Navigating the Jungle Gym – Heather Stevens

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It was Queen’s University Belfast where Heather Stevens first embarked on her journey in law. After graduating with the Lord Chief justice’s Prize for highest overall marks, she then started to pursue numerous work experiences such as taking on the role of the Head of Human Rights Unit at the Office of the First Minister in Belfast. Soon after, she was selected for the Yale World Fellows Program. Back in Ireland, Mrs Stevens took on the role of being responsible for advising Government Ministers on all issues concerning the health and social care workforce. This included making decisions on a number of health professionals and ensuring that the budget of 98 million GBP was accounted for. Heather Stevens is currently situated in Marlborough College Malaysia, where she plays a marketing and representational role as well as chairing the Charities Committee which co-ordinates the College’s outreach activity. She also delivers leadership programs for the college prefects.  

A Quick Summary

The journey to reach our desired destination isn’t always a straight path, nor does it come without challenges. The ability to enact change genuinely inspired Mrs Stevens and stimulated her passion for law. However, through her first role as a solicitor, she felt she wasn’t fulfilling her goal and wanted to move onto something that could genuinely change the lives of others. As the opportunity came for her to apply for a job in the civil service, it was in law reform, which meant that she could change legislation and make change on a macro level. A struggle she found was present especially in the early days of her career was her inclination to ‘take personal stories home’. As a solicitor, the majority of her daily interactions revolved around dealing with the problems of others. This resultantly turned the experience into an emotionally exhausting one where she felt that she wasn’t really making a difference. Another challenge she came across as she started to take on more senior roles was the need to balance an important work life with the responsibility of raising a son. 

When asked about the presence of influential figures, Mrs Stevens referred to her grandmother as a key source of inspiration in her younger years. Qualities such as having a clear sense of integrity and a strong persona led Mrs Stevens to try and emulate these qualities by doing whatever she did to the best of her abilities. In terms of her years in the civil service, Mrs Stevens derived her influence from watching the figures who were in the higher ranks of her institutions and pinpointed the best characteristics they carried. For example, as Mrs Stevens took heed of certain management techniques from other individuals, she thought about how she could emulate them in the later stages of her life. As a whole, Mrs Stevens tried to see the best in all the individuals she worked with as opposed to finding one particular role model. This way we can be exposed to a variety of qualities in a variety of situations. 

The path that Mrs Stevens embarked on was not always one that she had planned in advance. This example stands at the basis of the fact that it’s never too late for us to redirect our vision. While students shouldn’t be expected to have a definitive path in mind, it is important to think about ‘what matters to you’ and what we feel is important. If we focus on this and what we love, career options and opportunities will follow, especially if we put ourselves out there and show a sense of interest. 

Mrs Stevens’ final piece of advice revolved around the idea there is no definitive route to success or the top of what we want to achieve. Through the analogy of a jungle gym, Mrs Stevens referred to the fact there are multiple ways to the top and we shouldn’t be discouraged if one of the routes we take don’t work out. In conclusion, the youth should be resilient and always open to responding to setbacks. 

From the Guest Student

The Interview was an incredibly insightful experience. As someone who aspires to work in the legal sector, it was interesting to find out the various challenges that Mrs Stevens had faced entering the workforce. I was especially intrigued by Mrs Stevens’ comment on how the concepts of rule of law have been adapted to face the ongoing pandemic. I would highly recommend this podcast series to anyone who wishes to find out more about their intended field of study from an expert. Thank you to the Discere team and Mrs. Stevens for having me on the podcast.

Eden Fall-Bailey

“Life is like a jungle gym, in that there is no one clear path to success”

Heather Stevens

Author: Discere Team

We're the team behind Discere

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