Hft | From Support Worker to PT – Holly’s career progression

When Holly Parker took on her first job as a support worker aged 18, she had no idea that it would lead to what she describes as her ‘dream job’ eight years later. 

Holly, now 26, credits her years of knowledge and skills, gained while working as a support worker, with her recent progression to the position of Personalised Technology (PT) Coordinator at Hft.  Holly says that her experience as a support worker gives her a great insight into how the PT team can provide the best services possible for the people we support.

It’s great when the team asks for my opinion. The fact that I have worked as a support worker means they respect my point of view.  I feel as though I have a unique viewpoint compared to some of the other team members. Some have come from services and some haven’t. It’s definitely an advantage,

she said.

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Holly, who lives in Bishop’s Stortford, worked as a support worker for Hft Herts & Essex for five years before moving to the PT team. She says that supporting people with learning disabilities to carry out daily tasks meant that she learned many skills that were valuable in her own life.

I was very young when I started support work. There were lots of basic life skills I didn’t know about, like cooking, for example. Through supporting others, I learned how to cook a roast dinner!

she said.

Holly speaks fondly of her time as a support worker, but is quick to point out that it’s not always an easy job.

People don’t always appreciate what support workers do. It’s massively underplayed and misunderstood. Some people think anyone can do it, but that’s not the case. It’s hard work but so rewarding and so worth it. My duties were very varied; I could be supporting someone to cook and clean one day and heading to Thorpe Park the next.

Keen to progress in her career, Holly started to look out for other roles within the sector. While she didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do, she knew that she wanted to continue to help people. When she saw the advert for PT Coordinator, Holly said it “ticked all her boxes.” During her interview, Holly had to give a presentation of what PT meant and how it could help people with learning disabilities and autism. Holly was able to draw on personal experience to impress the interview panel.

I told them about a person I supported who hated having showers. It was always a battle to get him to wash. We got him a ‘disco showerhead’ which turns an ordinary shower into a sensory experience. It plays music and displays different coloured lights. After that, we couldn’t get him to come out!

Happily, Holly is getting on very well in her new role, although she does admit to finding the switch to working from home a challenge to begin with.

I was used to the to hustle and bustle of life in a service. I was afraid that I would be spending all my time looking at a screen and worried that I wouldn’t get to meet people. But I’m out visiting services a few days a week now. Ultimately that’s where I feel most comfortable. I prefer chatting to people face to face. I’m there to better someone’s life with PT and it makes me feel as though I’m still helping people but in a different way.

Something Holly is most looking forward to in her new career is learning more about personalised technology.

She said:

I’ve love learning and I’m really eager to get as much experience as possible. I’ve learned that sometimes PT is for security purposes and sometimes it is for sensory needs, so I get to see both aspects and how it can make a difference to someone’s life.  I’ve also discovered that my favourite items of PT are the low-tech devices. It doesn’t always have to be bells and whistles.

Holly said she is also looking forward to carrying out personal assessments.

We go and have a chat with them, observe what they do and see how we might find a piece of technology that may help them. We all use different forms of technology in our lives, even things like a kettle, and we don’t think about how they make our lives easier. If you can apply that to a specific need of a person, then that’s how we assess what that person needs. That’s the part I really like.

When asked what advice she would give to someone who’s thinking about becoming a support worker, Holly said:

Anyone thinking about it should definitely give it a try. My experiences as a support worker have given me a different outlook on life. I am much more positive and I appreciate things a lot more now. I think about simple things such as being able to communicate how I feel and what I want.

We take for granted being able to ask for a cup of tea and to say what we want for breakfast,

Holly continued.

I’m a talker and a people person. A person we support might also be like that but they don’t always have a voice. I would never have learned to appreciate this without being a support worker. All of the skills and all of the memories – I will keep those forever.

Lisa Hunt, Senior PT Coordinator, said:

If I were to sum Holly up in one word, it would be ‘invaluable’. I think as a team it is imperative that we have a clear understanding how services work to ensure we enhance and not hinder the support people receive, as this also allows us to work empathetically. Holly has brought a lot of this knowledge with her.