Rachel Gwyon took part in the programme from 2013-2014. After graduating with a degree in physics from Oxford, and following a brief stint working in commercial lending, Rachel moved to the public sector, where she spent 23 years in a variety of roles related to Scottish interests, including within the UK and European Union. Rachel knew several alumni who had attended the Saltire programme and had observed the enhanced competencies, increased confidence and broader perspective the Fellows had demonstrated upon their return. She applied to the programme with the expectation of leveraging its learnings both to improve the government’s internal dynamics and to enhance its ability to understand and work with the corporate sector.
A major benefit of the Fellowship for Rachel was the opportunity to spend time in a different environment with a diverse group of people focused on exploring new ideas.
“If you’ve been doing the same thing for 20 years, it’s difficult to make a significant change unless you change your environment. The Fellowship took me outside my comfort zone and thrust me into a world of people with a diverse range of ages, backgrounds, experiences, perspectives and ambitions. I relished the dynamic pace of ideas and networking. The experience was like a massive recharge of the battery.”
Being in such a new environment with a diverse cohort enabled Rachel to “recalibrate” her sense of her own abilities and leadership style and better understand her strengths and how to use them effectively.
Following completion of the Fellowship in April 2014, Rachel held three interim posts in the run-up to the referendum, drawing on the flexibility and resilience which the entrepreneurial mindset approach encourages. Following the vote, in September 2014 she was put in charge of leading the establishment of a business development bank focused on financing SMEs. The work has drawn heavily on one of her Saltire projects in Boston which involved connecting with a range of public and private sector banking and finance leaders in the USA and learning from their priorities, business models and approaches. Confirming Rachel’s own perception that the Saltire Fellowship enhanced her leadership effectiveness, an objective occupational psychological assessment, conducted in February 2015, demonstrated a marked change to a more people-oriented leadership style, with increased emphasis on engagement and relationship building adding to her conventional policy development skills, identified in Spring 2013.