Career profile: Sallie Barnett, HRD, Joules

Written by
Sarah Clark

23 Oct 2015

23 Oct 2015 • by Sarah Clark

Basic details

Name: Sallie Barnett

Job: HR director

Current employer: Joules

CV in brief:

  • 2015-present, HR director, Joules
  • 2013-2015, head of HR, Joules
  • 2012-2013, HR manager/business partner, Joules
  • 2010-2012, HR director, Claires Europe
  • 2008-2010, head of HR, GAP
  • 2005-2008, head of HR Logistics, Manor Bakeries Premier Foods
  • 2002-2005, regional HR Manager/site HR manager Supply Chain, Sainsburys

A day in your life

Tell us about your job and organisation

I am HR director at international lifestyle brand Joules. Alongside my wonderful team, I am responsible for looking after our employees, ensuring that we attract and recruit brilliant people, engage and excite our employees, develop their skills and retain the great talent that we have in our business.

Who do you report into?

Colin Porter, our CEO.

Tell us about your team

I have a great team of 12 whose day to day role is to look after 1,400 employees across our head office in Market Harborough, our distribution centre in Corby and our teams in France, the US and China.

The HR team is made up of generalist and specialist roles: our centralised resourcing team work incredibly hard at finding brilliantly talented people, and our reward function who's responsible for payroll, benefits, pensions and all other employee lifecycle transactions. 

My HR business partners work hand in hand with their respective business functions. They really understand the challenges for their business partners and deliver commercial and practical advice as well as supporting with organisational design, recruitment, and talent management.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

The most rewarding part of my role is also the most challenging – it's the fact that there is still a lot to do and we can’t do it all at once! Each day I spot new ways in which my team and I can add value to the business. We’re always finding fresh and exciting challenges, and as we grow internationally our learning is constant. The real challenge is not getting too excited and taking things one step at a time!

What does a typical day look like for you?

The HR team has a fantastic reputation within Joules: our professionalism, commerciality and pragmatism are recognised by all levels, and as such, we are often sought out for our opinions. This means that each day really is varied: I might be sitting down with our senior leadership team at an offsite to craft our learning and development offer for the year ahead, or thinking about how we establish our business in another country.

Why did you choose your current organisation to work for?

Being a family company, the HR function in Joules has only been in place over the last four years and I was drawn to the depth of that opportunity: growing a department and infrastructure almost from scratch. The growth and progress made since then has been completely mind-blowing.

Perks and downsides of your role?

With HR comes a lot of responsibility, and like any role, there are elements that aren’t as enjoyable as others. At Joules, we have a low employee exit rate, but nevertheless, it’s always sad to see a member of our team go.

The main perk would definitely have to be having the ability to positively influence the lives of our employees, whether that is through hiring the right people to continue our lovely culture, developing our managers to become even better managers or even just introducing free fruit each month!

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

Empathy seems an obvious one, but is underestimated in such a people-focused job. As I said, every day is different, and an agile mind is indispensable in keeping all the plates spinning! Along with empathy and agility, I think perception is key – keeping your ear to the ground helps hugely.

Career path

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

When I was at college, I opted to take a business studies course. The course required me to study a local business, and I chose Halfords, which was the largest local employer at that time. I went along to their head office to talk with the HR manager about the business, and somehow walked out with an offer to work in Halfords’ “Staff Department”! Being a student, I wasn’t really sure what the role was all about, but took the opportunity and never looked back. 

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

I studied at Abbey High School, in Redditch. I’m not sure about my best, but my favourite subjects were art and languages. I left school and went to Redditch college of FE to do business studies.

Have you followed the career path you set out to?

I left school thinking I wanted to teach. My mother was a teacher, and it felt like the most logical career path for me. However, having spent a few days’ work experience in a school, I decided that it wasn’t for me. Once I had started to get a taste for the world of HR I knew it was the right career path. 

There have been a couple of occasions in my working life when I have wondered whether I was doing the right thing, but I know that there is nothing else that would give me the same level of satisfaction. 

