighting to keep services running, there was no time to focus on making meaningful changes to improve process and experience. So late 2022 I decided to stop climbing the operational management career ladder in the NHS.

In my search for a role that prioritised meaningful change, I came across the position for maternity leave cover for a year as Senior Business Analyst at ICL. I thought it would be the ideal role because if I didn’t like it, I’d only need to be there a year. The thought of completely switching sectors was terrifying, other than being a university student, I had no clue about how HE worked behind the scenes. I was completely out of my comfort zone with no tacit knowledge or experience of working in HE that would aid me in this role.

My fears were alleviated a lot when I joined the team, everyone has been so forthcoming and open to sharing knowledge with me. I also found this role worked well with my disability. Despite this, I still felt like there was something missing, but I couldn’t put my finger on what that thing was. Four months into the maternity cover position, I was successful in my application and was appointed as Senior Business Analyst in the team until mid-2025. I was so excited to accept this!

My journey to AHEP

It was early March when I also found out about the AHEP. I was intrigued by the development and networking opportunities provided, so decided to join. Initially, I mostly used AHEP for its CPD framework tool to identify where my skill gaps and challenges are. With so many options and opportunities for learning, it was difficult to decide what development area I wanted to focus on. I decided to throw myself in the deep end and joined the Calibre Leadership Development Programme at ICL specifically designed for people with disabilities. I was still learning about my own disability and how it impacts me in the workplace and was keen to reframe my disability to empower myself and the work I do.

I was looking at the AHEP website one day, looking to sign up to the ‘Intro to Higher Education’ course, when I came across the page for the AHEP 2023 Annual Conference. I was intrigued! As I continued reading, I saw information about an EDI Bursary to enable people to attend. Had I not been doing the Calibre programme, I would never have considered applying for this bursary. Where I would have once seen this as a sign of weakness within myself, I was able to reframe my ethnicity and disability as a strength to open doors and opportunities I once would not have considered. I was elated and terrified when I found out I was successful.

A special shout out to Chynna-Lea who has been wonderfully supportive and patient answering all my questions, and maintaining contact from the moment I applied for the AHEP EDI Bursary. A massive thank you to SeaTS Software for providing the bursary this year, without this I would not have had such a wonderful opportunity to meet so many professionals. I am excited for the progression of AUA to AHEP, and look to continue building on my skills and network through AUA/AHEP.

Social anxiety and imposter syndrome hit me quite severely. I was terrified about meeting new people and networking in a very unfamiliar environment. I did not know anyone else that was also attending the conference. Dr Arts contacted staff at ICL to volunteer for a focus group to test out one of the working sessions the would be running at the AHEP conference. I eagerly put myself forward as I was keen to meet others that would be at the conference.

My colleague Rashmi and I went to this focus group ran by Chiara Singh and Samima Hussain. It was a science café inspired wildcard, themed on Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion. It was an extremely thought provoking experience, challenging my own thoughts on approaching EDI within HE. It was an incredibly unique opportunity, and I learnt a lot from the conversations that the activities sparked. Not knowing much about the AHEP and HE community, I felt it was a good wildcard activity that would be well received and would open up a lot of important conversations with the AHEP community. As someone new to HE, this opportunity with Chiara and Samima gave me a lot of hope about my career futures within HE and alleviated some of my fears about attending the conference as a newbie.

Thankfully, I also saw the information about the AHEP buddy scheme on the website. I have never signed up to anything more quickly! I was allocated Nick Allen as my buddy at the conference. Nick kindly set aside some time to meet me virtually before the conference, providing me with lots of wonderful insights from where to meet on Sunday to what the attire for the Gala Dinner is like. Throughout the conference Nick introduced me to many wonderful people across HE and provided me with support when I needed it.

I am shocked by the amount of things I accomplished and the variety of different professionals I met across the three days. From the incredibly inspiring keynote speakers, a much needed coaching session with Amanda Meehan-Owen, debates on topics I’m learning about, interesting conversations with the exhibitors, to my exploration of the University of Warwick campus on a treasure hunt, it was a truly wonderful learning experience.

Join the discussion @The_AHEP #Develop

Also in this issue of Development Monthly

‘Say hello to your new association…Welcome to the Association of Higher Education Professionals’
'Say hello to your new association…Welcome to the Association of Higher Education …
Do Academics Make the Best University Leaders? Yes? but……
Do Academics Make the Best University Leaders? Yes? but…… Development Monthly | …

Leave a Reply

0 comments on “NHS to HE: a new career pathway as a business analyst