Rachel Youngman looks ahead in new post for the IOP

18 August 2014

Rachel Youngman thought she’d finished with physics for good after she passed her physics O-level, but now she wants to use her business skills and experience in the charitable sector to help the IOP to achieve its goals.

Rachel Youngman

As the IOP’s chief operating officer (COO) – an interim post created in the restructuring of the Institute – she’ll head the services that support the IOP’s work: communications, IT, membership, international, outreach and engagement, and corporate development.

She’ll also contribute to the process of change at the Institute as it refocuses its activities and strategy and puts more emphasis on members as key to the organisation. It’s a role that she’s used to.

“I worked for many years in a membership organisation comprising individual lawyers and professional bodies from 160 countries. As deputy chief executive I did the day-to-day running and the commercial law side of things.

“I’m familiar with a council and committee structure and with groups covering different disciplines. I also worked on international projects and on restructuring to put members back at the heart of the organisation. I think that’s very relevant to this job because the IOP’s new strategy is about the members.

“From there I started my own business as a consultant and interim for a number of organisations and government departments. I work as an interim in varied leadership roles for a range of charities with a particular focus on criminal justice. The majority of my work is with organisations going through some degree of change, to help them to work their way through that.

“Most often my work is due to changes brought about by external factors, where an organisation had lost funding and needed to alter its size or structure or to develop new areas of work. A lot of that required me to look at their focus, strategy and funding. It involved business planning as well as looking at sustainability and building and reshaping teams.” Youngman runs her business, often working with other consultants on client assignments.

When she was approached to apply for the IOP job, she saw it as an interesting opportunity that brought together all that she’d done before. “It was about change but also about building and strengthening the organisation, and about membership.”

She’s involved in the governance of several charities in a voluntary capacity, including Prisoners Abroad and a choir for people with no fixed home, “The Choir with No Name”.

Youngman believes physics teaching and the image of physics is improving, not least because of the work of the IOP. “My niece did A-level physics because she had the most fantastic teacher. When I told friends that I was going to work for the Institute of Physics, every single one of them said ‘physics is fascinating, I would love to work there’.” She’s also pleased to see science and technology put at the top of the agenda by many developing countries as they address their needs.

“All of that makes me enthuse about the possibilities there are for the IOP. It’s a relatively small organisation in staffing terms so I really want to bring people together across the various functions to bring all the skills needed to bear on particular pieces of work.

“I’m a charities person through and through and I have a strong sense of what charities can achieve, but also a strong sense that they need to apply business principles and to work in partnerships and sometimes take things to a certain point and then hand them on to others. The world of charities is a good one as long as charities make robust decisions based on sensible business information.

“There are lots of positives ahead and this change is about strengthening the organisation. Change is often complex, but I can see why this is being done and that there’s real value, so it’s easy for me to get behind it. I hope our members will too.”