Sam is the Head of Home Services and Operations at HomeHero. Sam talks to us about her fascinating work in the home sector and the personal driving forces behind some of her important career decisions.
Starting My Career at 16
Nobody in my immediate family went to university or really had a career to speak of. That was a bit of a motivator for me early on, to go out and establish myself in the working world. I started working straight from school at 16 and left home at 17; I was just anxious to get going. I was lucky enough to go right into working in respectable roles in corporate companies like RAC and had this vision of myself being like one of the big executives, thinking “that’s where I want to be one day”. A lot of this motivation was around a desire to be important – to be seen – and that influenced a lot of my early career decisions.
My Former Life as a Housing Officer
This was a really tough job at times. I was a young 20 something-year-old and involved with helping make some life-impacting decisions. The main purpose of this job was collecting outstanding rent arrears; however, when those processes were exhausted, it meant obtaining a warrant to force entry into people’s homes and evicting them – people and families from all types of backgrounds and circumstances. It was my first exposure to what true poverty looks like in the UK, and I was working with some of the poorest. Sometimes, I’d be able to prevent evictions, and help people get back on track, and those were the days that were worthwhile. The real difficulty sometimes was differentiating between those who can’t pay and those who won’t pay. From this experience, I was asked to become a volunteer panel member with the local Youth Offending Service – this was to challenge young offenders who had been given a Referral Order for a crime they had committed, and to help them change their behaviour.
Loving (and Living in) Africa
A turning point was when I quit this job because I had been given the opportunity to spend some time in Africa; travelling around 10+ different countries. My (then) partner and I traveled around East, Central and South Africa for a few months, and were working on a few conservation projects, volunteering, and doing some fun activities like shark diving and skydiving. I felt it was an important thing for me to do, to step away from the responsibilities I had taken on so early with my career and be exposed to some more satisfying, rewarding activities, and of course, see a wonderful continent. One of my fondest memories was visiting the Virunga National Park in the DRCongo and seeing the amount of hard work that goes into conserving the local region, and rather importantly the remaining Mountain Gorillas in the area. I was even lucky enough to spend some time with a large family of them!
My Love Affair with Energy, and Energy Startups
On my return, and after one or two short assignments, I relocated to the South West and got a job at a company called Good Energy. They were the UK’s first 100% renewable energy company and my first step into the energy industry. It was a stark contrast to my previously more corporate work – this was a completely different industry and environment. After 5 years of learning the key foundations of the energy industry here, I moved to an energy startup, Bristol Energy. This is where my love for start-ups began, and I have been fortunate to work for another 4 since then, in both permanent and consultancy positions. And now finally, I find myself at HomeHero – which is fantastic for me. It’s not an energy company in the normal sense, it’s a tech start-up that offers consumers so much more than that.
The unifying theme with my career in energy has been choosing to work with businesses who are doing things differently and have the potential to make a real impact in the home space.
I also love that it’s the perfect industry for me to support people in their career progression; it’s such a rapidly growing industry, and we need to continue to ensure we invest our people – that’s where the mentoring scheme I work with helps out!
My Mission with Homelessness
As difficult as it is to talk about sometimes, my mother spent some years being homeless and living on the streets, so working to help alleviate homelessness in the UK is a really important thing for me. I think it’s easy to assume that people who end up homeless do so because they’ve got drug and/or alcohol addictions and they’ve been kicked out of their family homes. Whilst this can be the case, it isn’t with the majority; addictions and mental health issues normally occur whilst trying to cope with homelessness. My mother was only 55 when she died and whilst she was living in appropriate housing at the time, previously being homeless had a fundamentally negative and lasting impact on her wellbeing. I do some work with my local food shelter that supplies locals with the food needed to support their families; typically in situations where parents are working but still don’t have enough money left over to feed their children. I’m also looking to start volunteering there more regularly when I can. If money was no option, it would absolutely be something I’d want to work on full-time. This is also why it’s important to me to work for companies that weave in CSR into what they do. HomeHero getting directly involved in homeless causes via Beam and CEO Sleepout – and being open to new initiatives – is important to me, and can make a meaningful impact on people’s lives.
I hadn’t really imagined or factored in having a family or raising a child within my lifetime, especially with being a gay woman. I’d always imagined families in a more traditional setting, and never applied that to myself. I’ve now got an 8-year-old son with my partner and I’m going down the route of adoption to be his legal guardian. We’ve raised him together for the past 5 years and it’s a really important step for me, and I think for him too, to be recognized as his legal mother. We haven’t ruled-out adopting more kids to add to our family in the future – but not just yet.
We’re lucky to live in the countryside and as a pretty outdoorsy family, we do a lot of camping breaks and activity-type holidays, as this is the type of stuff he loves. We’re currently planning our 2020 adventures, but we’re considering tackling something big – like a mountain!
Thank you for your time Sam!
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