Magazine article Management Today

Dame Anne Owers: If I Had to Start Again

Magazine article Management Today

Dame Anne Owers: If I Had to Start Again

Article excerpt

I would love to have been a musician, but I just do not have the skills. I do play the piano, but that's strictly for my ears only. I hugely admire anyone who can play well.

I didn't sit at school saying: 'When I grow up I want to be chief inspector of prisons.' I did a research degree in African history, and I've always followed my nose. I meandered, and built up a portfolio of experience that led me down unexpected paths.

Most of my work has been with marginalised people, turning that exclusion into inclusion. I was, for example, director of Justice, the human rights organisation. When I became chief inspector of prisons in 2001, it felt like I was jumping in at the deep end: it's a huge area, a very public role and one with a steep learning curve. But it has been incredibly absorbing and has taught me a lot about society.

I was brought up in a colliery village, a very tight-knit working-class community. In a way, going to university was my first experience of a different culture. Talking to prisoners isn't a challenge at all: you just have to talk to people as people, listen to what they have to say, and ask questions. …

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