Daniella Dutton – My career in University sport development

A little bit about me and my career: When I was younger, my aim was ALWAYS to be a physiotherapist but unfortunately, I didn’t get the grades I needed to go to University, so my end goal changed. For a while I wasn’t sure what to do and then I managed to get 2 weeks of work experience at Capital One in their HR Department which actually turned into 2 and a half years of various placements, temporary assignments and a huge learning curve to the point I was made redundant. Following this, I went on to work at the University of Nottingham which is where I’ve been ever since (coming up to 12 years now)! 7 of those years were spent in the Careers and Employability Service helping students find out about their career options post-graduation and the remaining 5 have been spent at UoN Sport in a job that I absolutely LOVE! My aim is to get both students and staff active and every day is unique, different and a pleasure. 

There is no typical day in my career, Every day is different and for the past year I’ve been working from home so my days look very different, but when I’m in the office, a normal would involve admin tasks first thing in the morning (usually data analysis or reporting on stats), conversations with my student ambassadors on what they are required to do, brain storming with the team on new ideas or initiatives and then a drop in at a session I run or a watch of some sport taking place on campus. 

‘Every day is unique, different and a pleasure’

Ever since I was little, I’ve been interested in sport. Being active and working in a job that isn’t solely office based. When I was in the Careers and Employability Service, I ran an event about ‘Careers in Sport’ and met my line manager and one of my colleagues – at this point I heard about the role of Participation Sport Development Officer in the UoN Sport team and thought that sounds right up my street, so I contacted the hiring manager, asked a few questions and the rest is history! 

I’ve been fairly lucky throughout my career and I guess the biggest challenge I faced was being made redundant from Capital One at the age of 21 but because of this, I got my first position at the University and can honestly say I’ve never looked back! 

The attacked the setbacks I faced head on, when I was made redundant by Capital One, I applied for roles that had transferable skills and allowed me to utilise the things I was good at (communication, organisation skills and working with people) – without these skills I wouldn’t have had the career I’ve had so far.

One of the important initiative’s that I feel passionate about in my role are I currently work on is a programme called Empower which is a Sport England funded project and is all about encouraging girls to keep fit, educate themselves on a healthy lifestyle and become part of a dynamic community. Through this project I’ve been able to run large scale events, smaller more niche events and meet a huge range of girls from a mixture of backgrounds, courses and countries. Seeing the look on their faces when they try a new sport for the first time or meet someone new is unbelievable. 

I think what gave me the drive and determination to succeed was I’ve always worked from a young age (got a Tea Room gig at the age of about 14) and loved the feeling of having structure, routine and getting my own money. The job I’m in now also allows me to meet lots of new people, help them become active and be innovative and creative with what we offer. 

‘I’ve always worked from a young age’

Being a female in my role is great because the team I work in is very diverse and it’s nice to share thoughts, ideas and bounce off each other. 

My biggest achievement in life would be skydiving out of a plane after raising about £1,000 for Alzheimers Research in memory of my mama! 

The biggest lesson that I’ve learnt along the way would be just don’t worry about the little things – every problem has a solution, you just need to be adaptive in order to find it! 

I have never felt in my role that my gender has brought unnecessary challenges as the University is a fantastic place to work and is very committed to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion so I’ve never felt any unnecessary challenges due to my gender. 

‘Every problem has a solution’

My favorite hobbies outside of work are going to live sport, keeping fit and spending time with my friends and family.

The mantra you live my life by would be remember that everything happens for a reason and as long as you learn from it, then there’s always something positive to be gained! 

My top three tips that I would give to young females starting their careers would be to be confident in yourself, be open to learning from those around you and don’t have any fear (you can achieve anything that you want to)!

The best bit of advice that I have ever been given would be that there is no I in team! This has taught me so much and allowed me to relax when sharing out workloads and working towards shared goals and objectives. 

‘Don’t have any fear’

One woman who has really impacted your life would be my sister – she’s so smart, ambitious and driven and has already achieved so much by the time she hit 30! She impresses me on a daily basis and is always trying to do better for other people, continue to learn and be the best at what she does! 

My key motivators are being active. This is something that has hugely helped my mental health and when times have been really tough, getting out for a walk or going to the gym has helped me rebalance and refocus so being in an industry that encourages people to be active and improve their mental health and wellbeing is really important to me. 

One key leadership lesson I’ve learned along the way would be that listening is JUST as important as leading! 

What would I say to my 16-year-old self would be don’t be afraid! Jump into things with both feet and always give it a go. What’s the worst that could happen?! 

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