The Big Interview with Alex Cuckson

Alex Cuckson is Senior Procurement & Contracts Manager at London Fire Brigade, the busiest fire and rescue service in England.

In our latest Big Interview, Lauren Bell spoke with Alex about her career within the Public Sector and how she started in Procurement.

You recently made a move to London Fire Brigade, what was it about this organisation that initially attracted you to the Interim Senior Procurement Manager role?

I recently started at London Fire Brigade because I love the vision of what it stands for – to keep London safe.

I love that.

I think that it is a really great organisation in terms of variety of work, you are across absolutely everything from appliances right through to uniform. It could be training and development, it could be a whole range of things so you never quite know what you are going to be involved with.

The people here are absolutely fantastic and very supportive, I have never worked anywhere other than here where collectively we have the same goal as an organisation which makes it a fantastic place to work. I literally skip into work every single day because I know that I will be challenged but in a great way.

You’ve had an impressive career in Procurement, how did you first get into the industry?

I first got into Procurement after I announced to the Head of Strategic Procurement at Camden that I was moving from recruitment and he asked me if I fancied joining the team, as at the time, as a recruitment consultant, you know that you think in terms of making money on a monthly basis, so the transition from that to making savings is quite swift.

I haven’t actually looked back since, it is something that is deeply rewarding, deeply challenging and I am very privileged to do something that I really love every single day.

What made you make the move into the interim market?

Good always comes from bad, I had a role in a county council where I unfortunately was bullied and it made me a bit bolder, and the interim market means I can choose where I want to be more easily.

Further to that you actually get a greater variety of work and the opportunity to grow and develop on every level is that much more. So, I think the interim market, you have to jump in with both feet when you start a new role and that is what I love.

The majority of your career has been within the public sector, what do you most enjoy about this sector and what are the opportunities to progress your career within the public sector?

The public sector to me is about providing real value at a bigger level than yourself. And by that, I mean as a ratepayer, I know where my money is going.

I love the fact that what I do contributes to society, you’re talking about growth and development within a safe space, I personally feel much more protected working within a public body and I think the opportunities to grow and develop, they really are on an ongoing basis whether it is formal or informal or hybrid, there is always an opportunity that you wouldn’t necessarily get anywhere else and I love the structure of that.

As an interim and someone who has also hired on an interim basis into other organisations, what would you say are the main benefits to a business in investing in interim hires?

I think as an interim myself, what people get as a client is the commitment from day 1 that includes that additional energy.

Hitting the ground running.

There isn’t really any room for hanging around and trying to understand things, you have to get on with the job swiftly. I think that is tremendously beneficial because you start to see the value quickly.

As someone who has recruited for interims previously, I think it is a really quick solution that provides value for money, if you are managing the situation properly so that you get what you need to get done a lot faster.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where recruiting for permanent members of staff is much more challenging and so I think, 1 – it is a quick solution, there are some really amazing people out there, and 2 – it allows you to recruit permanent people in parallel or to cover some of the special projects that sometimes come out which is part of the fun of working in a public body where you never know what is going to happen each day.

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