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  • Writer's pictureSarah Gledhill

CatalystHE partners reflect on their career journeys.

Our partners share their career backgrounds and what brought them to coaching.

This week, Sarah Gledhill discusses her path from higher education fundraising leader to executive and leadership coach, from the South-West to the West Coast and back to East Anglia.

Train in the mountains

Ask any coach what drew them to the profession and you’ll receive a myriad of answers. However, there is likely to be one common motivation: a desire to help and be of service to others. This has been a key driver of my career path. Starting out in the tech sector, I quickly realised that I needed to be part of something that impacted the greater good of society. Somewhat by chance rather than design, I found myself working in a small team in the new field of higher education fundraising. I discovered my niche, working with like-minded colleagues who were similarly driven by the mission of universities! I was contributing to something that positively influenced peoples’ lives through education and research.

The 30-year career that followed took me from the University of Bristol and across the Atlantic twice, first to the University of California, Berkeley and then to the University of Cambridge. I feel fortunate to have worked in a field that has provided me with many opportunities to experiment, innovate, learn and develop. However, several years ago, a pivotal moment occurred as I became aware that there was something missing in my work. Reflecting on my career highlights, I realised that, while I gain the greatest sense of fulfilment in aiding others to learn, grow and reach their greater potential, I had hit a plateau in my own learning.

Deciding to train as a coach was a natural progression from the mentoring and coaching I had done throughout my career, formalising the knowledge gained from managing and leading large teams and combining this with my passion for helping others. It was daunting to join a Masters programme and realise how much I had yet to learn. My curiosity was stimulated by the theory, practice and evidence-base of coaching. I have become fascinated by the complexity of human behaviour and our interactions with each other, and how the seeming simplicity of a coaching conversation helps individuals to gain greater clarity. It’s a privilege to experience a client’s process of change.

Coaching fulfils my need to be of service to others, while CatalystHE’s manifesto to develop leaders in higher education strengthens the sector to which I have dedicated my career. And, my own learning journey continues apace. I look forward to this being a life-long process.


Next week, Susan Rose reflects on her journey to coaching.


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