Career profile: Emma Reason, senior L&D manager, Sodexo Healthcare

Written by
Sarah Clark

08 Apr 2016

08 Apr 2016 • by Sarah Clark

Basic details

CV in brief:

  •  2013 to present: Senior learning & development manager, Healthcare, Sodexo
  • 2009 to 2013: Learning and development advisor, Justice Services, Sodexo
  • 2006 to 2009: Senior training officer at Forest Bank Prison, Justice Services, Sodexo
  • 2002 to 2006: Senior prison custody officer at Forest Bank Prison, Justice Services, Sodexo
  • 2001 to 2002: Prison custody officer at Forest Bank Prison, Justice Services, Sodexo

A day in the life

Tell us about your job and organisation

I manage the learning and development team for Healthcare, covering all Sodexo Healthcare sites and heading up L&D for Wythenshawe Hospital.

I work closely with HR directors both within Sodexo and client businesses, working to meet the priorities and strategies of the Healthcare business. We aim to predict future needs so that we can quickly adapt to client requests, for instance, supporting NHS deliverables.

Sodexo is a leading global services company, serving over 75 million customers every day. Sodexo’s mission is to improve quality of life for its clients, customers and employees. Sodexo is the 18th largest employer in the world with 419,000 employees in 80 countries.

Who do you report into?

Greg Austin, HR director for Healthcare.

Tell us about your team

I manage five learning and development managers for Healthcare who each look after a big site such as Central Manchester or Imperial London.

I also have an L&D coordinator. We look after teams within the Healthcare division who are involved in catering, cleaning, car parking etc.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

It is always great to hear from employees that we have really made a difference to them by offering them opportunities that they have never had before. We work to develop their skills, sourcing courses in many different areas, including Maths and English.

What is the most challenging part of the role?

It can be tricky to match priorities between our business and that of our clients. We occasionally have to restructure training programmes in order to meet new requests to a tight deadline. For example, we could be working alongside a team who are required to be trained in Dementia Awareness, so we then have to make sure our employees are up to speed too even if that wasn’t originally something we were looking to provide training on at that particular time.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Manic! My days are really very varied; I can be sitting with the senior management team onsite, on a conference call with my own team across the country, meeting with Sodexo’s HR team, talking with the central learning and development team, delivering training, liaising with clients, travelling the length of the country or anything else that is thrown at me.

Where possible, I like to meet with people in person as it really helps to build relationships and in the long term, is more effective and efficient.

Why did you choose your current organisation to work for?

I have always wanted to work in a prison and as I was finishing university, I became aware that Sodexo had just opened a new prison in Manchester, Forest Bank. I kept contacting them until a few months later they hired me as a prison custody officer.

Perks and downsides of your role?

It has always been important to me to learn something new every day, and this job certainly provides that. I also get to meet lots of new people which is something that I really value. It can be difficult to juggle lots of different things without worrying that I am going to drop the ball. At least it is varied…

What skills are essential for the role you’re in?

People who are hoping to succeed in learning and development roles must be personable with the ability to manage different priorities and teams. Organisational skills are a must with the determination to follow the plan for the day even if other things turn up unexpectedly. Being a natural problem fixer helps, along with being resilient.

Career path

How did you get to where you are now?

I started off by doing a degree in Sociology and getting as much work experience as possible. The rest is down to hard work, determination and great support from the people I have worked for.

What were your best subjects in school? What and where did you study?

I wasn’t a big fan of school to be honest, it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I was schooled in Kirkham near Preston and probably most enjoyed English. I then went to Salford University, also in Manchester.

What was your first job? How did you get it and why did you choose to work there?

I worked with adults that had grown up as Barnardo’s children. We provided respite care for those who had learning difficulties. I started volunteering there as I wanted to help people and it seemed like a really good cause.

Have you followed the career path you set out to?

Yes, pretty much all the way through, apart from my move across to Healthcare two years ago.

I have always wanted to look after people in some way and I have found a good way to do that. I did at one time consider social work but there was a minimum age entry level which made me change my course.

What challenges have you faced along the way? How did you overcome them?

At the beginning of my career with Sodexo I made the decision to go for a promotion very early on as the level of senior prison officer was introduced when I was just 22. I went for it, and got it. As pleased as I was to be moving up the ranks and progressing my career, other more seasoned workers weren’t so impressed. I had to learn quite quickly to stand up for my success but my managers were very supportive so it never became a problem.

A challenge I have now is balancing my work with being a mother to my two children. It is getting easier as they are growing older and they are now aged seven and twelve. I have found that, as a working mum, I am in the minority at their schools. I’m always careful to make sure they don’t feel like they are always the last ones in the playground!

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to land a job?

I’m afraid I have nothing crazy to report! I have always just strived to speak to, and impress the right people.

What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?

I am always proud when my team gets recognised and put up for awards. It’s good to see that what I am doing is making a difference to people.

Do you have any career regrets?

No, as thankfully all has gone well so far. I am suited to my role and working for Sodexo. I did once think I would like to join the police force but can’t imagine it now.

What advice would you offer to others who are looking to get to where you are now?

Work hard and build relationships. Also, as I was once told: read something new every day, no matter how small, in order to learn something new.

What advice would you give to your 22-year-old self?

Always be confident in your ability, don’t talk yourself out of things that others clearly think you are capable of. Don’t worry about things overly, go for it and see where it takes you. 


  • Coffee or tea? Tea
  • Jam or marmalade? Marmalade
  • The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? Neither!
  • Mac or PC? Mac
  • The Guardian or The Times? The Guardian
  • BBC or ITV? ITV
  • M&S or Waitrose? M&S
  • Morning or night? Night
  • Rain or snow? Snow
  • Sweet or savoury? That’s tricky…savoury


  • App: Twitter
  • TV show: Celebrity Juice
  • Band: Bros – takes me back to my youth
  • Song: More than words by Extreme  
  • Book: Just read ‘I let you go’ by Claire Mackintosh - it had some real good twists and turns
  • Sports team: I’m not big on sport but my preference is Rugby League
  • Thing to do on a Friday night: Eat pizza and drink wine
  • Place to eat: Any good Italian restaurant
  • Holiday spot: Minorca – go every year. Also try to get to New York as often as possible
  • Piece of advice you’ve been given: Read something new every day, no matter how small, in order to learn something – received this wise advice from a prison governor very early on in my career

Bonus question: If a movie was made about your life, who would play you and why?

Helena Bonham Carter – she comes across as a bit unusual!