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

I am a great believer in “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” I have had some very challenging experiences in my career, but with each of those experiences have come with great learnings and you get stronger with each one.  

We are all so much more capable than we ever allow ourselves to believe.

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

I don’t think I’ve ever done anything crazy to land a job – that sounds really boring! I have always spent time in preparing for the interviews, finding out as much as possible about the business and the key people in the business. Where possible, speaking to people who have worked in that business to really get an honest reflection of the business culture, its aspirations and values is really useful. Never under estimate the importance of business culture in your career choices.

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

There have been many highlights in my career, and many proud moments, but being appointed as HRD at Joules is right up there. I didn’t come to Joules with any career plan, I was just happy to be part of the exciting journey. Working with Colin and the rest of the director team is incredible. We all work together, we support each other in achieving the best results we can, and we have a lot of fun too. 

Do you have any career regrets?

I wouldn’t say that I have any major career regrets, because all the decisions – however bad(!) – have contributed to where I am now.

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

For those who are on the ladder already, the one piece of advice that I would give is don’t be afraid to think big and get creative. It’s easy to break big things down into manageable steps, it’s much more difficult to think outside the box once you put limitations on yourself.

For those who are just starting out, although it is much harder nowadays to secure work experience, it is worth the persistence. Even if it’s not within an HR department, work experience demonstrates a willingness to learn and gives you invaluable experience in a business environment.

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

To work hard on your relationships. A supportive manager or like-minded mentor will push you beyond what you believe your capabilities to be. Along with your mind set and willingness to learn, having the ability to surround yourself with good people who want the best for you will be the single biggest factor in your success.


  • Coffee or tea? Definitely tea – I’m a complete addict. The team will tell you that I’ll never say no to a cuppa!
  • Jam or marmalade? Marmalade – I prefer savoury to sweet
  • The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? I’m not sure that I’m a fan of either, but if I had to choose it would be the Rolling Stones
  • Mac or PC? I don’t mind as long as they work!
  • The Guardian or The Times? I don’t read newspapers, as I don’t have the time. I am always on the move, so I rely on the BBC news site for keeping up to date with what’s happening in the world.
  • BBC or ITV? I’m a real fan of Coronation Street so it would have to be ITV for that reason.
  • M&S or Waitrose? I can’t choose as I shop in both regularly.
  • Morning or night? Morning – I’m a real morning person, I love being out and about before everyone else has woken up. 
  • Rain on snow? Snow, I really don’t like the rain I find it a bit depressing.
  • Sweet or savoury? Savoury, but can also do sweet if needed.


  • App: Don’t have one – I come to the world of technology on a strictly as needed basis. 
  • TV show: Coronation Street – love the characters and the writing. There are some classic one liners in every episode.
  • Band: This changes constantly. As a new artist arrives on the scene I buy their music and play it constantly. At the moment I am listening to Sam Smith, George Ezra and some favourite oldies like The Police and Blondie.
  • Song: Don’t Speak by No Doubt.
  • Book: The Colour Purple – moved me deeply. 
  • Sports team: To be honest I’ve never really got the sports fan thing!
  • Thing to do on a Friday night: Friday nights are normally slob out nights, TV, dinner and catching up with my family that I haven’t seen much of during the week.
  • Place to eat: I’m definitely a foodie. I love nothing better than a fab restaurant (doesn’t need to be posh) and some fabulous quality produce, beautifully prepared. We have some great restaurants in my home town, Stratford Upon Avon, so we're very spoilt with great places to eat whenever we feel like it.
  • Holiday spot: I love Cornwall. We’ve been going every year for the past 5 years. It’s so easy, we just bundle the dog in the car and a few bags and 4 hours later we’re there! And we always seem to get great weather too.
  • Piece of advice you’ve been given: I think it would have to be “better to ask for forgiveness than permission” I use a slightly moderated version of this advice every day. It’s not about being gung ho, but about moving things on. When you see an opportunity go for it.