Author: Vicky Laker

Teamwork or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the QC

by Vicky Laker |

You get to the end of a piece of work, you’ve checked it over, run the spell checker, checked it again, checked everything is aligned properly, checked it again, read it aloud to check the grammar, checked it again. You think it’s looking great and perhaps it is ready to share with the client. But as a final check, you send it to a colleague to QC and there it is… all your bullet points have no full stop at the end except one. How many other inconsistencies have crept through? Great start to a bad day, right…?

As you know, our brains are so clever that they will automatically correct errors we have made so we simply do not see them. That’s amazing, isn’t it? Yet we automatically lean towards chastising ourselves for these minor errors even when it is our own incredible minds that override us. What is a perfectionist like me to do?


In my time at Makara, I have learned so much about what it means to work together as a team, and utilise the incredible power of the QC. Within the Client Services Team it is not unusual for us to openly discuss the seemingly simplest of tasks so that we can attack a job from all angles and aim for the smartest outcome. Acknowledging the areas that you struggle with is not a display of weakness, it is a display of strength, and utilising all the skills of the people around you means a swifter and more robust answer to the challenge you are looking at. When writing blog pieces I will always send them over to my friend and colleague Gina Gough. Her interest in writing and editing means she is kind when she reminds me that I have a tendency to use too many hyphens… I openly acknowledge that, whilst I can get ideas down on the page, my strength does not lie in finding the best grammar, structure and phrasing. But it is one of her strengths so it makes sense to embrace her skills and use this incredible resource that I have within my own team. At the end of the day, everyone wins when we combine our collective talents.

I’m not going to lie, I do love a QC job. Maybe it is the inner child in me who once pretended to be a teacher,  taking the register or marking homework with my red and green biros. I confess that when I receive a QC job from one of my colleagues who is renowned for their attention to detail, there is a small and very discreet celebration when I find an error. We all find reassurance in the fact that even the most intelligent and accomplished people can still make a mistake. I often think of the story that a colleague recently shared about a space rocket launch scuppered by a misplaced character in the coding. That doesn’t mean I gloat about it. I couldn’t write any of the medical material my colleagues do, but I can sniff out an errant double space from 100m away. When we acknowledge our own weaknesses, but can still recognise the strengths both in ourselves and others, then we are on the best path to creating something great.

By working with others who constructively critique our work, we in turn learn to pick up better habits, implementing them in our future work. The editing superhero in your team will help you to become a better writer. And, as you will have no doubt noticed, there are no hyphens in this blog… perhaps I am growing as a writer? (Though I fear she may have something to say about my use of ellipses).

The What If? Dilemma

by Vicky Laker |

It has come to that time of year where I am starting to think about my upcoming appraisal and I, like many others, struggle with the question “What achievements are you most proud of?” For some reason we just aren’t wired to take pride in our own hard work and achievements.

In the Client Services Team, we are constantly striving to improve and streamline the way we work – improving the offering that we can provide to our colleagues and clients. Our work is driven by the question “What If?” What If there is a better way to approach this project? What If there is a piece of software that can complete this job in a quarter of the time? What If there is a process that is more efficient?

At home, the What If question has also crept in – to varying degrees:

I’m out of fresh lime for my G&T, What If I used a slice of orange instead?

What If you really can panic-buy too much tinned soup?

What If my partner doesn’t get any more work this year?

What If one of us gets sick?

Some of these questions are simple – turns out a slice of orange in your G&T is rather lovely. But other questions open up a daunting world of uncertainty and we have all faced an awful lot of that in the past couple of years.

In her book, Daring Greatly, Brené Brown talks about the importance of vulnerability, of stepping out of your comfort zone and stepping into the arena:

Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience. We must walk into the arena… a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process… with the courage and willingness to engage. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgement and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen.”

