#WEDAsks – Suki Joy

Suki is a Senior Policy Advisor on the Hospital Discharge Programme at the Department of Health and Social Care (‘DHSC’). Before transitioning to the policy profession earlier this year, she was a Commercial Finance Manager at DHSC, focused primarily on NHS property companies and complex commercial projects. Prior to joining the Civil Service, Suki trained as a Chartered Accountant at KPMG, where she spent 10 years in the private sector audit and tax functions. 

Suki has been Co-Chair of the DHSC Women’s Network for 18 months. The work Suki has led in the Network has resulted in Civil Service Award and Government Commercial Function Award nominations and shortlisting for Diversity and Inclusion.

Tell us about yourself, your background, and your current role.

I am a daughter of first-generation immigrants from India, and from a working-class background in Leicester. My dad is a taxi driver and my mum a beautician. I’m immensely proud of their work ethic and sacrifices, made to give me and my sisters the best opportunities in life. After graduating, I was very fortunate in being offered a place on the KPMG graduate scheme to train as a Chartered Accountant. After a decade of professional services and a lot of great experiences, I moved to the Civil Service (like so many!) for a more rewarding and fulfilling career. I am currently a Senior Policy Advisor on the Hospital Discharge Programme at the Department of Health and Social Care. I love my job, and how challenging and interesting it is. I live in Brighton with my husband, three daughters and dog. 

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No! I studied Management Studies with French at the University of Nottingham, because I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted a fun university and to spend a year abroad exploring a different culture (which I did!) I then panic applied to the KPMG graduate scheme in my last year of university. KPMG happened to come with an accountancy qualification… But I never thought I wanted to be an accountant; I confess I do love finance now. If I’m honest, I can’t believe where I am in my career. I feel so lucky. I never thought I’d work in Westminster.

What made you decide to pursue a career in leadership?

I feel like I’ve had a lot of experience now, both professionally and personally, and a lot of help along the way too. It feels right to pay that forward by being a leader. And I love people, working with people, talking to people, and listening to people. I’ve never set out to motivate and inspire others, but I think my genuine passion for people and their ideas perhaps make me a good leader to help enable them. I won’t lie, I do naturally love taking the lead too, which works for me now… It didn’t work for me when I was the youngest of three sisters, but I think I thrive in professional leadership!

As a leader, what are some of the most important things you’ve learned about self-confidence?

I think I’m an advocate for the “fake it ‘til you make it” philosophy when it comes to self-confidence. I think most women suffer with inherent imposter syndrome. I’m no exception. I had to fake it earlier in my career, until it became real. I did always wonder if I deserved to be sat in Board rooms. I’m not sure when it “clicked” for me, but I’ve realised that you have to back yourself, or no one else will. Confidence can be natural in some, but it can definitely be learned too. I think I’m a bit of both.

Over your career, when have you been most likely to experience imposter syndrome? Can you share some examples of what triggered it and what you thought/felt at the time?

I will never forget my first major imposter syndrome moment. I had just joined a graduate scheme, and everyone was from a private or public school. We actually went round the circle at a drinks reception to say where we went to school. I went to a state school, and I’m so proud of that now. But in that moment, the pressure was too much, and I lied about my education. I’m still ashamed of that split second decision, but I’ve learned from it. I was so worried about being the black sheep or standing out. Now I realise that my strength is in my differences and actually mean that I have more to offer.

Describe your leadership style and how you ‘lead’ others, is it different to your male counterparts?

I am a confident, assertive leader. I am collaborative in my approach, and a big part of leading well for me is in listening. Am I different to men? Maybe. I’m definitely a people pleaser, and I definitely find myself apologising for speaking. But I’m working on it! Apologising less every day 😊

How did you navigate power structures early in your career versus later in your career when you had a more formal leadership role?

Early in my career, I tried to mirror and emulate the leaders of the day. I was so keen to fit the mould. Later in my career, I realised that you can only get so far by copying others in their leadership style. Authenticity and being yourself are key to being a good leader and progression, otherwise people will not trust or warm to you. I’ve been told by some that I need to be less expressive and maintain more of a “poker face”. I’ve also been told by others that my passion and enthusiasm are what make me stand out from the crowd. You can be a good leader, and be totally different to another good leader. Be yourself.

What’s the most dangerous behaviour/trait that you have seen derail female leaders’ careers?

Oooo, this is a tough one! Honestly, there are no dangerous traits that I haven’t seen male leaders exhibit too. I suppose the one that I see more often in female leaders is when someone loses confidence. I can feel it, and then reluctantly, I lose confidence in them too. It’s not exclusive to women. Also, if you’ve faked confidence with some fact, and then been proven to have got it wrong; this looks awful. I’d urge you to never lie or mis-represent uncertainty. It’s the fastest way to lose credibility.

What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned in your career?

  • Work hard, it will get noticed. 
  • Throw yourself into any opportunities that come your way – you never know where they will lead, or who you will meet. 
  • Trust yourself and have confidence in what you can do, don’t focus on what you can’t do.
  • All the things that you think make you weak; turn them into your strengths and the things that make you stand apart for all the right reasons.
  • Be yourself and believe in yourself.
  • Take on feedback, get it as often as you can!

What is the biggest or most common misconception of female leaders?

That we’re “bossy” or “argumentative”. I actually like to think of myself as quite agreeable!


Thank you for joining us for this inspiring edition of #WEDAsks with Suki Joy. Suki’s journey from a Chartered Accountant at KPMG to a Senior Policy Advisor at the Department of Health and Social Care showcases her dedication, resilience, and passion for making a difference. Her insights into navigating power structures, overcoming imposter syndrome, and the importance of authenticity in leadership provide valuable lessons for all aspiring leaders.

Suki’s candid reflections on her background, the challenges she has faced, and her leadership style highlight the importance of embracing one’s unique experiences and strengths. Her work with the DHSC Women’s Network and her commitment to fostering an inclusive environment are truly commendable.

We hope you found Suki’s story as motivating as we did. Stay tuned for more enlightening conversations in our #WEDAsks series. Remember to visit the Women Empowering Defence website and connect with us to share your thoughts and recommendations. Thank you for tuning in!

Share this interview



Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *