From Support Worker to Managing Director – An Interview with Sarah Clark

Posted 08/03/2024

As part of National Career’s Week and International Women’s Day, we sat down with Sarah Clark to hear about her path to becoming Managing Director of Thera East Midlands.

At Thera Group, we want all our staff to not just feel comfortable in their role, but always have access to opportunities to learn and progress in their careers.

To celebrate National Career’s Week and International Women’s Day, we spoke to Sarah Clark, Managing Director of Thera East Midlands, about her social care career so far.

Can you tell us how you started your social care career so far?

I started off working in Public Relations in the Corporate Sector, but I moved to the Midlands and had the chance to start again. Within my personal life I knew people with a disability and autism, so, when I saw an advert for a relief worker at a day opportunities, I thought ‘why not give it a go?’.

I worked with that organisation for twelve months alongside working through an agency who supported people with additional needs in the community. A permanent role then came up with the agency that is equivalent to Thera’s Community Support Leader role and that gave me my first taste of management.

Can you talk us through your career path at Thera?

I started at Thera after one of the Operational Managers at Thera East Midlands got in contact with me about another Operational Manager role coming up in Nottinghamshire. Again, I thought ‘let’s give it a go!’.

Six months later, the Managing Director at the time was doing some project work for one of the other companies in Thera Group and asked me if I would take on some extra responsibilities. I thought this would be a great opportunity to learn more, so I took on the position of Regional Manager. In that role, I helped the Managing Director with the day to day running of the company and supported the other Operational Managers.

Then the Managing Director left, which led to my appointment as Interim Lead Director and eventually applying for the permanent position of Managing Director.

Overall, I became a Managing Director in less than 10 years. I’m a bit like a sponge, I like to learn, which I think has put me in good stead over the years.

How has your experience as Thera East Midland’s Managing Director been so far?

I’ve been Managing Director for three years now but I came in at the start of COVID-19. So, I would say that my first 18 months in the role was probably a very different experience to other Managing Directors who’ve come into those roles. I was there to keep everyone safe through a really, really difficult time and there were lots of things that were thrown at us during that period. We were trying to navigate the unknown.

I think it’s probably fair to say that it is only now we are starting to get into a more ‘business as usual’ mindset and starting to look to the future.

How have you found working alongside a Director with a lived experience of a learning disability?

Helena, our Service Quality Director, and I work very closely together. We both have specific things that we’re working on separately, but we make sure that we always have time to come back together and share what we’ve been working on and utilise each other’s skills and knowledge.

Helena brings a completely different perspective to everything and she’s very good at staying focused on the people we support. If we start to get really drummed down in the business side of things, Helena is very good at saying ‘right, come back, what’s the impact on people?’.

Did you complete any qualifications or training whilst you were developing your career?

I have got a university degree but that wasn’t in Social Care. However, throughout my career I have always looked for areas where I can develop and learn. This doesn’t always have to be through formal qualifications but through going to conferences, events with Skills for Care, and training days.

You don’t have to have lots of formal qualifications in Social Care to progress within the sector. My entire senior management team have all worked in different positions within Social Care and started off as Support Workers, so my journey isn’t unusual.

How does Thera differ to other organisations you’ve worked in in the past?

I think what has kept me at Thera and made me decide this is where I want to be was the vision. A lot of companies have visions but not all of them live by it in the same way Thera does. It’s heavily embedded in absolutely everything we do, and I think that is rare.

Also, having paid leaders with a lived experience within the organisation offers us such a unique perspective and you don’t see that in other organisations.

What advice would you give to someone who is starting their career in Social Care or wanting to progress their career?

If you’ve got that inkling that you think you’d like to support people and make a difference to their lives, then you just have to go for it! You’ll have a supportive, experienced team around you who will be able to guide you whilst you’re learning, and obviously all the formal training we would give you anyway. You’ve got absolutely nothing to lose!

If you’re someone who wants to progress, grab any learning opportunity that you can and make sure your future plans are known as well. Make sure you tell your Line Manager about your wish to progress so they can work with you and put proper development plans in place. An example here at Thera East Midlands is through our apprenticeship levy, we offer NVQs relevant to whichever role someone is in which can give them the skills they need to progress into a higher position.

Start your social care career with Thera here!

If you’re a current staff member and want to learn more about our learning and progression opportunities, contact