Veronika Toth felt she had reached a stage of her life where she had the energy and the experience to give back to her community and society as a whole. This newfound desire propelled her to take a step into the unexpected.
It was from a friend that the 42 year old Hungarian native, who now lives in Northamptonshire, found out about UK Boardroom Apprentice, the programme that would finally give her the opportunity to feel a sense of achievement.
“I finished university in Hungary and came to a new country, with no experience, no sophisticated language skills and no local knowledge.
“I feel that I had to start over and spend a number of years being able to get back to the working level where I wanted to be and feel that I achieved something,” said Veronika.
By applying for the programme, she wanted to take that next step in her volunteering activities.
She explained: “I really wanted to get to a more serious place and the UK Boardroom Apprentice gave me the theoretical knowledge to do that. It gave me a good background which I very much liked.”
UK Boardroom Apprentice is a unique board learning, development and placement programme which enables those who would like to serve on a public or third sector board to learn and gain the experience that they need to take that step.
It seeks to enable a wider diversity of individuals to play their part within boardrooms, allowing those without board experience to enhance their knowledge and understanding through in-depth learning and support.
Veronika who works as a EMEA Payroll Manager, was placed on the Nest Corporation board during her time on the programme.
On the board, based in London, Veronika wasn’t plunged in straight away. Unlike some, her introduction to the boardroom meetings did not include the classic boardroom setup.
“The very first event was intentionally not a board meeting but more of a conference with the employers, a lot of the board members and the executives of Nest in attendance, aimed more at sharing the information.
“I think it was a very good idea to really give me first hand experience of how they actually operate and to get to know some of the people who were looking after the technical topics.
“I didn’t need to be as nervous as I wasn’t put directly on the spot. It was just like being in a conference with 50 other people.”
While on the programme, Veronika wanted to diversify herself and identify the gaps in her career. Through meeting other participants and her role on the board, she ventured out of her comfort zone and developed her confidence.
She recalls her experience on the UK Boardroom Apprentice being twofold. She said: “I really enjoyed the learning days. You get to meet with like-minded people who think the same way as you do. We shared a lot of our experiences and examples which I really valued because they made it real, something we could all imagine and relate to.”
On the other hand, she found going to the boardroom meetings quite challenging.
“I was very anxious at the first one. What do I need to say? How can I contribute? That was very challenging. I think I really had to go out of my comfort zone for that one and I’m still learning.”
Veronika admits that being on a board has been an eye-opening experience when it came to building confidence in her own abilities.
“Some of these people have worked for this company and that charity, they have experience and knowledge in accountancy, management and customer service and I felt taken aback as I haven’t done all of these.
“This made me realise that I still had more to learn to be able to form an opinion and assess the situations that come up in a boardroom.”
A core value of the Boardroom Apprentice is encouraging Boardroom Apprentices to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Following the completion of the programme and looking back on her experiences and how much she has gained, she said: “When I look back, I can say that I have done this, I have gone to every single event where they invited me to. I am very happy to say that I talked one on one to them, and I contacted individual board members.
“I did eventually venture out of my comfort zone and if I look at it from that point of view it definitely gave me a lot of confidence. It showed me that I can do it.”
To anyone thinking they are not right for the opportunity, lack the skills or struggle with imposter syndrome Veronika has the following advice:
“People will tell you that imposter syndrome isn’t a thing. But when you go through the board experiences and read all the documents, making up your questions ahead of the meeting and sit at the meeting thinking that your questions are not good enough.
“Then someone who has been on a board for 20 years asks the same question you were afraid to and lays out the same logic you had, it will give you some confidence and make you think: no I was right.
“That will help with your imposter syndrome.”
And for those who are thinking of applying to the 2024 programme, she simply said: “Do it, just do it because it can only be good.
“Grab the opportunity with both hands if you would like to later on be on a board or contribute on a deeper level to the running of a charity.”