21 December 2015
60 seconds with... Helen Calder
Are you excited by the opportunity to use your business skills to serve the Church in the UK? Do you have the energy to enable the vision of the Evangelical Alliance to become a reality? After an amazing 17 years working for us, our executive director of finance and services Helen Calder is moving on later this year. Here, she chats to Amaris Cole about what led her to the Alliance, and who she would like to see fill these important shoes.
Helen, tell us about life before the Alliance:
I planned to go to university to study geography, but I didn't get my A-Level grades. When I thought about it, my intention had always been to go into business, so I did a business degree and then worked in the glass industry as an internal consultant.
From there I moved to the brewing industry. In eight years I was promoted six times and ended up in a senior role. At one point I was the most senior woman in an organisation of 6,000 people - mostly men. But increasingly I heard a calling to use my business skills in the Christian sector. I didn't want all my energy to be going to brewing profits. Following a serious illness and a broken relationship, I rethought things and decided to go to theological college.
What did your colleagues think when you left the brewing industry?
It was hard for them to understand, but it was an opportunity for me to talk about my faith.
What did you do next?
For a while I thought I was going to do something more pastoral, but while I was at St John's College, Nottingham - a member of the Alliance - I saw a job advertised as director of administration at Alliance member All Soul's Langham Place. I had an amazing eight years there, doing a very similar job to what I do here. We had 3,000 people going through the church on a Sunday. I loved combining my faith, my professional experience and my social life. When I sensed it was time to move on the Alliance managed to persuade me that this was the place for me!
What persuaded you to take the role?
It was another opportunity to use my business experience in a Christian environment. I had been a personal member since 1985, so it was an organisation that I already had huge affinity for. But it took until 2007, when I took on the breadth of role that I now have, to feel that I was a round peg in a round hole, using all my experience.
What have been the challenges of that change in career?
When I left the brewing industry, I had a year without pay. When I took the job at All Soul's Langham Place, I took a very significant drop in salary. But my testimony is that God has always provided. I have had some amazing experiences.
How would you describe the job you do here?
In lots of ways, it's gluing the whole organisation together. Our team strap line is: serving Him by serving them. It's not just about the nuts and bolts, it's about having a vision for the organisation, but being practical, pragmatic and flexible.
So why are you moving on?
Nearly four years ago God prompted me to consider a move in 2016. This is a step of obedience to continue using my business experience in the Christian sector on both a paid and volunteer basis.
Who would you encourage to apply for this role?
I suppose I would encourage anyone who's got business experience, possibly including the charity sector or has been a trustee. If you're reading this and you think: I might be able to do that, go to the next stage and get the pack from the website. If you are reading this and know someone else who might be able to do it, give them a copy of this or point them to the website. Prayfully consider it before God.
What have been the best things about working here?
Anything that involved people or numbers! The Alliance board, council meetings and the CEO Forum. Reviewing the accounts and seeing God's provision and being able to pray with colleagues.
Do you have what it takes to step into Helen's shoes? If you would like to know about the role of director of finance and operations, click here for the job description.