G15 Accelerate – in their own words – Sonia Gayle

In 2020, G15 Chief Executive’s signed the G15 Ethnic Diversity Pledge, committing members to achieving meaningful change to support minority ethnic colleagues and to better reflect the communities we serve throughout our organisations.

As part of the pledge, we committed to collaborate to invest and support our minority ethnic talent. From this, the G15 Accelerate programme was launched.

G15 Accelerate is a high calibre Chartered Management Institute (CMI) leadership development programme that’s open to minority ethnic managers who want to accelerate their career trajectory. The programme aims to break down barriers facing talented minority ethnic people, with 37 colleagues completing the first edition of the course.

With the second edition of G15 Accelerate launching this summer, we caught up with Sonia Gayle, Operations Manager in Care and Support for MTVH and G15 Accelerate Programme 1 Alumna, to ask her about the programme and her experiences.

Can you tell us a little about your day job?

“I am an operations manager for MTVH's later living services in Lambeth. I manage 17 separate services ranging from 24/7 extra care, to sheltered settings, and independent living for older residents.”

Why did you apply to take part in G15 Accelerate?

“To be fair, I left school with not a lot in terms of qualifications. All my jobs and career have been based on my common sense. I did an NVQ learning about community and funding, and was working for a local newspaper where I did a story on a community centre that was closing down. The centre got a lot of attention and funding as a result, so they then asked me to go and work for them. That propelled me into working with the community and from there I started working in care services. I think I wanted a little bit more and had enjoyed studying before. To be totally honest, I'd just come out of a break-up and wanted something to occupy my mind. This was a nice big chunk of distraction, so I thought to myself, ‘go and learn, do something with your brain’.”

What is your highlight from the programme?

“I met some fantastic people. Real people that came from all walks of life. The fact that we were all different, but we all had this connection as well, it felt like it was some sort of sisterhood or brotherhood. We bonded through this course, and we were there for each other through tough times, even offering to support each other outside of working hours. I met some amazing people.

“I also had a great mentor - Tabitha Kassem from Network Homes. We set personal goals for me to achieve, and it always gave me something to work towards. I really looked forward to my time with her and we still talk now. She was a mentor, a counsellor, and a shoulder to cry on. She's now become a friend.”

“I learned a lot about my resilience during the course, especially when I wanted to give up.”

What did you find most challenging?

“For me, personally, I found it really challenging to work online. We were going through the pandemic, but I found it hard still as they were long days to be sat at a laptop. To try and come away from that to then produce the course work was hard. I did feel mentally drained afterwards and maybe would have preferred classroom learning and smaller groups. However, I understand it was the first programme and there were teething issues. It was one of the hardest things I've done. At times I felt I wasn’t right for it or not brainy enough, but it was just because of the intensity of things.”

Any words of advice for people considering applying?

“It's not going to be easy. That's the truth. You have to fit it in with your work. It's tough, just prepare yourself for that. There will be days when you just can't. If you can't dedicate the time, don't do it. The key is to have a buddy and to work with people on it.”

Find out more about G15 Accelerate and register for a taster session taking place on either 15 June or 21 June here