Having left school at 16, I went to work for Royal Mail in Wolverhampton. After six years there, I moved for a year to live with some friends in the North West, where I worked in Chester and lived in Liverpool. Whilst I was working for Royal Mail, I delivered a post round in several different areas, manually sorted letters and packets, learnt to type and become a coder where I would type in the postcodes for the machines to add the dots on the letters (remember those?) for the machines to sort them for distribution. I worked all the shifts available – earlies, lates, nights, and did as much as I could to learn as much of the business as possible.
After being unable to move from my role into an admin setting (due to being too good at my job so I was told), I left the business and worked as an Internal Sales person at a couple of businesses. After being unlucky in a couple of consecutive roles with redundancy due to parent companies leaving the UK and downsizing, I eventually started work for the local out of hours GP service.
I worked for Wolverhampton Doctors On Call (WDOC) for best part of seven years, and really enjoyed making a difference in a not-for-profit organisation. The work I did was an IT Analyst / Project Manager. My duties ranged from producing performance statistics and measuring them against National Quality Standards, presenting the findings to our commissioners, conducting patient satisfaction surveys, and implementing service change to increase efficiency, reduce time delays, and to improve our effectiveness at delivering a service for patients.
When WDOC lost their contract to a commercial organisation, I was made redundant and chose to relocate back to Yorkshire, where a year later I started work for the NHS Information Centre, which went on to become NHS Digital as it is now known.
In my role, I have performed a number of roles that had project management aspects to them, even if like now I was working as a Business Support Manager. I have worked as a Product Owner and Scrum Master in some assignments and have benefited from the variety of assignments that I have been involved with in my nearly eight years in the organisation.
I managed projects where I allocated career managers to 500 members of the organisation’s Business and Operational Delivery profession. This meant working with effectively a 500-piece human jigsaw with all kinds of different needs and preferences. I delivered this project well and was praised for my effectiveness at managing upwards as well as getting the job done.
To do this involved collating user needs, requirements gathering, liaison and negotiation, documenting specifications, resolving queries, data cleansing, creating functionality and implementing the final product.
Working as effectively an Agile Project Manager for the General Practice Extraction Service (GPES) I carried out the roles of Product Owner / Scrum Master on behalf of the Delivery Manager. I coordinated all data extractions keeping them to schedule by leading the team through agile sprints and seeking updates from daily stand-ups with the analysts / developers and keeping the team Kanban whiteboards updated. I managed the contracts process with suppliers and communicated with stakeholders to ensure that progress was being made at pace.
As part of the team that designed the specifications for the GPES system, I provided input into the user interface and how the system needed to operate. This system went on to carry out the first ever automated extraction of GP practice data which led to payments being calculated then and since then for the 7800 practices across the country.
After years of being involved with rugby league, I decided that I needed to do something different – something for me, something to challenge me, and to try a new world that was different from the world I had lived previously. A friend suggested to me that I should take part in the Liverpool Santa Dash with them that coming year – December 2012. I started off not being able to run to the end of the road. I had a lot of work to do to be able to run 5k. Being a ‘heavy lad’, it was going to do me good though to gain some form of fitness. I went out after dark and drove away from my home area, and started running bit by bit, until I can run further each time. I would reach my target of being able to run 5k – and I would be dressed as Santa too!
After taking part in the Liverpool Santa Dash with 8,000 other Santas, I had caught the running bug and wanted to do more of it. Mass participation running events are an amazing coming together of communities and it was something I wanted to be part of. Within the next 20 months, I had taken part in my first ever marathon!
Since those early days of setting out running, I have now ran over 100 races, including four marathons, a duathlon, a sprint triathlon, and coming up to 200 parkruns. Running is good fun. It helps you see the country and meet lots of new friends. I highly recommend trying it!
As I touched on earlier, before I started running, I was very heavily involved with the sport of Rugby League. When I was living in Wolverhampton, there wasn’t much going on in that area for this sport. There was Wolverhampton Wizards, a team of rugby union players that played league during their off-season, and whilst they did great work to get people involved trying the sport out, and had good togetherness, there wasn’t the passion for the sport that I and some others had. I had been their club press officer for a while and went on to be their club manager. This was their best spell at the club as we had built passion off the pitch as well as recruiting well on the pitch. They won the Midlands Regional Championship whilst I was at the helm which was great to be a part of.
Something was missing. The passion was missing. What if a club could be set up with players who loved Rugby League? What if it was their number one choice of sport? If there was a fixture clash of union or league, would they choose league? That is what I was looking for. So that is what I went out and built. Together with two like-minded colleagues, I set up Wolverhampton Warlords and built this dream. Within two years we had 200 people try out Rugby League for the first time or brought them back to the sport. Not all stayed, but a lot of them reignited that passion for the game once again. I was given an award for being Pioneer of the Year by the sport’s governing body for this dedication to the local game.
The game in the area had strengthened, and Wolverhampton Wizards and Wolverhampton Warlords were eventually brought together in a merger before I moved back up north. That stronger depth was now there with greater Rugby League nous involved and I could leave the sport in the area confident that my work was done.
When I arrived back in Yorkshire, I soon got involved with a local community tag rugby team. I soon got involved with the management aspect and led them to a great season of achievements, picking up several pieces of silverware on the way. We had expanded the playing roster so big that we were having to have two large squads play at the same time due to the eagerness of players. After a great year, the club were adopted by Featherstone Rovers as their official tag and touch rugby side. Some players didn’t like it and left, but the club went on a great winning spell, chalking up a number of tournament wins and winning the league that year, but losing out in the play off final. We had a win rate of 69% that year, and whilst it was dramatic on and off the pitch a lot of the time, I knew my time in the sport was coming to an end. It was time for something else, something for me and my own fitness – and that is when I turned to running.
After I had taken part in the 2013 Great North Run, I had written a piece on Facebook to all the supportive friends I had at Sweatshop Castleford. It had described my journey from stepping up from running my first ever 10k that April to five months later running the greatest half marathon in the World – the Great North Run. People said to me after reading that piece, that I should write a blog and to think about writing about ‘my story’ of starting running. I was overwhelmed by the support and happiness that writing an appreciative thank you to friends and other runners that it led me to think that maybe I could enjoy writing and sharing what comes into my head on running and other subjects. Some six years later and I am still blogging, still writing content for social media, and still getting appreciative comments from other runners and friends about my content. You can read my blog posts at www.richlord.co.uk
After people had started paying interest in my writing, I decided to convert some of those blog posts about my first steps running into an e-book. I wrote the book, I got a cover designed for me and the copy converted into the format required and got my e-book published online.