Nadia Head is PA to the Director of Counter Terrorism and Specialist Crime
You started out as a Microbiologist based in Switzerland. That’s quite a leap. What made you decide to change careers?
My time in Switzerland was idyllic with a flat on the edge of Lake Geneva and a five-minute walk to the laboratory. But upon returning to the UK, I found that however rewarding microbiology was, it did not pay well. For example, I could not afford to get my own place and my instincts told me it would be a good idea to change direction. After several years in the science industry I decided to move into local government. This turned out to be a good move as redundancies took place at my laboratory six months after I left.
In your 19 years with the police, you have worked in a variety of posts. Which role have you found most rewarding and why?
There are two roles that have been the most rewarding. Firstly, as a Crime Prevention Officer, I was heavily involved with the business community of the Square Mile. One of my responsibilities was to deliver presentations on the subject of personal safety. Although initially I dreaded the thought of public speaking, I learnt to master and enjoy it. It was very rewarding and I received many letters of thanks from the business community.
Secondly, I also love my current role. I always felt my organisational skills would be well suited to the role of PA. It was something I always wanted to do. When the opportunity came up I grabbed it enthusiastically. Although I’m officially PA to a Detective Chief Superintendent, I also assist with the diaries of three Superintendents, which is where my attention to detail and my love of being organised really comes into play! I get a great deal of satisfaction knowing Officers can rely on me to get things done quickly and efficiently.
Because of the sensitive nature of law enforcement and the ever‑changing environment I work in, every day is different. I feel valued and trusted by the people I work with and this makes coming to work an enjoyable experience.
You have first-hand experience of working through some of the most significant events in our recent history, in various capacities.What business skills have helped you to remain effective?
As a Casualty Bureau Operator I receive extensive training and attend regular refresher days. Operators have the opportunity to be involved in mock exercises, which enable improvements to be made to the service delivered to the public. Call handling is an integral part of the training received and after being involved in four ‘live’ incidents you get a feel of what to expect.You need to be empathetic and ensure those callers who are reporting missing persons during a disaster are dealt with in a sensitive and professional manner. Operators are aware they are communicating with people who may be in a highly emotional state. Being organised, calm and methodical helps.
What has been the highlight of your career so far and why?
I would say going to the Buckingham Palace Garden Party. I was born in London and as a small child I peered through the gates of the Palace on many occasions. I always wondered what it was like behind the gates and I never imagined I would have the chance to go in. On the day of the party I walked across the gravelled courtyard at the front of the Palace and a shiver of excitement went down my spine as I realised my ambition.
What are the best pieces of advice that you could give to our readers?
Trust your instincts, they are usually right. Be true to yourself and your beliefs however different they may be from others. Keep studying even if it’s in an area outside of work. It keeps your brain active and creative. Never be afraid to ask for something – the worse they can say is no.
Dress appropriately to the environment you are working in (sometimes that may mean not necessarily in the most fashionable way). Many people make this mistake and then wonder why they are not
Cultivate your friendships – it was due to befriending a colleague that I ended up working in Switzerland.
Maintain integrity and honesty and seek out new experiences. I volunteer for the Royal Academy of Arts and have found this rewarding, a great source of networking and food for the soul.
Share your experience and knowledge, and if you feel intimidated by someone who you think looks like they have all the answers, just remember we all come into the world knowing nothing.
What’s next for Nadia Head? Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
As I have an excellent relationship with my current boss, I would love to be able to organise his leaving do for him when he retires in a few years time.
I would like to have imparted my knowledge and experience to a wider audience, such as EUMA, and extended my networking into Europe.
I enjoy travelling and would love the opportunity to work abroad again preferably in my favourite city, Venice.
I won’t be disappointed if I am still with City Police in five years time, as I love my job and it has brought me many rewarding experiences.