Name: Charles Weatherhogg
Job: HR director, United Kingdom & Ireland (UK&I), Continental Europe & Africa
Current employer: AECOM
CV in brief:
- 2009, group head of HR, E C Harris
- 2004, HR & change consultant, Atos
- 2001, HR business partner, Schlumberger
- 1997, HR/employee relations Manager, Sema
A day in your life
Tell us about your job and organisation
I lead the HR function for three regions of AECOM, covering 40 countries and 12,000 staff.
AECOM is a global construction and engineering company, and its recent acquisition of URS (Corporation) was the biggest acquisition in industry history.
Who do you report into?
The president of Europe, Middle East, Africa & India (EMEA&I).
Tell us about your team
I am very proud of the team I have built — we are a commercially driven function that always aspires to do more. The team has a local presence but uses hubs to cover centre-of-excellence specialisations (i.e. learning & development, rewards etc).
What is the most rewarding part of your role?
I enjoy building relationships with people all over the world and sharing experiences with them. I have never ceased to enjoy those interactions.
What is the most challenging part of the role?
The biggest challenge is delivering more from less; it’s a tough market that has changed fundamentally since the global recession. Gaining investment into HR is a hard sell in such environments.
What does a typical day look like for you?
There isn’t really a typical day, which is why I love the job. Common elements are travelling, problem solving and prioritising the region’s goals alongside the demands of the business.
Why did you choose your current organisation to work for?
I was attracted to AECOM as it's a global company that holds a leading position in our industry. I was also impressed with our president when I met him and felt my past experiences were a good fit for his ambitious plans.
Perks and downsides of your role?
Being exposed to such a wide range of countries and cultures never fails to excite me. The downside is that when travelling on business, you really only get to see the airport, office, hotel and occasional restaurant.
What skills are essential for the role you’re in?
Communications, influencing, decision-making, flexibility and a broad experience across the spectrum of HR specialisations.
How did you get to where you are now?
A combination of hard work, accepting change and some luck that put me in the right places at the right time.
What were your best subjects in school? What and where did you study?
English, economics and religious studies at Norwich School. Each has come in handy, helping me to develop communication, influence and commercial skills.
What was your first job?
How did you get it and why did you choose to work there? I joined business after completing my degree in 1995 – which happened to be the last recession, so most graduate placements had been pulled by companies. I attended several careers fairs and got myself a speculative interview with the head of HR, then called “personnel” at Intercity. I will always be grateful to Peter Raza, he took a chance on me and I started at the lowest grade in the company and worked my way up from there.
Have you followed the career path you set out to?
Mostly, I wasn’t expecting to spend four years as an in-house consultant at Atos, but that experience gave me real breadth from working with several different companies and helped me to develop a better understanding of fee earning life.
What challenges have you faced along the way?
How did you overcome them? Nothing ever stands still and I have had to learn to regularly adapt and compromise. Things often change before you really have the chance to understand the concepts around them.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to land a job?
I have only moved careers a couple of times, as most of my company changes have been through acquisitions. Nothing crazy comes to mind, but I would always encourage people to connect in some way with their interviewer before meeting them for the first time. It helps to creates a deeper rapport.
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
No one element stands out – each role has had its moments.
Do you have any career regrets?
No, you learn from every career decision and life is too short to focus on regrets.
What advice would you offer to others who are looking to get to where you are now?
Do not specialise early in your career, but be flexible and offer to support projects to broaden your knowledge. I am always thankful to Zoe van Zwaneberg, the HR director who pushed me into an employee relations position within her team, when there was a more-senior recruitment role that appealed to me. Moving across specialisations gave me a wide range of experiences. Had I instead moved upwards in recruitment, it would have been harder to move into a director position later on.
What advice would you give to your 22-year-old self?
Be authentic, it’s important that the person you are at work is not too different from who you are outside.
- Coffee or tea? Coffee
- Jam or marmalade? Jam
- The Beatles or the Rolling Stones? The Beatles
- Mac or PC? Mac (I love all things Apple)
- The Guardian or The Times? The Times
- BBC or ITV? BBC
- M&S or Waitrose? Waitrose
- Morning or night? Morning
- Rain on snow? Snow
- Sweet or savoury? Savoury, every time
- App: Runtastic — I have recently started running and it records everything I do, which has helped me keep exercising. I also use a Fitbit, as I love gadgets!
- TV show: Pretty much any sport programmes
- Band: Pink Floyd
- Song: The Scientist (Coldplay)
- Book: I love all books by Bill Bryson and can’t wait to see the new film out (A Walk in the Woods — based on probably his best book)
- Sports team: I am a passionately frustrated Ipswich Town fan, which is unfortunate since born in Norwich
- Thing to do on a Friday night: Get home and see my amazing wife and daughter, as I am usually away from home during the week
- Place to eat: A good steak or curry wins me over
- Holiday spot: I love Australia, but more practically, I enjoy exploring the diverse cultures across Europe
- Piece of advice you’ve been given: Never underestimate the importance of work/life balance. Whilst a company will always appreciate commitment, you won’t have their logo on your gravestone, so make sure you prioritise personal time too