Ellena Mavrakis, Senior Costing Manager, University Hospitals Birmingham

Being born with brain damage that affects your speech, posture and muscle control isn’t a great start but with the right mindset doesn’t need to stand in the way of success…

A complication at birth meant I began life with an uncertain future however I was extremely fortunate that this event and the physical consequences didn’t become the focus of my life. Throughout childhood I was very determined and continually encouraged to harness my abilities and focus on what I could do rather than what I couldn’t and it is that attitude that has got me to where I am today.

After achieving well at school I then graduated with a maths degree from the University of Birmingham. Following graduation with no career plan I started working in Finance at West Mercia Police where I began my studying CIMA. It was in 2005 that I then began a career in NHS Finance at South Warwickshire NHSFT. After working in Management Accounts, Financial Accounts and Income across both Provider and Commissioner NHS organisations I finally moved into Costing at University Hospitals Birmingham. Working in Costing has enabled me to utilise my analytical skills and NHS experience perfectly. Costing is an extremely insightful area to work in as you are able to understand and support the whole organisation from a number of different angles. I’ve worked in Costing now for over 10 years and I’ve begun thinking about what my next steps could be. I decided to apply for the ONF Breaking Diversity Barriers (BDB) course to both boost my confidence and gain insight on how to potentially approach a future challenge.

I found the application process for BDB itself provided a good self-reflection exercise and allowed me to think about what I had achieved and what I was still striving for. I attended the course in early 2023 which ran for 3 days, spread over 3 months. The scheduling of the course over several months worked well as allowed time for reflection and gave us opportunity to implement some of the ideas which we could then feedback on to the group.

Key parts of the course I found helpful were:

  • Hearing from Caroline Owusu-Bennoah at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and learning about her journey to CFO. Her story really resonated with me when she talked about having imposter syndrome and how often it’s down to the luck of meeting individuals that can make the difference to your career.
  • The session with Vida Carmel on ‘Connecting with you Authentic Self’ highlighted how positive thinking and being yourself can bring about a more confident persona than trying to be someone you’re not. In addition it was demonstrated how obstacles can be put there by us as individuals, not necessarily by others and if you address the way you think that can help you break through barriers.
  • The final day focused on how to approach writing an application form and how best to prepare for an interview. This provided useful techniques for presenting yourself, building self-confidence and rethinking situations with a positive mindset.
  • Lastly meeting other people on the course and hearing their stories was a privilege. It was extremely valuable to learn from them and I now have a further network of people to call upon for advice… we even have a whatapp group!

A number of people have asked me, following the course what I’m going to do now? I’m in a difficult position as thoroughly enjoy the role I have but equally feel I have the ability and knowledge to achieve more. I’m still unsure exactly what to aim for, the course has definitely given me a bit more confidence which is what I was hoping for. I feel better equipped to carry out the role I have now and if any opportunities come along in the future I’ll be better prepared for them too!

Finally I’m keen for everyone at all levels to remember… Ability is not necessarily with those you might assume, and talent can often be found in those who don’t look or sound the way you may expect!

Ellena Mavrakis, Senior Costing Manager, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.

Ellena is also an Inclusion and Diversity ambassador for her trust. To become an Inclusion and Diversity ambassador, please click here: I&D Ambassadors (onenhsfinance.nhs.uk)