#YesWeCan managed to steal a bit of time with Louise Knott, Vice Principal at West Notts College. We found out about her career journey and what drives her to succeed!
Can you tell us a bit about you and your career:
I started my working life as a journalist and quickly realised it wasn’t the dream job I thought it was going to be. So I then moved across into internal PR and communications after a stint at social care working with vulnerable teenagers, where I almost re-trained to be a social worker. I then got offered the opportunity to work at an FE college. The principal at the time was one of the most inspirational leaders I have worked for, I stayed there for about 10 years overseeing internal communications, stakeholder relationships and managing admin teams and student support teams. 13 years ago, a job came up at West Notts as a Director of communication and marketing, and over the last three years I’ve been Vice Principal covering on-campus experience for students as well as all our external engagement.
A typical day in your career:
There is no such thing! One minute I can be talking to an employer about an exciting new partnership and the next a vulnerable teenager who needs some support. That’s why I love it so much, no day is the same, the only typical thing about it is that it’s fast paced, exciting and often very challenging.
Once I’d started working in further education I fell in love with it.
What made you choose this career/industry?
I’m not sure that if you’d asked me at 16 I would ever have said that I’d be working in a college, so I’m not sure I chose this industry, but rather I took opportunities when they were there. Once I’d started working in further education I fell in love with it.
I took opportunities when they were there
How did you get to where you are now and did you face any challenges along the way?
I got to where I am today by putting myself forward for things that weren’t really my job, always challenging myself to try something new, by proving I was good at something and from learning from those around me. There have been challenges, knock backs and rejections but all of those things make you stronger. It’s not the fact that something may put you back that’s the problem, but how you respond. There have been periods professionally where I have had to dig into depths of resilience that I never knew were there but it’s made me stronger in the end.
We work really hard to make sure that ‘no student is left behind’
What is an important initiative that you feel passionate about in your role?
Me and my teams work really hard to make sure that ‘no student is left behind’ as we are all passionate about that. Often young people come to us with a range of challenges and it’s our job to make sure that those challenges don’t become life defining. Seeing students succeed, move on and be successful is the biggest buzz.
What do you think gave you the drive and determination to succeed?
Personal pride – wanting to know that I’d done the absolute best, I believe that if you can go home thinking you’ve left it all out on the field and you are really proud about what you have done you can’t go far wrong.
What’s great about being a female in your role?
I am lucky as FE has some amazing women working in it. In our industry it’s almost the norm to have females at my level. But for me being a female at this level means that you can be a role model for other working mums and young women just starting out in their careers.
What is your biggest achievement in life?
There are many little achievements lived through the success of our students. On a personal level, managing to juggle the demands (just!) of being at a senior level in an organisation and a football mum feels like a mammoth achievement most weeks!
What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt along the way?
Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Only worry about what you can control.
Do you have a mantra you live your life by?
Only worry about what you can control.
What three tips would you give to young females starting their careers?
Believe, be brave and take the opportunities that are right (rather than there).
What is the best bit of advice that you have ever been given?
Take the time for people, you’ll never know when you might need them.
Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?
Dame Pat Morgan-Webb, the first principal I worked with and still the best. Her passion for FE, life and for doing things better was and still is truly inspirational.
What are your key motivators?
Seeing the efforts of your leadership, coaching and mentoring help others to fly.
What’s one key leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?
Surround yourself with bright, argumentative people who are not afraid to tell you when there might be a better way, who are far better at their job than you would ever be. Allow them to do their job and get on with it.
Own up to mistakes and learn from them.
What's the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Having dreams is important but don’t become a slave to them. Own up to mistakes and learn from them.
What would you say to your 16-year-old self?
The dream you have now is not what you’ll end up doing but it’ll be fantastic, so be resilient when things don’t go your way.
Thank you for your time Louise! If you’d like to read some more blogs, please click here!