Career profile: Irena Molloy, HR director, HowardKennedyFSI

Written by
Karam Filfilan

26 Sep 2014

26 Sep 2014 • by Karam Filfilan

Basic details

Name: Irena Molloy

Job: HR director

Current employer: HowardKennedyFSI

CV in brief:

  • May 14 to date, HR Director, HowardKennedyFSI
  • April 02 – Dec 13, HR Director, BDO
  • Aug 01 – Mar 02, HR Manager, Barclays Bank
  • Aug 91 – July 01, HR Consultant, Cable & Wireless

A day in your life

Tell us about your job and organisation

HKFSI is a recently merged law firm, currently in the West End, moving to London Bridge later this year. The firm has close to 400 people, and a turnover of c£50m. My job as HR Director is to identify what we need to do with the people agenda to enable us to be more profitable. This starts with addressing some of the basics, like the introduction of one HR system, to focusing on how we drive partner performance through our reward and performance systems.

Who do you report into?

I report to the COO and sit on the main board.

Tell us about your team

The team consists of two business partners, an operations manager, recruitment manager, learning manager, HR analyst, HR administrator and Learning Administrator. They are committed, professional and fun team to work with.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

Being able to get on and deliver what needs to be delivered and then being thanked for it – I am respected for my expertise and trusted to just get on and do it. Every door has been an open one, people want to meet me and tell me what’s going on which is really refreshing and slightly unexpected in such a busy environment.

What is the most challenging part of the role?

Simply the sheer amount of things that need doing and deciding on the order of delivery. There are some things that just have to be done before others, they may not be the most exciting but they may have the biggest impact at this time.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I am an early bird, I like to get in, deal with emails and plan my day. The day is usually a mix of meetings and design; I am still making my way around the business, talking to people about what they do and the challenges facing them. Design wise, it may be a plan for an HR project and a discussion with my team on how we will deliver it.

Why did you choose your current organisation to work for?

The firm is well connected to my previous firm – so I had a lot of very positive feedback in advance and having worked with the FSI part some years ago, connected the brand to quality. The fact that there is so much to do following the merger was another driving factor; I enjoy establishing best practice and clearly seeing the positive impact that the team is making on the business.

Perks and downsides of your role?

The main perk is being part of a defining period in the firms history (and working behind John Lewis for now), the downside, sometimes not being able to focus on the things that I believe add the most value – I know that will come in time though.

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

Relationship building, listening, assessing and delivering quickly, decision making, influencing and humour!

Career path

How did you get to where you are now?

I have worked with some fantastic people along the way; I have great role models and people who care about my career. Being self-aware has been important; I believe that your impact on others is everything.

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

English, Geography, Art, Athletics. I studied for my HR degree and Masters at Westminster University and was fortunate enough to study HR Strategy at the University of Michigan.

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

My first job was at a prestigious furnishing fabrics company – I started out in the post room and finished up there managing major client contracts. It was a fantastic training ground where I grew to understand how important client service is.

Have you followed the career path you set out to?

I didn’t have one!

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

The main challenge I faced was moving into an HR Manager role from a non-management position.  I used my network to overcome this – it’s helpful moving roles with people who know you and know what you are capable of.

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

Nothing springs to mind…

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

Presenting to 200 partners for the first time, pulling it off and getting great feedback at the end.

Do you have any career regrets?

No regrets.

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

Look to the future and outline what needs to be done to get there, but don’t forget the basics along the way; Keep things simple and avoid jargon.  Develop a strong network but be giving; don’t always look for favours. Be honest; never try to cover anything up. Think about how your behaviour impacts on others. Stay calm, regardless.

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

Enjoy every minute and all of the above under question 9.


  • Coffee or tea? Tea
  • Jam or marmalade? Marmalade
  • The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? The Beatles
  • Mac or PC? PC
  • The Guardian or The Times? The Times
  • BBC or ITV? ITV
  • M&S or Waitrose? M&S
  • Morning or night? Morning
  • Rain on snow? Rain
  • Sweet or savoury? Savoury


  • App: Map my run
  • TV show: Coronation Street – addicted from childhood, brilliantly funny
  • Band: Arctic Monkeys
  • Song: Certain Romance (Arctic Monkeys) – brilliant running track
  • Book: anything by Nick Hornby
  • Sports team: Crystal Palace FC
  • Thing to do on a Friday night: Takeaway with my husband and kids
  • Place to eat: a buzzing taverna on a beach in Greece
  • Holiday spot: Greece or anywhere with sun and a beach
  • Piece of advice you’ve been given: focus on the positives, always look forward