Story 2 - Blog

April’s Story

April Baker was on one of Look Ahead’s first graduate schemes. She is now a charity CEO.

I joined Look Ahead in September 2010 straight after university; my first job in the charity sector. Look Ahead were one of the only non-profit organisations offering a graduate scheme and I was one of the lucky nine that got chosen to be part of 2010 cohort.

I started working in one of Look Ahead large hostels in Aldgate. It was a steep learning curve, but I am forever grateful to have worked in that service and as part of one of the most talented, resilient, and kindest teams. I was completely in awe of how they managed the daily challenges and stresses, and I learnt a lot.

It was at Look Ahead, where I realised my passion for supporting people experiencing homelessness, mental health challenges and who the system was just not working well for.  One of my proudest Look Ahead memories was setting up a floating support service in South London. We had to establish a service, hire eight staff, start supporting over 100 young people and prepare for an external assessment, all within the first six months. The energy everyone displayed to get everything in place was just incredible! I stayed at Look Ahead for five years and my last role was managing a hostel in Peckham.

Look Ahead really believes in investing in its staff, and I have carried this approach with me wherever I have gone. I benefitted from leadership training, had the opportunity to get involved in lots of projects and was even mentored by the organisation’s CEO at the time. All this combined really accelerated my learning where I was able to go into management early on in my career. When I left Look Ahead as I was by then living in Brighton, I went onto work in other organisations managing mental health services and overseeing property and business development teams.

By the age of 34, I felt ready to apply for my first CEO role and last year I became CEO for Together Co, a loneliness charity in Brighton and Hove. I don’t think I would be doing this now without the start I had. Look Ahead gave me a platform as a young female leader to believe in myself and to know I could do whatever I set my mind to. I will forever be grateful to have started my career here.