Five minutes with...Steve Vaid, Management Adviser, Rwanda

Management consultant in the City. Chief exec in the third sector. Table tennis extraordinaire. Now Steve Vaid is to face his toughest challenge yet: he and his wife Kristenne Pickles are off to Rwanda to volunteer with VSO. Here Steve describes his journey from an Australian bank to a VSO assessment day, his inspiring feats of fundraising and his first task in his new job: recruiting his own boss.

I graduated as an engineer and went straight into management consultancy.

I spent about six years managing big technology projects. Then I spent another six years working in the city where I project managed mergers and acquisitions for an Australian bank. In the late 90s, early 2000s there was a downturn in the market and we had to make about 4500 people redundant. It was a tough time, really difficult to go through. At that point I decided I needed a career change: I wanted to do something different with the skills I’d acquired as a consultant and in the city.

At that time my wife Kristenne was working in the third sector.

She asked me on occasion to volunteer at the charity she was working at. It was really good to meet people working in that sector, to find out what drove them and what their values were. I found that really compelling.

I left the bank and found a brilliant job as director of an arts charity looking after the legal and copy rights of visual creatives. Working with the chief executive and the other directors, we increased the charity’s turnover from two to eight million. I then started a Masters in voluntary sector management and became chief executive of King’s College London Student Union.  

Doing VSO was always in our minds. 

I remember watching a VSO video about ten years ago and thinking, ‘one day we’re going to do something like this.’ Kristenne and I have both progressed in our careers and we’ve decided it’s time to do something different, challenge ourselves in a new way, use our skills and knowledge outside of the career structure we’re used to.

Our VSO journey so far has been challenging but extremely positive.

Everyone has been amazingly helpful from day one. I thought VSO’s assessment day was tough. It really makes you think about why you want to volunteer, and if you’re a couple doing it together it really makes you think about your relationship and how going overseas will affect it. The questions were very pointed but pertinent; selectors were really professional but warm and friendly at the same time.

Meeting other potential volunteers has been great – we’ve made really good friends. Five of our P2V (Preparing to Volunteer) course colleagues were also on our SKWID (Skills for Working in Development) course so it has felt like a real little family!

I roped in my friends to help me with my fundraising.

My ex-city colleagues and I rode from Greenwich to Hampton Wick, crossing every single bridge and ferry crossing all the way - that was 29 river crossings and about 40 miles of cycling. With my colleagues at King’s I did a six-hour table tennis marathon: I played every person who works with me for 15 minutes. I was pretty tired after that! It was a great way of remembering everyone and doing something collectively to raise money.

In Rwanda I’ll be working with the National Federation for Disabled People (NFDP).

It’s a campaigning and advocacy organisation that represents all the Disabled People’s Organisations in Rwanda. There are around 800,000 people with disabilities in the country and there’s a massive amount of work to do in terms of getting them access to education, welfare, healthcare. The NFDP is tasked with changing law and cultural perception. 

My placement is going to start off with recruiting the executive director, which will be great. I can help the board of trustees think about the kind of director they want and the relationship will be formed right from the start. Then we can work together on governance, mentoring and coaching and building management systems. We take for granted some of the stuff we do in organisations in the UK, so it’ll be really interesting to see how transferable and relevant those tools going to be and how much adjustment I’ll need to make.

I’ve been thinking about how VSO will fit into my career.

It has taken us nearly a year from registering with VSO to actually going overseas. During that time we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about development issues, reading about the history of international development and the effect it has on local economies. For me it has really struck a chord. When we return to the UK, I think a career in international development for me would be the most ideal next step.

How to apply

Interested in volunteering with VSO? Find out what you need to apply and begin your application process now.