As many young people across the UK receive their SQA results, KR Group Business Director Nicola chats about the path that led her to today.

“I grew up in Macduff, and started working in the kitchen of the local chippie at the grand old age of 11, for the grand old wage of 80p per hour.

Nicola aged 4

By age 12, I was promoted to working in the front shop; by age 14 I was shift supervisor. I picked up a second job in a local café. By age 16, I was working a third job in the catering section of the golf club. By 17, I was holding the fort in all three, from time to time, to let my bosses have time off.

I went to university to study Psychology. I picked up a job at Toys R Us selling bikes. I still worked in the chippie and the café on weekends, alongside a host of voluntary work, including the Children’s Panel, where I was the youngest panel member in the region.

Kenny and Nicola circa 1998
Nicola and Kenny circa 2003

I graduated. I got a job at NSF (Scotland), working as a project worker with young people who were experiencing schizophrenia and other mental health challenges… and I still worked at the damned chippie.

I moved to a job with Barnardo’s as a project worker at the residential unit, working with young people who were looked after. Finally! Stopped. Working. At. The. Chippie… after an 11 year stint!”

I went back to university, studying social work through distance learning. I continued to work at Barnardo’s. I picked up a second job at a Residential School for ad-hoc shifts, and then a third at another school. I worked over 60 hours most weeks and studied for my degree. I co-founded a charity, Brighter Horizons, to support young people experiencing disadvantage in the Banff area.

I graduated again. I moved to CAMHS as a Primary Mental Health Worker, working with children, families, schools and social work teams all over the region. I moved to a seconded post as team leader for 2 years before being tupe’d over the psychology team as a mental health clinician. I worked there for 12 years.

I am now a full time director at manufacturing, engineering and construction company KR Group (Scotland) Ltd, managing a team of 50, across 4 companies – a post I have been growing into concurrent to the above, over the past 19 years. I have developed skills in strategic planning, finance, HR, marketing, sustainability, QHSE and even occasional site work. If you told me when I was 16, where I’d be now, I’d have fallen on the floor laughing. And during all of this, life kept on happening – a wedding, babies, house moves, parenting, dogs, happy times, sad times too.

Nicola in the fabrication workshop
Nicola with her family

So in the theme of #nowrongpath, as our young people open their exam results this week, my advice to them would be to get stuck in. Work Hard. Grab opportunities – don’t overthink what you want to do ‘for the rest of your life’. If you work hard, there will always be choice and change and challenge and growth. Who knows what might be round the next corner?