Through The Looking Glass – by Andy Broomhead

Before Alice steps through the mirror into Looking-Glass Land she sits and ponders what it’s like to be on the other side. What would it be like to go from the comfort of her armchair in her familiar surroundings to a totally different world.

Tortured literary metaphors notwithstanding, I recently had the opportunity to step into the unknown as I started working for Diabetes UK on a short term contract.  I’ve been a volunteer with Diabetes UK in one guise or another for over four years so making the step to working there (even just for three months) was a little daunting.  The blog team asked me to write about what it’s like to see the charity from both sides (SPOILER – there’s no Jabberwock).

Settling in

I think the thing that strikes me most is how much of a human element there is to everything.  That might seem like a blindingly obvious thing to say (and it is), but when you spend so much time communicating with people through Twitter and e-mail, it’s easy to forget that it’s real people that you’re dealing with.  I think Vicky’s blog was a great reminder to everyone who uses social media that it’s real people at the heart of any organisation.

Real people in the office

The view from my office booth


It’s also busy – very busy.  From my time on the Council of People Living with Diabetes (CPD) (I wrote about one of those meetings here and you can find info about CPD here) I know that there’s a lot of change going on which I think will make the charity able to better serve those affected by diabetes.  Whilst CPD gives a great overview of what’s happening, to step foot inside and see it all in action does make you realise how fast paced things can be.

What’s it really like?

In a way, it’s like a lot of places I’ve worked before.  I can’t quite figure out the newfangled printers and I always seem to end up in the basement when I use the lift (though I’m assured it’s not just me that happens to).  There’s also that concept, familiar to millions of office workers, of going from meeting to meeting to meeting (stopping only to remain appropriately caffeinated of course).

There’s also baffling mandatory training about box lifting (which seems to be compulsory in every office I’ve ever worked in).  There’s regulations to think about, people all over the UK coordinating what they’re doing.  And there’s the feeling I often in get in my line of work (that is, contract work) of having to get up to speed on how a lot of things actually work very quickly.

It’s also a lot of fun, which is a really important part of any job.  As much as we’d all like that big Euromillions win, I think we know it’s unlikely to happen, and so finding a job we enjoy is so crucial.   It’s good to actually be working with people I’ve corresponded with over phone, email and social media before and I think I’m lucky in the sense that I’ve come into an organisation where I’ve got friends and good working relationships.

How does each view compare?

Don’t get me wrong, as a volunteer, I know that not every dealing with the charity is perfect or easy to navigate.  There are things I look at that I wish were more straightforward for volunteers.  As someone who works here I see that it’s equally frustrating for staff, and that a lot of people want to iron out the kinks and make it easier for people to engage with and be part of Diabetes UK.


All the mugs in the kitchen here have things like this on them.   To me it’s a reminder that it’s all about people.  It’s people with diabetes who need support.  It’s people who want to volunteer and help others.  It’s people raising money to support research.  It’s people working here who want to make Diabetes UK the best it can be.

Like anything that involves people, sometimes it won’t go the way anyone wants it to, but I don’t think that’s through a lack of hard work.  I feel lucky to have the chance to do something meaningful here, even just for a few months.  I think there’s a lot happening that people can be positive about and it’s been a great experience to climb through the looking-glass and hopefully make a difference along the way.

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