Our Reading centre is powered by a passionate team of staff and volunteers who coordinate and deliver our service across Berkshire. We are also incredibly grateful to our Board of Trustees, chaired by Helen Francis, who are responsible for the oversight of our day to day operations and fundraising.

Meet some of the Reading staff and volunteer team

Claire Hancer

Claire Hancer


Outreach Lead

“Volunteering as a career coach for the past few years gave me an insight to what a wonderful organisation Smart Works is. So much so that I decided to swap sides and join the team!”

Laura Ennis

Laura Ennis


Fundraising and Communications Lead

“It is amazing to be a part of a team that is making such a real positive difference to so many inspiring women and their families lives”

Claire Lawley

Claire Lawley


Centre Manager (part-time job share)

“It is a privilege to meet our clients and witness their transformation.”


Audrey Kirk

Audrey Kirk


Centre Manager (part-time job share)

“I love working with really accomplished women who give their time to improve the lives of others.”

Meet the trustee team behind Smart Works Reading

Helen Francis

Helen became Smart Works Reading’s Chair in July 2022 after having been a volunteer dresser and coach at the Reading Centre for nearly four years.

Helen also has over 25 years of experience leading Global Professional Services teams. She has specialised in creating and developing teams to address specialist delivery needs worldwide. Having a successful track record in delivering large-scale programmes to external clients, she is looking forward to implementing this knowledge to help reach more women across the Berkshire area.

Padma Knowles

Padma Knowles has been a career coach at Smart Works Reading for over 4 years. She has over 20 years of experience in recruitment and founded Career Success by Design. Having worked with a variety of companies, from start-ups to large corporates, she has gained huge insight into what employers and recruiters look for. She has actively participated in companies that prioritize EDI in their processes. Padma will add value to the service by bringing her recruitment knowledge to those that need it the most.

Melanie Prater

Melanie has been a volunteer at Smart Works Reading for over four years as Wardrobe Volunteer and Dresser. She is Finance Director of a Renewable Energy business, and is a Chartered Accountant, having over 30 years of experience across various industries and sectors, both corporate and charitable. She has seen firsthand, as a dresser volunteer, the positive impact of the Smart Work service in boosting the confidence of women and is committed to continuing this impact.


Jo Perrin

Jo Perrin has over 20 years of experience in corporate communications, working both in-house and in agency, most recently at Verizon, where she headed up international corporate communications. She was also the co-president of WAVE Worldwide (the Women’s Association of Verizon Employees, Verizon’s largest Employee Resource Group), which focuses on the professional development of women within Verizon, and Verizon’s stakeholder communities.

Patsy Dhir

Patsy has over 15 years of experience and a passionate interest in the fashion industry. She is a professionally qualified personal stylist and colour expect having featured as a TV presenter on the style channel.


Alex Williams

Alex has over 20 years of experience helping big brand names tackle a host of communications challenges. A director at a leading independent communications agency, she’s worked across retail, telecoms, technology and travel sectors, overseeing both European and global programmes. Supported and inspired by brilliant women in her career, Alex is now paying it forward with her involvement in Smart Works Reading.

Sarah Terry

Sarah Terry has a background in the technology Sales sector – in senior leadership and consulting roles.  Since 2018 Sarah has qualified as an executive and team coach to help support her consulting work. She is passionate about positive transformation for individuals and organisations which drew her to supporting Smart Works Reading as a trustee.



Meet the Reading Ambassadors who work alongside our national Ambassadors to promote Smart Works

Nayna McIntosh

Nayna McIntosh is Founder of British womenswear brand Hope.

Following a 30-year career in retail starting as a Saturday girl at Marks and Spencer, Nayna went on to launch brands such as George at Asda and Per Una at Marks and Spencer.

Noticing a clear gap in the market for women over 40, Nayna left her role as Director of Store Environment at Marks and Spencer and setup her own womenswear brand, Hope, at the age of 52 to provide an oasis for women who are vastly under-represented on the high street.

Virginia Chadwyck-Healey

Virginia Chadwyck-Healey, Founder of VCHStyleworked at British Vogue for 12 years, firstly managing the British Fashion advertising portfolio and latterly, as the Executive Retail Editor. This role gave her a breadth of knowledge across the fashion, jewellery and beauty industries.

Her passion for both the commercial and the creative is what led her to start VCHStyle, a platform for her new foray into brand consultancy, which also includes presenting and private client styling.  She has worked with a range of brands, such as Louis Vuitton, John Lewis and Christian Louboutin.

Sarah Burns MBE

Sarah Burns MBE is an Ambassador of Smart Works Reading and was our Founding Chair for over seven years, from 2015 to July 2022.

Sarah’s career spans 20 years in professional services, coaching and leadership at Microsoft Business Solutions, NorthgateArinso and SAS. Ten years ago she became an interview coach and volunteer followed by a dressing and stock volunteer at Smart Works Charity, London. She was then hooked and had realised her passion and purpose: to help her local community and empower women back into employment, enabling every woman across the Berkshire to access our service and empower women to make positive life changes and realise their goals.

Vicky Thornley

Vicky Thornley, former Olympic rower, won a silver medal with Katherine Grainger at the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro. Thornley began her sporting career through the “Sporting Giants” programme, becoming the first of the scheme’s graduates to win a gold medal when she was successful at the 2009 World Under-23 Championships. Despite challenges Vicky faced, her resilience and commitment to her sport remained unwavering. She regularly speaks on the importance of motivation and teamwork to achieve success.

She joined Smart Works Reading as she found the mission of supporting women back into employment as invaluable especially in these challenging times.