Get to know your peers in the global HR community through our career profile series. Today, we talk to Angela William, group HRD at Sodexo.
Name: Angela Williams
Job: Group HR director
Current employer: Sodexo
CV in brief:
- May 2013 – August 2015, HR director, Sodexo UK & Ireland
- July 2010 – May 2013, people and governance director, British Gas/Centrica
- February 2005 – June 2010, group HR director, Land Securities PLC
- 2002 – 2005, European HR director, Electronic Arts Ltd
A day in your life
Tell us about your job and organisation
I am group HR director at Sodexo, who is a leading global services company, serving over 75 million customers every day. Our mission is to improve quality of life for its clients, customers and employees.
We are the 18th largest employer in the world with 419,000 employees in 80 countries. The company offers a diverse range of services to organisations in the corporate, healthcare, education, justice and sports and leisure sectors. These services are designed to reinforce the well-being of individuals, improving their effectiveness and helping companies and organisations improve performance.
My job is to deliver – along with the team – HR services across all 80 countries and 12 regions.
Who do you report into?
Elisabeth Carpentier, Sodexo’s Group chief HR officer who is based in Paris.
Tell us about your team
I manage 12 regional HR directors and also a small central team covering areas such as L&D, People Centre and Projects.
What is the most rewarding part of your role?
I really enjoy the diversity of the organisation and working across multiple cultures.
What is the most challenging part of the role?
While the diversity of the organisation is great, it can present challenges. We are trying to drive efficiencies and consistency in our practices, but this can be hard across distance and when markets have varying levels of needs and maturity.
What does a typical day look like for you?
There is no typical day but they are generally pretty long! I start at 6.30am with the Asian markets and finish off at 8.30/9pm working with colleagues in North America.
I spend lots of time in meetings, on calls, identifying potential for improvement, defining strategy and also travelling.
Why did you choose your current organisation to work for?
There were two reasons: Firstly, I liked Sodexo’s people and values and its mission to improve quality of life for clients, customers and employees. As a services company, people are our only asset, so the role of HR is critical.
Secondly, I was attracted by the complexity and scale of the business. It makes my role very varied and interesting!
Perks and downsides of your role?
Perks – the people and the diversity of those people. Also, the work is very interesting.
Downsides – there aren’t too many downsides, but sometimes the hours and the travel can be tough.
What skills are essential for the role you’re in?
Resilience, tenacity, having a positive attitude and a good sense of humour. It is also important to have an in-depth cultural, economic and political awareness. Always focus on the customer!
How did you get to where you are now?
My career path has been very varied and I have had a whole range of roles in business, from operations through to marketing, retail, IT and customer service.
I have also worked in several different sectors, from petro-chemicals, property and energy through to entertainment. I have been lucky that several of my bosses have taken a chance on me and given me the wings to fly and promoted me into senior HR positions.
What were your best subjects in school? What and where did you study?
My best subjects at school were music, history and English. I studied 'Music with Politics and International Relations' at Reading University and then taught music, history and maths to 11-18 year olds.
What was your first job? How did you get it and why did you choose to work there?
I did several bar and waitressing jobs as a teenager and when I first graduated, I was a teacher as well as a professional singer and musician.
My first ‘proper’ job was as an HR advisor with Exxon Mobil. I helped run their pension scheme, but also had the opportunity to work across all areas of the business, which helped me get an overview of the whole commercial environment.
Have you followed the career path you set out to?
I didn’t set myself a career path. However, I knew quite early on that I wanted to lead a team, so I definitely sought out opportunities to do so.
What challenges have you faced along the way? How did you overcome them?
I have worked in several quite diverse industries, so it has been challenging and important to learn the market quickly and be exceptionally commercial and customer focused.
I worked as COO of a dotcom, which was demanding and risky at certain points given the instability of the marketplace at that time. During that period, and since, I have found it incredibly important to learn how to take measured risks at the right time and work closely with people you trust.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to land a job?
Nothing particularly crazy. I was approached about the dotcom job at the end of ’99 when there was a lot of worry and hype about the millennium bug. When the CEO approached me I said I would consider the job, but only after we were safely into the new millennium!
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
When I was appointed group HRD for Land Securities my new CEO boss offered me an incredible opportunity. I was immensely proud to have landed the role. I worked very hard and I loved the challenge. This role was a real training ground for roles I have taken on since then.
Do you have any career regrets?
No. There is no point living with regret. Every role I have taken has helped me learn and develop.
What advice would you offer to others who are looking to get to where you are now?
I would say work hard and make sure you understand the business in detail. Be confident in your abilities and believe that you can succeed. I think it is also vital to build good working relationships and to never leave any job, business or people on bad terms.
Always remember to focus on the customer as they are the ones who pay your wages!
What advice would you give to your 22-year-old self?
Be confident. You can do it! Having a husband who has been supportive has also been incredibly important. I met him when I was 21, so I would definitely tell my 22-year-old self to stick with him!
- Coffee or tea? Neither, I am allergic to caffeine
- Jam or marmalade? Depends. Jam on scones, but marmalade on toast
- The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? The Rolling Stones, but they are both a bit before my time!
- Mac or PC? I prefer a Mac, but I use a PC at work
- The Guardian or The Times? The Times
- BBC or ITV? BBC
- M&S or Waitrose? I like both but think Waitrose has great food
- Morning or night? Both! I usually work long days …
- Rain on snow? I don’t like either, but rain means I can still cycle to work, whilst snow might put me off
- Sweet or savoury? Both. I have a sweet tooth but I am gradually weaning myself off sugar
- App: The two that I use a lot at the moment are the BA app and La Rousse, a French dictionary app
- TV show: Strictly Come Dancing, Bake Off and Master Chef, and watching Wales especially when they win!
- Band: I love lots of bands, but I am very into Mumford and Sons and saw them this year at Reading Festival
- Song: Again, lots, but I really like Take That’s The Greatest Day
- Book: Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela
- Sports team: The Welsh rugby team
- Thing to do on a Friday night: Have dinner with my husband
- Place to eat: Le Gavroche
- Holiday spot: Chile or Thailand
- Piece of advice you’ve been given: ‘It is better to have played and missed, than never to have played at all’
By Sarah Clark
Online features editor at Changeboard
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