New Head of Change Delivery, Christina Roberts, joined NFU Mutual 12 years ago as a project manager. In that time, she’s led teams in our programme management division and held a more strategic project governance role. She's now looking forward to drawing on all her experience to help in her new role. We sat down with her to find out more about her career journey.

You started your career at NFU Mutual as a project manager. How did that come about?
Well, I was working as a Project Manager for a financial institution that managed loans for people who wanted to buy vehicles. I must admit that I didn’t really have a structured career plan, but I wasn't enjoying the impersonal corporate life. I was travelling a lot with my job, and this had lost its initial sparkle. When I saw the advert for a Project Manager role at NFU Mutual and read about the company's values, I thought it would be a better environment for me. The variety of projects also appealed to me. I've always been well organised and feel a sense of achievement from getting things done. I like variety in my job, so working on a new project every 12-18 months is almost like going into a new job each time, which I enjoy.

When I first joined NFU Mutual, I was helping to shape and deliver some major initiatives for the agencies in the UK-wide NFU Mutual Agency Network. It was a fascinating part of the business to join because I got to understand all the different types of agencies we have. It also helped me get closer to our customers and understand how we could support agencies to meet our customers’ needs.

This gave me a real taste for working on bigger projects, so I decided to work towards leading more complex projects and programmes. I applied for a programme manager role and got it. This gave me more responsibility, including line management, and I also became a member of the change leadership team, looking operationally at what the department wanted to do next.

That sounds like a big step up – what support did you have?
At NFU Mutual there’s a strong focus on learning and development – it’s really valued here. So, if you want to develop your existing career or make a career change, you can discuss your Personal Development Plan (PDP) with your line manager. You have access to lots of tools to help your development and there’s also a strong coaching and mentoring programme with a great network of coaches and mentors. So, whatever stage you're at in your career, you're supported to achieve the career you want.

All the training offers are there, but it’s up to you as an individual to take them. For example, next week, as part of the move into my new role, I’m getting some transition coaching. It’s this individual support that’s been massively important for me. I think everyone has imposter syndrome in some shape or form, at every stage of their career. And in the past, I definitely needed to understand my lack of self-confidence and self-belief. Here, managers aren’t afraid to show that they’re vulnerable. And it’s seen as a strength to ask for coaching or mentoring.

NFU Mutual’s attitude is why shouldn’t you have it?
One of the programmes I went on was the Winning Performance Culture programme. It really helped me to understand and assess my own capabilities. One of the modules featured role-playing with actors, playing out a difficult appraisal conversation, with the actor playing the role of the person being appraised. There was immediate feedback from both the actor and an observer on how I handled the conversation, giving me practical solutions on how to handle those kinds of situations. In the past, I might have shied away from tough conversations, but this programme gave me the confidence to handle them.

Throughout my career, I’ve become more self-aware, particularly of how my actions impact on others. I believe in the individual – it’s important to understand what other people want and the strengths that are unique to them. That’s part of the approach at NFU Mutual too – they appreciate that we all have different strengths and needs, and they encourage individuals to understand that for themselves. Personally, I enjoy learning about how others like to be treated, so I can help them to advance. I really enjoy helping others to achieve their full potential.

How did the move into programme management open up new opportunities for you?
I was working on bigger projects, including managing a major programme to restructure the programme management department into Group Change, which is what it’s now called. The increasing complexity of the changes that were happening meant we needed to grow and develop new skills and capabilities to meet future business needs. I was really proud to project manage these changes.

It was a big role, which led to me moving into the Enterprise Programme Management Office, which manages the whole programme portfolio. We were managing resources, reporting on performance and overseeing governance for all the company’s programmes and projects, so I was reporting to senior levels.

And how did that lead to your current role?
The Head of Change Delivery decided to take a career break. And it just so happened that, at the same time, I was looking for my next career challenge and thinking about what I wanted from my next role. So, lucky timing and me understanding what I wanted next from my career came together. I talked to the Head of Change Delivery about the role and then had a conversation with the Head of Group Change to understand what it would involve and what they wanted from the role.

The role sounded right for me, so when it was advertised, I applied and was really pleased to be offered the role. Initially, it’s just for a year, so we’ll see what happens after that. Hopefully, it’ll be for more than a year!

How do you manage to balance such a high-level career with your personal life?
That’s an interesting question. I don’t have any children – just a husband and two cats! But I do have other family commitments – my parents are quite elderly. And I also have other interests outside work – I enjoy music and play the trombone.

One of the things I’ve always been aware of at NFU Mutual is that they promote a good work life balance. This means that, although there'll always be times when you need to meet a particular deadline you generally know that you can finish work and have time for your interests. And they’re always aware of family commitments, too. So, I know if I ever needed some flexibility, it would be there.

Also, you're measured by results, not necessarily the time you spend at your desk, and this certainly increased during lockdown. I sometimes like to have time and space to think things through – so this way of working really suits me.

You’ve just started in your new role, what are you looking forward to?
Someone once said to me that when you’re looking for your next role, look at the nature of it. Focus on what you get a kick out of. Think about what elements you enjoy and if the role has around 80% of those elements, then it could be for you. I think that’s a good approach to take in your career. So, with this new role, I’m looking forward to leading a larger team – there are 45 of us in Change Delivery. Of course, I know some of the team already, but I want to learn more about what they want from their careers and how I can support them.

I’m also looking forward to having a more strategic view of our work – where we go next as our priorities change. It’s a rapidly changing environment and we’ll need to look at how we support that for the business. So, it’ll be nice to use my experience of delivery and change to have influence over that.

What next? It’s up to you.
Christina’s clearly built a successful career for herself at NFU Mutual. Why not find out how you could do the same? Search our current vacancies.