DYW Key Workers – Margo Williamson

Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) 21 regional groups are launching an awareness campaign across Scotland (week commencing 1st June) to showcase roles within the key sectors to make young people more aware of the types of jobs involved and what skills/qualities would be required. We are so grateful to Margo Williamson, Chief Executive of Angus Council for taking the time to share her career journey!
#DYWKeyworkers #ajobforeverybody
Name Margo Williamson
Age Pretty grown up!
Hometown Dundee
Job Title Chief Executive at Angus Council

What attracted you to the industry you are in?

I have always been interested in the importance of service.  I am interested in how our taxes are spent and I wanted to help shape the services a council delivers for the public in a way that they considered worth it.

How long have you been with the company?

I have been with Angus Council 7 years: 4 years as a Director and 3 years as its Chief Executive.

Describe your day-to-day role

I work very closely with the elected members of the Council. In Angus there are 28 people who represent the whole population of Angus. They make decisions for the people who elect them. Myself and a team of officers, all with different specialisms, from education to environmental health,  advise them on the options they might want to consider before making their decisions. Once they have made their decisions usually at formal meetings, Chaired by the Provost or the Leader of the Council, it is my job to make sure we implement them.

A huge part of my role is building relationships. Sounds easy?

A council can have fabulously exciting, radical and innovative plans, values and behaviours but if we don’t work together with everyone in Angus, including national and international partners and businesses we won’t deliver them.

I spend a lot of my time ensuring the relationship between our strategy and our delivery works. This involves being organised, focused and a lot of listening to our communities and our colleagues. I encourage frontline teams and communities to be strong, take decisions, question and help us improve the services we deliver with and for the people of Angus.

What kind of training have you done?

I was a teacher and have taught 4 year olds and 64 year olds. I have worked in primary, secondary and higher education. Being a teacher has helped me to focus on learning throughout my whole career. You never stop learning. You have to decide what to learn and not all learning needs a certificate, an award or a degree. Learning for you is the best kind of learning. When you give up learning, you give up on life. 

What skills have you learned?

I don’t know if it is a skill or a virtue but ‘patience’. I am by nature an impatient person but I have realised if you want to go far, go together. If you want to go fast, go alone. Going fast is often not the best route. Engaging people. Listening to people. Building consensus and agreeing the steps is harder but much more sustainable.

Have you completed any professional qualifications?

Yes, I have professional qualifications in teaching, my undergraduate degree. I went back to university to do a Master’s qualification. It lets me wear a posh gown at graduations.

Do you like living and working in Dundee and Angus?

I love Dundee & Angus. It’s a beautiful place with coast and hills all close by. I was born in Dundee and am a proud Dundonian even although I am a leader in Angus.

What skills are the most important for you to do your job well?

There is no manual for my job. A lot of the time I have to use judgement and problem solving skills. I don’t do this by knowing the answers but thinking about what questions need to be addressed. Thinking up the really good questions helps get people see the breadth of the challenge and offer their best thoughts and solutions.

Was there anything about the job that surprised you?

Yes. That I would come to enjoy learning so much about areas of the council I had little knowledge of when I started. A great example of this is something we all unavoidably create – waste. The best way to manage it for our world is so important and needs us all to do our bit.

Is there anything unusual about your role?

I guess so. It’s a real privilege to be a Chief Executive at the top of an organisation. There are 32 Chief Executive Officers of Councils throughout Scotland. In many ways the 32 of us become a team and support each other: I play for the Scotland squad; the Tayside squad and the Angus squad.

Do you get a lot of support from your company?

I get amazing support from the elected members and from all the people who work in Angus. I also get support from partners across Tayside and Scotland.

Whats your favourite part of the job?

My favourite part is meeting people: citizens of Angus; partner organisations and our staff. It is not always easy and sometimes they ask tough questions about why things are the way they are. The great thing is, they take the bother to ask. If I don’t know what is troubling people I can’t explain the reason for it or begin to plan how to change it.

Did you always want to pursue a career in this industry?

No. I wanted to be an architect but I didn’t know what an architect was or how you became an architect. I do not think I had any careers advice at school or college. I only knew careers I had come across. I became a teacher because it was a career I knew of. I wanted to be better than some of the teachers who had taught me. I wanted to show young people that learning could be fun. I also believed young people should get a great experience at school.

What is your advice for young school leavers looking to start an apprenticeship?

Go for it. I have worked in a University. I have seen hundreds of young people spend 4 years accumulating debt and then moving into low paid employment. I think learning and working is a fantastic way to achieve. I have met amazing people with no formal qualifications. I have also met uninspiring people who have a list of letters they must display after their names. Over the years I have come to realise attitude, behaviour and ambition are far more important than labels and letters. There are some brilliant, ethical businesses out there wanting to grow their own talent. You are their talent. 

What is your career goal?

To serve. To do the best I can with what I have. To be humble. To respect everyone’s contribution no matter what that is.

How does it feel to be a KeyWorker on the frontline, supporting the Country’s fight against Covid-19?

Proud. I strongly believe the voices of my colleagues, our staff, and our communities are the most important and underused assets we have to deliver real solutions to managing this terrible infection and its consequences on people. My role is to empower people to do this now and for the longer term future as we live with this virus.

Tell us what makes you proud to be a Keyworker.

In my role I have the power to direct and mobilise a response. I like to think I do this kindly and responsibly. I care. If I can use my skills to coordinate and target the key workers’ response then I consider I have been of use. I have read more compliments about Angus Council’s work in this short, difficult time than I have read since becoming Chief Executive. Many people who believe their Council does good work never contact us. As such I can have a skewed view of how people see us because those previously who got in touch were looking for a better quality service. I am proud of my team throughout the Council.