How I got where I am today: Police Superintendent

Kate Stephen, 36, Superintendent (Operations) Aberdeenshire and Moray Division for Police Scotland describes her career path

What did you want to be when you were young?
I was quite sporty as a youngster, a keen runner and swimmer so I always wanted to compete doing something like that. Unfortunately, my love for these two sports waned when I went off to university so my ambition to secure a gold medal never materialised.

What are the main career stepping stones you have taken?
I would say there are three which have helped me get to where I am today, the first and probably most significant, which has opened many doors and created lots of opportunities for me was being successful and accepted on to the Accelerated Career Development Programme, a nationally recognised talent management scheme. The second would be transferring from one police force to another prior to Police Scotland and experiencing the differences and challenges that brought with it and finally securing a national role, leading on prevention for Police Scotland from the very beginning of the new merged organisation.

Are you scared of making mistakes?
Nobody – including me – likes or sets out to make mistakes but we are only human so these things happen sometimes. I wouldn't say I'm necessarily scared of making mistakes but I would be very disappointed if mistakes I make have a detrimental impact on others. I guess the important thing is to learn from them and not to make the same one twice. I've never been afraid to ask others on anything I'm not quite sure about so hopefully that helps prevent me making too many mistakes.

Who's been your greatest influence?
My parents without a doubt, I grew up in Glasgow surrounded by quite a large family. We lost our mum to cancer when we were all very young which was difficult for my dad – particularly with four young kids but never did I feel any overwhelming sadness or impact throughout what must have been such a traumatic time in all of our lives. My step mum came into my life from the age of six and brought with her the most admirable ambition, drive and work ethic I've ever seen in anyone. Her success, enthusiasm and positivity has been and continues to be a huge influence on me, particularly in my approach to work and my career.

Best achievement so far?
My best career achievement to date has to be the introduction of Police Scotland Youth Volunteers (PSYV) in partnership with YoungScot and Youthlink Scotland. PSYV is a uniformed youth organisation providing positive routes and outcomes for 13-18 year olds. It builds on improving relationships between young people, communities and the police in Scotland whilst also giving young people the opportunity to put something back into their communities.

It has been very satisfying to see the young people involved develop, mature, flourish and even win awards in the short time they have been up and running. Over 100 of our PSYV's volunteered during the commonwealth games in Glasgow, clocking up an impressive 3000 hours of volunteering over the period, a phenomenal achievement by anyone's standards. Next steps will be to expand and grow the groups into more communities so watch this space and look out for more activity in the north.
What do you want to achieve in the rest of your career?
Simply to continue contributing to making the communities of Scotland feel and be safer. Police Scotland for me offers the opportunity to realise my goals in a career that I love and get so much satisfaction from. I've very recently moved to this role serving in Aberdeenshire and Moray so I'm excited to get out and about and get going in this next chapter.

What's your idea of the perfect retirement?
Goodness, retirement is so far in the future for me it's not something I've really thought about. I suppose the perfect retirement for me would be to first and foremost live a long and healthy life surrounded by family and friends and if I manage that then to spend time travelling around the world experiencing the delights other exotic cultures and countries have to offer.

What has motivated you?
It's the little things for me, particularly making a difference to someone – it doesn't matter whether it's a member of the public or one of my colleagues, I get huge satisfaction and motivation from giving someone a helping hand no matter how big or small. It's the very reason I became a police officer.

What's the best way to motivate others?
Trust, value and empowerment. If officers and staff feel and see that I trust them to get the job done, there is more chance that they will be motivated to do it. Ensuring they feel valued is also a huge motivator, acknowledging and ensuring individuals or a team know they are doing or have done a good job is critical, so for me, regular meaningful appraisal and feedback are important, it doesn't have to be a big fanfare, in my experience, a simple thank you or telling someone they've done a ‘good job' goes a long way.

What's your best career advice?
We are the only ones who place limitations on what we can do or what we can become, it's human nature. Reach for the moon and you will catch a star. It's probably what motivated me to jump out of an aeroplane at 14,000ft last year. Simply put, be the best you can be and just go for it, no one else will do it for you.

Police Scotland in the north-east are currently recruiting Police Officers and Special Constables. For further details on how to apply visit

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