Meet Team Socius: Business Development Executive, Victoria Birks

The bright lights of ‘fancy London’ were a daunting prospect for someone who had little direction or vision of what they wanted to do in life. Growing up in a small seaside town in Devon, I didn’t really contemplate leaving the ‘shire’! It seemed you needed a good reason to do so, like chasing that big career. Mindful of this, I considered all sorts; nursing, healthcare management (following in my Mum’s footsteps), psychologist, teacher… the list went on.

It was drilled into us that getting a degree equals success, respect, high salary, opportunities etc. I must’ve had a meeting with a career’s advisor at school, but my memory escapes me. In any case, I cobbled together a university application to study Healthcare Management and deferred a year without giving it much thought. I spent that time working in a local shoe shop, waitressing in the evenings and going out most nights of the week. It was simple and I loved the independence of having my own car and money.

The time to head to university arrived and after a few weeks I realised it wasn’t for me. I didn’t know what I was doing there and felt the next 3 years were an awfully long time looming ahead. I just wanted to work and hoped that I’d eventually figure out what I really wanted to do. Thankfully, my parents were incredibly supportive and trusted my judgement, with a click of my heels I was bombing back to Devon in my Mini before I knew it.

I think most young people need a bit of help and direction at some point, someone to open a door for them, presenting an opportunity that could help shape their future career path. I was lucky to have family connections with a local estate agent and voila my first job as a junior negotiator presented itself. My boss was amazing; meticulous - he could spot mistakes a mile off, posh – he could charm anyone, and he taught me so many core work skills; like proof-reading, how to deal with difficult people, how to write letters and emails and most importantly (in property especially!) how to socialise and network.

I enjoyed it there for a couple of years, and I particularly liked the industry, but working in Budleigh Salterton was sedate, with limited progression prospects. My mind started to wander. Traveling the world on a gap year became a popular thing to do in the early 2000’s, and after taking bar work to supplement my day job, I left on a round-the-world ticket with my brother for a year. 9 countries, 1 backpack, £3k to live off and a couple of credit cards – I had no idea how lucky I was!

A year on, and I was back in Devon, all refreshed and ready to settle down after my adventure. The next 8 years were spent working for various organisations, ranging from the Probation Service, Benefits office and then securing a role at Exeter University in the careers service, ironically! However, I didn’t feel as settled as I’d envisaged and I had always had the desire to live in Australia. So, without too much hesitation and whilst just young enough for the visa, I rented out my flat, and set off for Sydney, with a little backpacking trip in India en-route. Sydney is an incredible city, I found a great role with Lend Lease, a bunch of proper Aussies who introduced me to their families and really integrated me into their world. I felt truly happy and realised living in a city was what I wanted. The buzz, the work ethic, the culture – I was all over it. So, whilst I was happy there, the idea of doing this on home soil became increasingly appealing and seemed so much easier since I’d made it to Sydney.

After 18 months and a small travelling stint (this really was the last time), I was back in the UK and flat sharing in Clapham. Not long after arriving I secured the role of PA at First Base and bizarrely my predecessor was leaving the company to live in Australia and work at Lend Lease…I felt it was meant to be.

My career path has been unconventional, organic and most importantly fun! Looking back, I was very driven to finding my path and I have a strong work ethic, but I always knew when to change something if it didn’t feel right. One piece of advice that I’d give to anyone in a similar boat, is it’s OK not to have a plan, but you can’t waste time!

Nothing was mapped out for me, but the skills I have picked up throughout my various roles, on my travels and time at home, have enabled me to get to where I always wanted to be.

My role at Socius has developed throughout my 11 years. Originally employed as a PA, I gradually took on more responsibility and project work. I supported New Business and the project teams, as well as sales and marketing and corporate branding. I will always have an element of support in my role, that’s what I do best, but equally, I like to make a difference to the team and ensure the smooth running of the company. I still work on new business and corporate branding but I also manage our HR, the website, corporate hospitality, head up the People & Culture team, I’m a member of the Senior Management Team and plan our team events. Working towards our B-Corp accreditation is high on my agenda for the next 12 months and after that, who knows what I’ll get involved in next!