Meet Jackie Collier – Consultant of the Year 2015

Jackie Collier, a Senior Manager at EY, was the winner of both the Performance Improvement Consultant of the Year and the overall The Times Consultant of the Year. She was recognised for her work with Milton Keynes Hospital, where she led a team to help them achieve their full efficiency target of  £8million for the first time in six years. Jackie spoke to the MCA about the Awards process, her career journey and the future of the NHS.

Congratulations on your success at this year’s MCA Awards. How did you find the Awards process?

It started with our own EY internal nominations back in August last year where I was put forward by the Health Leadership Team, so it was great to be recognised by my colleagues. From there we sent my submission to the MCA and I was subsequently shortlisted. The judging panel was made up of three individuals, each with an impressive career history of experiences and successes. The panel was a positive but challenging experience; I left thinking through how I could have answered each of their questions better. Consequently when it came to actually winning the category I was absolutely stunned, and then to get the overall Consultant of the Year award was unbelievable.

The rest of the evening passed in a flash with many people coming over to congratulate me on the night from the EY team, our clients and across the consulting community. The next day at work was crazy, I had so many calls and emails from people across the firm congratulating me, some great friends, others I’ve never previously met. It is great to work for such a supportive firm which celebrates and recognises the successes of individuals and teams.

Can you tell us a bit about your professional journey?

I started my professional career on the NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme. I had just achieved a first class honours degree in Biomedical Science at Sheffield University and knew I wanted to work in health. The scheme gave me great breadth and understanding of the NHS and insight into the complexity of its challenges. As part of the scheme I completed a Masters in Healthcare Leadership & Management, upon graduating from the scheme I joined Great Ormond Street Hospital where I managed their Neuroscience Unit.

After three years working in the NHS I decided to move to EY as a Healthcare Consultant. I firmly believe that we have the best health service in the world, it was, and still remains important to me that, in whatever role I do, I am able to make a difference to the NHS. I left the NHS when I did as I was growing increasingly frustrated by the limited ability I felt I had to influence change at the pace I could see it was required. Six years later I am now a Senior Manager at EY and have worked with a number of hospitals to help them transform services for patients and deliver their government imposed efficiency targets.

You are working in an environment where people can be wary of consultants and morale may be low. How do you go about improving this when leading a consulting project?

Unfortunately, I have had a lot of those experiences. You’re welcomed by the people who bring you in but the people you need to work with, such as doctors, nurses, or divisional managers, are quite rightly a lot more sceptical. I enjoy the challenge of gaining their trust through developing a reputation for delivering, but it can be frustrating as it can take time to establish. For me, it’s about identifying and delivering quick wins to increase engagement, this may not be something which is strictly within the scope of the engagement but could be delivered with a little extra input. Establishing trust and credibility is critical for the success of any engagement so it’s well worth investing in a few small extras upfront to establish the relationships which will last the duration.

From testimonials, and the amount of support you got on social media during the awards, you seem to be very respected and popular with your colleagues. How do you approach your work with colleagues and what environment do you create?

This point is important to me. I am not someone who considers myself a natural born leader or who has a dominant character but I believe I am well respected for the expertise I have developed within my field and for how I manage and lead teams.  I consistently receive feedback that I strike the right balance of providing support and challenge to my teams. I allow individuals the freedom to work independently whilst providing challenge to their work to support their continued development. I’m told I have a calm, measured approach but I’m not afraid to tackle any issues which arise with my teams or clients. I like to think that I’m helping to pave the way for others like me in the health team, there’s strength in the diversity we have amongst of health leadership.    

Part of your approach at these hospitals has been introducing more electronic tools. How can you see digital changing the way the NHS is run over the coming years?

There’s an enormous opportunity for digital solutions in the NHS and I think it’ll be a huge growth area over the coming years. Digital has the ability to deliver transformation of patient services and at a lower cost and increased pace than previously possible. There is still a heavy reliance on paper records and audit trails within the NHS but the technology is there and the appetite is rapidly growing to change this. There are already some fantastic examples of digital solutions being used to transform how patient care is delivered, I’m certain we’ll see a lot more which is increasingly coordinated and innovative over the coming years.

You have been recognised for your ‘exceptional subject matter expertise’ in healthcare. How do you keep up-to-date with changes in the industry?

It’s my responsibility to stay up-to-date and relevant, whether it is around new policy, political direction within the NHS or innovations. There is a weekly health service journal, the HSJ, which is a must read for anyone working in this field along with a number of excellent websites and publications. We also have excellent knowledge sharing sessions within EY, we have a large, diverse health team with many years of experience and expertise across all fields of health I have kept my own networks within the health service, which keep me linked in developments different organisations are trialling. 

You progressed from a Senior Consultant to a Senior Manager in just six years? What tips do you have for young consultants or those who want to progress in their career?

Develop a breadth of skills and experiences in your first few years and try to take up any opportunities that come your way. After that, I think it is important to become a subject matter expert in at least one area. In a large, very complex sector like health no one can know absolutely everything but it is important to be a specialist within that and be the go-to person within your firm.

Spend time considering your development points, I think it’s natural for people to play to their strengths but it’s only through focused attention that you’ll improve your development points.  Some of these may take many years to address, that’s absolutely fine but the earlier you start working on them, the earlier you reap the rewards. 

What does the rest of 2015 hold for you?

I’m currently committed to working with two NHS Trusts where I’ll be continuing to lead EY teams to support them to achieve their objectives, and more importantly, work to develop the capacity and capability internally to secure their future sustainability. Aligned to the question about digital health, I hope to integrate digital solutions into the work I lead with clients to transform services provided to patients quicker and at a reduced cost.