Dr Suzy Walton

  • Current role: Multi sector Board Director and former Senior Civil Servant Ministry of Defence and Cabinet Office. Also mother of six children (the hardest job of all).
  • Year of graduation: 1994 and 1995
  • BSC Hons Psychology, MSC Occupational Psychology

Dr Suzy Walton

The training and understanding I gained in human interaction, human performance and scientific methodology set me up brilliantly for my subsequent career.

We asked Suzy...

What is your current role and how did you get to this point in your career?

I am on many boards and government committees. I’m a board member of the Institute of Directors in London and chair its Accreditation and Standards Committee.  I am also on the board of Combat Stress and am chairman of the Clinical Governance Committee.

Other board memberships include the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), also chairman of the Qualifications Board, and the State Honours Committee. I was also recently appointed by the Lord Chancellor to be on the disciplinary panel of the Judicial Conduct Investigation Office.

I have also recently been appointed to the board of the Royal Society of Medicine. I also sit on the State Honours Committee in the Cabinet Office. which makes recommendations for honours to the Queen and the Prime Minister. My other role is as a mother of six!

How did your studies at the University of Hertfordshire help shape your career?

I used my three degrees a lot. I am a psychologist first and a board member second! What psychology has given me is the ability to be objective as a board member. I can take a robust approach to issues and listen to the evidence, stating my own case clearly and objectively.

However due to my training in human dynamics I’m also able to step back – as one must on a board – and put the data aside and focus on the human relationships and the key enabling factors that will allow any decision made by a board to actually translate into a difference on the ground.

I will also be ever grateful to Herts lecturer Dr Richard Wiseman. Through him I learnt a lot about the psychology of deception and my own expertise in this was put to extreme use by the Ministry of Defence. I can’t say any more on this without breaching the Official Secrets Act!

What made you decide to study at this University?

The course was what attracted me to Hertfordshire but I also had to pick a location that would mean I could still be home to care for my young family and also access London as I was still working.

What was the best or most useful thing about your course?

The training and understanding I gained in human interaction, human performance and scientific methodology set me up brilliantly for my subsequent career.

What is your stand out memory from your time at the University?

When I arrived at Hertfordshire I had one child so I remember always rushing and never having the time to be able to join other students at social events!

I then had a second child while studying which made things even harder. I remember finding information very accessible however – even when I had to sometimes turn up in the wee small hours to use the library because the children wouldn’t let me do so earlier!

Are you still in contact with friends you met at the University of Hertfordshire?

No I am not in contact with those I studied with as I was too busy studying and raising a family to make many friends!

What advice would you give your younger self if you were starting at the University tomorrow?

“Achievement matters.” Just that!

Do you have any advice for University of Hertfordshire graduates who are considering a career in your industry?

It is hard to have a specific career aim of being a board director. There are still (sadly) too few women on boards to make it a conscious career path.

However for women, or indeed anyone wishing to do as well as they can in their chosen sector I would say – have humility, be prepared to fail, and always have the courage to try…and try again.

What are your future career plans/ ambitions?

I have six children now and at any one time usually around six jobs on the go. I would like to continue to do what I do. I am passionate about corporate governance and sitting on boards allows you to direct an organisation’s strategy while having legal responsibilities for its safety, solvency and compliance.

I want the UK to continue to be one of the centres of excellence worldwide in corporate governance and I hope to be able to continue working to achieve that. I also want to continue to enjoy my family.

My children currently range from two upwards. I was a widow for many years and I learnt the value of family in those times. I thus vow every day to give my all to my family and my organisations – in that order!

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