That’s the beauty of the What If question – whilst it requires you to be vulnerable, to step into the arena and embrace the unknown, it is ultimately empowering. You are pushed to ask the more challenging questions of yourself. What If this method is no longer working for us? What If I had the one idea that makes all the difference to a client marketing campaign?  And that is also the beauty of working at a company like Makara. No matter what your career background or your position in the organisation, we are all actively encouraged every day, to step into the arena – everybody has a valid contribution, everyone has a valid viewpoint.

As a result, last year, I pledged myself to step into the arena more often. If someone sent a call out for ideas, I would respond with at least one contribution. When the request went out for a blog piece, I said yes. And I have continued to push for solutions for problems we thought were unsolvable – always asking the question What If? What if there is another way? What If we just aren’t asking the right questions yet?

When my annual review came around last year, Makara Health asked me What If you were the Client Services Team Manager? The offer was overwhelmingly flattering but also incredibly daunting. But here I am, nearly one year on, out of the comfort zone and firmly planted in the arena.

The Room Where It Happens – What I’ve learned from bringing my home and work life closer together

by Vicky Laker |

It’s a Thursday afternoon and I am on a Teams call doing some internal training.  The front door opens with a gust of wind and rain. It’s Mr B and the dog returning from the park.  I mute my microphone, so my colleagues won’t hear the sound of man and dog shaking off wet clothing and signal to Mr B to hold the dog up so I can see her belly. She is presented to me like the newborn Simba at the beginning of The Lion King and, as I thought, she is filthy. She needs washing off in the kitchen sink, located directly in the line of sight of my laptop camera. I switch the video feed off as nobody needs to witness this, or the inevitable escape of the dog and the ensuing chase around the house.

Whilst this is small fry compared to the man who was gatecrashed by his kids whilst live on the BBC, the fact remains that we are nearly a year into our intermittent lockdown, and home and work life have become inextricably combined. So how do you keep the balance between the two when living in a small two-up two-down terrace in the middle of Salisbury and your dining table-turned-desk dominates the downstairs living area?

As a senior project co-ordinator within the Makara client services team, I have always worked from our base in Salisbury, unlike many of the account-handling team who are more used to agile working. If anything, I have really enjoyed being able to move seamlessly from home to work and back again.   There’s no forgetting your lunch. No last-minute dash to the office. No realising that you have put on completely inappropriate shoes that you are now going to have to struggle through the day wearing. But how do you put structure back in a day where you may be spending 24/7 in the same set of four rooms? 

I have given myself a schedule, which means having to leave the house every morning before starting work. I have tried to implement some of the office routine into the home space – screen breaks are still important but instead of checking the stationery supplies, I can fill up the bird feeder or put away the remaining bits of last night’s washing up. On my lunchbreak, instead of walking through town, I pass the hour enjoying one of my favourite hobbies – cooking.

Filling the gap created by the hum of the office has been harder. I’m a bit of an introvert, but as much as I like my own company, it is hard for me to work alone.  I miss the chit chat, the spontaneous conversation, the background noise. Some of these gaps are now filled with an early morning coffee with a colleague over Teams, while others are filled with podcasts, or listening to the Hamilton soundtrack… AGAIN (my poor neighbours!).

And sometimes work life bleeds into home life.  But I am a multi-tasker, and it is not unusual for me to be checking my emails whilst simultaneously feeding the dog and warming up for my run. Occasionally I work later than I may have done if I was still in the office but there’s no more getting hangry! I can still have my dinner at 6pm, even if it is being eaten “al desko” whilst Mr B watches the news on the sofa next to me.

Will I miss working from home when this is all over? Yes, a bit. All those funny little pockets of time throughout the day when you are waiting for the kettle to boil or for the microwave to ding have been filled up with small tasks – emptying the bin or putting the laundry away. Incorporating them into the gaps in my workday have meant that they are not there waiting for me when I clock off.  My home life has been enriched by the coexistence of my work life. And in the evening, I can shut down my laptop and segue from desk to sofa in five short steps. However, there will come a time when it will be good to have our living room back – and maybe even eat a meal at our dining table. And it will be good to get back into the office again – I miss laughing so loud the Finance team can hear me in the office next door. Perhaps I’m not so much of an introvert after all.