Get to know your peers in the global HR community through our career profile series. Today, we talk to Rachel Humpherson, interim HRD, MD & founder of SkyeLark HR Consulting Ltd.
CV in brief:
- 2013-present: MD & founder, SkyeLark HR Consulting Ltd
- June 2015-present: Associate / team coach, Thales – current client
- August 2015-October 2015: Interim HR director, Action for Children
- July 2014-June 2015: Interim HR director, Canada Life
- November 2013-May 2014: Interim global head of HR operations, ACCA
A day in the life
Tell us about your job and organisation
Working as an interim HRD, I'm accountable for working in partnership with the MD, and the people & organisation dept. to drive change within HR – I'm responsible for providing full end to end HR operational service to the business divisions.
My role is highly operational and focused on providing generalist advice, coaching and HR leadership to managers up to directors.
What is the most rewarding part of your role?
Delivering change that makes a real difference.
What is the most challenging part of the role?
Knowing where to start with lots of opportunities to add value and providing positive creative solutions in a commercially challenging businesses.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Like most, no typical day. It is a very fast moving environment with the business landscape changing continuously from providing insight and oversight to directors from dealing with TUPE issues.
Why do you love the organisations you work for?
It brings opportunities to drive change by tapping into people and organisational potential to deliver real meaningful performance and growth.
What skills are essential for the role you’re in?
- Building relationships
- Being responsive while developing/coaching leaders to develop a longer term view and grow
- Compartmentalising what I need to know whilst delivering strong results
How did you get to where you are now?
Too long a story... 17 years of continuously adapting to a changing business landscape which meant having to make some challenging decisions very early on my career, after being made redundant a number of times.
This led me to challenging myself through developing my capabilities, thinking and deepening my portfolio.
What were your best subjects in school? What and where did you study?
Sports, music and history. I went to St Edmunds College in Puckeridge, and studied my 2008 MBA in Developing Business at Putteridgebury Management Centre, at the University of Bedfordshire.
What was your first job?
Tesco, shelf-filler – good employer, local, and a great opportunity to learn.
Have you followed the career path you set out to?
Honestly, I had no career path; I have had to develop the resilience and agility to respond to the changing economic landscape and work in businesses that were continuously undergoing change.
Tesco lead me to my first personnel role in the largest store in Hertfordshire, where I took the role of a personnel assistant. Four weeks after joining I took on the role of an interim training manager – combined with my personnel assistant role – doing payroll, managing the canteen, and deputising for the personnel manager.
After the secondment ended, I was offered the chance to go on the management programme after I'd expressed I wanted to stay within personnel. I had outgrown my roles, and as Tesco did not support the CIPD qualification, I made a decision to leave to acquire my CIPD; this launched me into HR permanently.
What challenges have you faced along the way? How did you overcome them?
Oh my gosh….challenges have been primarily driven by working in changing business environments including: being made redundant several times, self-doubt about capability, working in 16 different business in 17 years, persuading employers to give me a chance (after only being able to hold down a role for 18 months), trying to decide whether to be a generalist or a specialist, losing faith in HR’s value.
I overcame them all by always making sure that every role, organisation, and industry added something new to my profile. Delivering strong commercial results while developing myself and my network.
When I lost faith in HR’s ability to add value, I had just completed my MBA and was questioning if I could really make a difference to people. I went travelling round the world for 6 months and then found my love for HR walking up the Franz Joseph Glazier chatting to an Australian lady who was talking about her daughter who was also in HR….the break allowed me to reconnect with our core purpose.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to land a job?
Oh, there’s been a lot of interviews and assessments. I’ve had a few mad role-plays and had to share my thinking in a storytelling way e.g. sharing a story about my favourite book/song/recipe. Not so crazy, but true.
Plus to show initiative, I've directly emailed HR directors and MDs I admire, with a hope to work with them.
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
- Thriving and surviving!!!
- Making a difference to at least one person in every business and delivering the 'Brilliant Service Project' at Royal Sun Alliance.
- Achieving my desire to be a HR director at 35, having experienced so much change
Do you have any career regrets?
No, for I would not be here without the experiences I've had.
What advice would you offer to others who are looking to get to where you are now?
Trust yourself, be resilient and make sure everything you do always adds value to you, your customers and allows you to tap into your potential – and learn and grow.
What advice would you give to your 22-year-old self?
I’m not a complete fatalist, but I do believe that things happen and you choose to put yourself in the path and take the route. Trust your instincts and allow the insights to come naturally, for when the insights come, they have the potential to take you to amazing places; in self and in life.
- Coffee or tea? Tea
- Jam or marmalade? Jam
- The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? Rolling Stones
- Mac or PC? PC, sorry am still on the journey to Mac
- The Guardian or The Times? The Guardian
- BBC or ITV? BBC
- M&S or Waitrose? Waitrose
- Morning or night? Night (big starry skies)
- Rain on snow? Snow
- Sweet or savoury? Savoury
- App: Metro; love the stories and can read the weekends news in the week
- TV show: The Mentalist; love how easy Patrick Jane makes reading people look
- Band: Coldplay
- Song: Stars in the Sky
- Book: Joy Inc; Richard Menlo
- Sports team: Oh what a question….New Zealand All Blacks, rugby team
- Thing to do on a Friday night: Dance around the kitchen with friends enjoying great company, food and vino….and bad singing!!!
- Place to eat: Chester’s by the River, Skelwith Bridge, Cumbria. Something more local, Fleet Street River Bakery, Holborn….AMAZING CAKES for both (I’m an aspiring to be as good a baker as my dad)
- Holiday spot: Anywhere with big skies, dark nights, bright stars, milky way and big mountains….Marlborough Sounds New Zealand or Colorado, USA…..have been on a few
- Piece of advice you’ve been given: ‘Have you ever stopped to think and forget to start again’ (allows insights to flow freely and to really connect with what’s going on outside of you, being completely present)
By Sarah Clark
Online features editor at Changeboard
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