About you & your career
When you were a kid, what was your career dream?
I wanted to be a drama teacher – to work with children and follow my passion for the arts.
I went to drama classes after school and at the weekends, and really enjoyed the freedom of expression. My parents always took us to the theatre and I loved the lights and the glamour. I was also driven by having some great teachers as role models, and wanted to mirror this. Combining these two things seemed logical, but now, looking back, I can see that it wouldn’t have been enough for me. I would have been frustrated.
How did you get to where you are now?
With a lot of hard work, as well as some great mentors and role models. Two people that stand out are a boss at the BBC who was deputy controller of Documentaries and Contemporary Factual, the other runs her own diversity and talent consultancy. Both come from humble backgrounds, work extremely hard and are authentic as leaders. When they say they will do something, they do it. They believe in the good of people and inspire you to do better.
Who inspired you along your career journey, and why?
My father – he is driven, funny and a real pragmatist. I hear him in my head all the time, driving me on. I always have something to work for and never settle for mediocrity. Fairness, honesty and creativity are all qualities he has, and I hope I have these two in my business career.
What’s your greatest achievement
I won two awards last year – one in my role as a talent innovator, voted for by my peers, and the other a BITC award for my 4talent new entrant strategy. The recognition of my own work and that of my team’s work was, and still is, thrilling. However, I believe that my greatest achievements are yet to come.
What achievements do you aspire towards?
I want to be a leading global HR director. I love my specialism, but I want to have an impact on the role of HR as part of the next generation of leaders who challenge convention and are the cultural barometer of their organisations.
What’s your leadership style?
I think people would say that I’m tough to work for at times – as I constantly strive for excellence – but that I am authentic, straight-talking and fair. I do believe people enjoy working for me and I’m under no illusions that I do not get it right all the time. I have learnt to be honest about this and trust my team more. As I’ve taken on bigger teams, this is critical to their success and development, and I am clear that the success of our function results from all our hard work and ideas rather than just mine.
Why did you join your current organisation?
I joined TalkTalk because it is small and mighty and punches above its weight. It aims to be brave, brilliant and bold. The company developed from the mind of a serial entrepreneur who is not afraid to take chances and challenge convention. This is embodied in its culture and its people, but the customer is always at the heart of decisions.
Describe your typical day
There isn’t one. With nine key projects to deliver this year – within talent, development and attraction – I have my hands full. I’ve been recruiting a team of talent innovators, which has taken up a lot of time.
What are your biggest challenges?
My biggest personal challenge is that I am a workaholic – when I’m passionate about things they tend to take over. Professionally, it is ensuring that what we do in HR is not a ‘nice to have’ but a ‘must have’ in the war for talent. At TalkTalk this is understood and appreciated, but in other organisations it is not. I want myself and my team to be role models for new talent.
In your opinion, what is the ‘war for talent’?
It is a global market force – organisations are searching for the best people to work for them. With the current economic climate and the effects of a changing workforce, this is becoming harder and more competitive. For me, the situation is not to be underestimated, but I do feel it is overstated sometimes. Recruiting talent is as much about cultural fit.
How do you ensure you are recruiting the best talent?
For me, it is about starting early and connecting with multiple generations on what your brand is, what it stands for and what it is like working for you. I think you can over-complicate it. Most people are driven by the same wants and needs – money, development, career prospects. Answering these questions upfront on any website would be the first thing to do.
Networks are critical in making sure attraction teams are connected, and creating an internal referral network ensures that employees are advocates and sponsors in the market. Finally, social media is useful in developing dialogues with talent before they even begin looking for a new role.
What career advice would you give someone aspiring to your role?
Understanding your own strengths and weaknesses is critical in leading people – do this and they will follow you anywhere. You need to be fascinated by people, want to make a difference and always believe in yourself. I haven’t come from a traditional HR background and am happy to be an anomaly. Be proud, embrace it and always strive to change the world.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learnt when realising your strengths and weaknesses?
I am human. We all make mistakes sometimes, but if you like yourself and are respectful, no one can ask any more of you. I’ve been told I have high emotional intelligence, which is good as a colleague and leader. However, I do tend to be overly self-critical – sometimes I have to remind myself that aiming for perfection is unreasonable and that no one else is expecting it.
What tips would you offer to help people discover their strengths and weaknesses?
I think 360-degree feedback is always a good way. There are also tools I would recommend that measure values, strengths and emotional intelligence. My biggest tip is to ask for feedback from your team, colleagues and manager – and be willing to adapt or change where necessary.