Staff Spotlight - Susannah Gallagher
Every Friday we feature a member of our staff in our Staff Spotlight! This week, we spoke to Chief Financial Officer Susannah Gallagher about her experiences here in Alex.
What does your role as CFO involve?
In a narrow sense, my role is to advise the Board of Management and the Trustees on the financial performance of the College and its capabilities. There’s actually more to the position though, in that I’m steering the Trustees and Board through issues relating to corporate governance, legal matters, and operations, so there’s huge breadth to the job. Since I started a few years ago I’ve been working on the Campus Master Plan a huge amount, which is a very ambitious and exciting project; it’s actually what drew me to the role. We’re currently in Phase Two of the project which is the construction of the new residence and community hub, the Hermione Building, and we’re hoping to keep the momentum going seamlessly into Phase Three, which is a dedicated STEAM facility on Campus.
Alex is a charity and a non-profit organisation, so any investment or development we do is always to serve our charitable goal, which is the provision of education to girls, and so that guides my perspective and decisions. Our development goals are always in service of ensuring that we’re at the forefront of education for girls and that we secure the long term financial viability of the College.
What does a typical day for you look like?
It’s very busy! It’s also very varied - I know everyone always says that, but it’s true. From a technical perspective, I manage budgets, quarterly and yearly accounts, financial modelling, approvals of expenditure etc. but I suppose like most jobs it’s also about relationships and communications. I deal and work with a lot of stakeholders; the Board, the Council, the bank, the Alex Finance Committee, our service providers, the auditors, the design team & contractors currently on-site, parents, teachers and more so that’s why it’s very varied but also keeps it interesting.
You’ve previously worked in the corporate world. What is different about working in a school?
From my experience when you work in the corporate world - and I previously worked primarily in financial services - while you get great experience, you tend to be quite siloed and you tend to be in quite defined roles, whereas when you come into an organization like this you’re a small team trying to do a lot. So you have to really roll up your sleeves and work together, and you get a lot of exposure to different areas. Another thing that I found when I worked in a corporate environment is that what you’re working towards can feel a bit abstract and you don’t really see the results of your work. In an organization like Alex, you see your impact and you see what you’re achieving, so it’s more tangible. It’s also a lovely environment with the buzz of the girls around and their energy. I am looking forward to hearing the assemblies and the girls practice for the Culwick in the Concourse again.
Why did you choose to join the Alex community?
After my daughters were born, I knew I wanted to stay in finance but was keen to move out of financial services. I hadn’t thought about working in the education sector at all, but then the role in Alex came up. When I entered the process I met Barbara and some of the Board members, and it was when I met them that I felt this is a great opportunity to truly be involved in the future trajectory of an organisation. I heard a lot from them about the College and what they were planning, and I was very impressed by their dedication to the future of the College.
My daughters joined the College this year, and it’s been quite a change. I’ve been here nearly 3 years now, and it was always like “Oh we must send an email out to parents about XYZ,” and suddenly those emails are in my inbox! But it’s good in that I am getting a good sense of the day to day rhythm from a parent’s perspective of how it all works.
I think when you become a parent you realise how important it is to find the right school for your child, it is so formative to their development and how and where they find their place in the world.
What are some of your future plans for Alexandra College?
I don’t have just one goal; in the Admin and Management teams and at a Board level we’re working on quite a few things. Obviously, the Campus Master Plan and the next phases of that are a big priority, but also to see progression in the Learning Hub, streamlining our systems infrastructure, sustainability initiatives within Operations, and the development of the Administration team. There is no end to the ideas and projects that I and the rest of the team here in Alex want to accomplish.