Get to know your peers in the global HR community through our career profile series. This week we talk to Laura Probert, head of employee and organisation development at bwin.party. She takes us through her career path, including a missed opportunity in fashion, leading office moves and why she thinks more women should get involved in online gaming.
Name: Laura Probert
Job: Head of employee and organisation development
Current employer: bwin.party
CV in brief:
- bwin.party, head of employee and organisation development
- PartyGaming, head of internal communications
- PartyGaming, head of human resources
- Adobe, HR manager (consulting)
A day in your life
Tell us about your job and organisation
I am currently working for bwin.party, a leading, FTSE-listed, global, online, digital entertainment company and have partnered the business as a senior HR leader for the past eight years on transformations, mergers, the move to agile methodologies, new products and entry to new markets. I have a team of five spread across our main locations and support a population of around 3,000.
I am responsible for transformational and culture change, employee engagement, leadership capability and competence, succession and career management, learning and development and talent management.
Who do you report into?
The group HR director, Kathy Swindley.
Tell us about your team
I have people in each of our main locations who partner the businesses locally on development. They are very passionate, experienced, hands-on development experts which makes implementation easy.
What is the most rewarding part of your role?
Figuring out how people react to situations and adapting the approach to get the best reactions. I also work with fun, intelligent HR people who make coming to work rewarding.
What is the most challenging part of the role?
Cultural differences are often a challenge but it’s great when you really feel you understand each other’s approaches.
What does a typical day look like for you?
There is no typical day. We are currently embedding agile project management into our HR function, which throws up constant learning and surprises.
Why did you choose your current organisation to work for?
I was in the process with another well-known brand but my current employer was efficient, clear, and made an offer quickly, which was attractive.
Perks and downsides of your role?
Perks – We have a great online recognition scheme where anyone across the group can nominate another employee and recommend points. Points mean prizes in our online store. I purchased a new Dyson cleaner last week.
Downsides – I wish we had more benefits that attracted women into online gaming. Currently only 32% are female and I’d like to see a more even mix, especially in the technology and senior management areas.
What skills are essential for the role you’re in?
Great communications skills. You can have great ideas but if you can’t get them across and influence change then they are sadly lost.
How did you get to where you are now?
I started on GAP’s graduate training scheme and managed people straight away. My next role was a huge job in a department store as HR manager, so I went in at the deep end. My current boss at bwin.party has always enabled me to do new things, which is how I was able to move into talent development.
What were your best subjects in school? What and where did you study?
English literature was a natural strength for me. I like writing. I did cultural studies at the University of East London and then an MSc in management studies.
What was your first job? How did you get it and why did you choose to work there?
When I left university I needed to earn money quickly and getting a good job was very competitive, so I started my own cleaning company, doing most of the cleaning myself. Good, honest hard work is a great start to any career.
Have you followed the career path you set out to?
Yes, I wanted to be at the centre of what was going on in a business, and a good HR team performs that role.
What challenges have you faced along the way? How did you overcome them?
The main challenges have been around the leadership of a business. Most businesses I’ve worked for have struggled with their leadership capability and the ability to apply leadership in order to succeed in a volatile marketplace. Great leadership is a necessary condition of a successful business.
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
I took over an office move, which had nothing to do with my role, and delivered it on time and within budget. I had a great team. I feel very proud when people mention what a great office it is.
Do you have any career regrets?
I have always loved fashion and early on I was offered a role at Harper’s Bazaar. But it didn’t pay enough to cover my food and travel. I sometimes wonder where that would have led me…
What advice would you offer to others who are looking to get to where you are now?
Ideally, work in an industry that you have a genuine interest in and immerse yourself in every aspect. Don’t worry about personal gain initially, just work hard and absorb the learning.
What advice would you give to your 22-year-old self?
Chill out and don’t take everything so personally! It’s not all about you.
- Coffee or tea? I have given up caffeine, so decaf Nespresso, which tastes great.
- Jam or marmalade? Marmalade
- The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? The Beatles
- Mac or PC? Mac
- The Guardian or The Times? The Guardian
- BBC or ITV? BBC
- M&S or Waitrose? M&S
- Morning or night? Morning
- Rain or snow? Snow
- Sweet or savoury? Savoury
- App: Zinio for reading magazines
- TV show: Breaking Bad
- Band: At the moment, The Buzzcocks
- Song: Vincent – Don McLean
- Book: The Diary of a Young Girl (also known as The Diary of Anne Frank)
- Sports team: Ajax, total football
- Thing to do on a Friday night: Great meal and film
- Place to eat: Dean Street Townhouse
- Holiday spot: South of France
- Piece of advice you’ve been given: Listen
By Karam Filfilan
Karam is Changeboard Middle East's editor and UK deputy editor.
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