Originally a trainee hairdresser, she changed direction after having two children at a young age. “I never wanted to have children either,” she laughed, “I wanted to have two Great Danes.”
While living in Wester Hailes in Edinburgh she started a cake decorating course, finding herself alongside several teenage mums and quickly showing a flair for helping and advising them.
She was encouraged to move into childcare and, after completing a Nursery Nursing course, was taken on as a Nursery Practitioner in a children’s centre. From there, as her family grew, she moved to a part-time job in the creche at the shopping centre in Wester Hailes.
“Wester Hailes was a very deprived area and I wanted to give something back to that community,” Julie explained. “I recognised they needed help and support.”
She was promoted to creche co-ordinator, which included responsibility for the mobile community creches, and a unit for under-twos in the grounds of a local primary school.
Julie loved her job and soon became Childcare Services Manager, where she worked for a further six years. “I loved that I was supporting children and their learning, and supporting their families,” she explained. “It is really important to understand your area and support families accordingly.”
Encouraged by one of the Inspectors who audited their services, Julie took a Care Commission Inspector’s job.
In 2007, she joined Bertram Nursery Group, now Thrive, as Area Manager, responsible for all our nurseries in Scotland. After returning from maternity leave with her fourth child, Julie became Director of Performance Management, and eventually Operations Director.
After 14 years with Thrive Childcare and Education, Julie says: “What I like about Thrive is that every day is never the same.
“When I was an Inspector, I felt the private sector got a hard time and I wanted to be part of supporting it, because parents need the private sector.
“It’s been like a family, we’ve gone through many things while I have been here and everybody is just so supportive.
“Our teams work long hours, the commitment they have to families is massive, regardless of what is happening in their own lives. During the Covid-19 closures, our teams made enormous efforts to communicate with families, while our early years team worked hard to ensure we had the guidance we needed.
“Early years is such a rewarding career, you are always influencing and impacting other people and watching them develop, that gives you a level of job satisfaction that I don’t know if you could find elsewhere. Plus, many of our staff can take their children to work with them.”
Julie said she loves her role as Operations Director because she meets and liaises with so many different people. “You are learning every day of your life. The team I work with are amazing people, with so much drive. Yes there is pressure, but it’s great fun.
“I like solving problems and helping nurseries to reach their full potential, working collaboratively with the leadership team to ensure we are meeting our families’ needs.
“I also welcome the drive for growth within Thrive, while ensuring a professional, consistent approach for all our nurseries.”
Julie plans to continue using everything she has learnt on her journey to ensure the best possible outcomes for the nursery teams and their communities.