Vivienne Cockburn

Vivienne Cockburn is a qualified accountant who has extensive experience of working with Boards and Project Delivery teams to deliver significant capital investment. Her technical skills comprise – financial appraisal and evaluation; commercial negotiations of JV and PPP projects; procurement; development of feasibility studies and strategies; option appraisal including risk analysis and benefits

Vivienne shares her personal journey.

I joined Changing the Chemistry (CtC) in September 2012 with the objective of obtaining a Non-Executive Director role to both develop my skills further and to give something back.

CtC provides support through the “Target Group” to help individuals take forward their objectives. This can be very practical support from the development of curriculum-vitae, application forms and covering letters – all tailored to the specific requirements of the opportunity to more intangible benefits such as learning from experienced Non-Executives through their Board journeys. Skills training such as Strength Finding or interview practice are also available.

1. Details of the board appointment
With this wealth of talent comes the opportunity to network and this, quite by accident, is where I discovered that there was an opportunity with Museum Galleries Scotland who were looking to appoint a new Chair and a number of Directors.

2. What attracted you to the role?
This was not an obvious choice for me as my background is finance and specifically infrastructure investment. However, Bonnie Clark – a member of CtC and a recruitment specialist – explained that they were looking for financial skills. I duly submitted my cv having both tailored it to the specific opportunity and undergone a review by Bonnie. This was in October 2012 however, the interviews were not held until January as they were delayed until after the appointment of the Chair.

3. What strengths, both personal and professional, did you highlight in the interview process?
I prepared for the interview by undertaking a thorough research of the organisation based upon their annual accounts, strategy documents and other website information. Bonnie also helped. I understand that my strength at the interview was the ability to weave in details about the organisation and in answering questions draw on relevant, museum based examples.

I had prepared for 18 questions which I thought they may ask and discovered that the same 3 or 4 USPs kept coming up in all of these namely:

  1. my financial skills and expertise
  2. my public sector experience which was very relevant given they were due to become a public body
  3. my experience and understanding from my day job of working in a multi-stakeholder environment with the accompanying challenges of managing tensions and driving through change.

One aspect which appealed to the interview panel was a comment in my covering letter which suggested that as a new national body they would need to understand how they wanted to measure their impact and the benefits they were generating. There were lots of questions regarding this.

4. What were the benefits of approaching the role with the help of a Voluntary Mutual Support Group (CtC)
Ultimately, I think I was appointed due to my thorough preparation for the interview; a clear statement in my covering letter which indicated a focus on quality and external measurement. CtC helped in all these aspects from identifying the original opportunity; to having a well developed c.v., which I just needed to tailor, but perhaps most of all for giving me the confidence to just go for it in a sector where I had limited experience!

5. What do you hope to achieve in the role
In terms of my new roles, I want to work with the organisation to make it stronger and to add tangible value to the sector in a manner which will be sustainable in the long term given the financial pressures we all face.