Following the launch of the Boardroom Apprentice Programme 2020, Dr Kirstin Lemon tells us about her experience on the programme last year.

Dr Kirstin Lemon a senior geologist at the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland (GSNI) participated in the Boardroom Apprentice Programme 2019 with Armagh Observatory & Planetarium, an Arm’s Length Body of the Department for Communities.  The Communications team caught up with Kirstin to find out more about her experience of the Programme.

Dr Kirstin Lemon

Why did you want to be involved in Boardroom Apprentice? My work as a senior geologist at the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland (GSNI) is outward-facing so I have experience of dealing with many external organisations and felt that by being a Boardroom Apprentice would be a stepping stone to becoming a Board Member so that I could help to make a difference. I chose AOP as my host board for a number of reasons but mainly because of my passion for science education, something that AOP delivers exceptionally well. I also recognised the difficulty that AOP has raising awareness of and demonstrating the impact of a science (like astronomy) to a multitude of stakeholders as this is something that we strive to do in my role at GSNI when raising awareness of geology, And as a parent of two children living in Co. Armagh, AOP is somewhere that we visit frequently and get a lot out of so I wanted to give something back.

Tell us  about AOP’s involvement in the Programme: AOP first got involved in 2019 and has registered for 2020 which is now open for applications.  As AOP wants to improve diversity, in particular gender within its management committee it has got involved with Boardroom Apprentice.  In addition, AOP participation in the programme provides an opportunity to raise awareness of AOP amongst a pool of well-trained potential candidates.

What did your role in AOP entail? My role as a Boardroom Apprentice with AOP was to attend the Management Committee quarterly meetings which involved being prepared and reading all of the papers, checking in with Carol, my Boardroom Buddy and being prepared to attend events. I participated in staff engagement events and workshops which gave me a great insight into the functioning of AOP and the future plans.

What have you learned about AOP through Boardroom Apprentice? In addition to the Management Committee meetings at AOP, there are six training days as part of the Boardroom Apprentice programme. They cover topics such as governance, communication, team work and questioning skills. I have been able to take those skills and apply them to each Management Committee meeting and it has helped me to understand how it works. I have learnt that each ‘Board’ is very different and their structure, function and composition are all very different.

What advice would you give to others about the programme? I would tell anyone who is considering applying to just do it, you won’t regret it. There is a significant time commitment as the training days and Management Committee meetings and preparation can be time-consuming especially when working full-time and a mother of two children, but it is worth it. The knowledge gained from the training and the ability to apply that almost straight away is something that you won’t get anywhere else.

Describe your favourite experience about completing the experience with AOP: One of my favourite experiences was my induction day with AOP. As someone who visits regularly I thought I had seen it all, but to be given a ‘backstage’ tour by AOP Director Michael was amazing. He explained the structure of the organisation, introduced me to staff and researchers and I got a wonderful tour of the Observatory which was fantastic. It really set the scene and gave me a great understanding of what was ahead.


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