Career profile: Clare Gates, HRD,

Written by
Sarah Clark

22 Apr 2016

22 Apr 2016 • by Sarah Clark

Basic details

Name: Clare Gates

Job: HR director

Current employer:

CV in brief:

A day in your life

Tell us about your job and organisation

I sit on the Board for, one of the UK’s leading online travel agencies – we’re a travel tech business which is an incredibly exciting, fast moving industry to be a part of and we’re headquartered from our vibrant offices in Manchester. I’m responsible for leading the HR function.

Who do you report into?

I report to our CEO, Jesper With-Fogstrup – I’ve worked with Jesper for nearly three years now, since I joined the business, and we have a superb relationship built on trust, honesty and healthy doses of reality!

Tell us about your team

I’m very lucky to have a fantastic team made up of talent resourcing, development, facilities and HR partnering. There’s a great skill base amongst them and an incredible work ethic. They’re a highly innovative bunch who bring the key facets needed in a tech business – like great ideas and even better implementation – alive within the HR function which helps us to keep finding new ways of approaching things and constantly raise our game. They are the team that I would take with me to any other organisation.

What is the most rewarding part of your role? 

I am so lucky that I work with a group of incredibly talented individuals who have a massive passion for the company and the job that they perform. I know that sounds like a cliché but I have to say, in my entire career, I have never worked with a more sublime group of people than at   

What is the most challenging part of the role?

In HR there are always going to be times when you need to give difficult news and there have inevitably been a couple of those occasions over the past few years. It’s never easy but again, it’s made easier when dealing with very professional individuals who are pragmatic in their approach. Take it from me, our teams are not backwards in coming forwards when challenging the Board (which is something we encourage), but they understand the reasoning behind business decisions and if they don’t they will challenge and that is always good.

What does a typical day look like for you?

It’s a bit of a trek to work – I have the joys of the M6, M62 and M602 – and if my spirit hasn’t been broken, I land around 9am where at least 2 cups of tea are consumed before I engage in any kind of sensible conversation. 

I usually have a quick catch up with my team to find out highs and lows from the previous day and what’s planned for the day ahead. Most days are spent with a number of my colleagues discussing business performance, optimising our organisation, and ensuring that we have what we need to get the job done. 

Why did you choose your current organisation to work?

I remember telling my husband that getting a job at was like winning The X Factor – awful comparison but really, this was, to me, the X factor of jobs – a fantastic company with massive potential, and tremendously talented and highly engaged people who care passionately about the business.

Perks and downsides of your role?

Great travel opportunities to beautiful parts of the world but with travel comes airports, delays and being away from home (which can also be a perk).

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

Patience, cultural awareness, dealing with the unknown (or as we like to say in HR circles, ambiguity) and being able to manoeuvre through the noise to get to the problem.

Career path

How did you get to where you are now?

No grand master plan, just spades of enthusiasm and motivation and really wanting to do well in the career that finally chose me.

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

School was in Cape Town, South Africa, and my best subjects were History and English. 

What was your first job?

My first ‘proper’ job was working for three amazing women who had set up a recruitment consultancy in Cape Town back in the late 80s. I loved this job very much as they were instrumental in taking African women out of servitude and training them to be effective secretaries, PAs and front line receptionists in large, professional organisations. Remember, at this time, apartheid was still in place in SA so it was a very different proposition. This job and the people I met formed the person that I am today.

Have you followed the career path you set out to?

I guess so, as I said, I didn’t have a master plan, and I just wanted to be the best I could possibly be. I wanted to make my family proud of me. I hope I’ve done that.

What challenges have you faced along the way?

I remember working for a company that had never appointed a female manager in its long history. The first few months were tough, I worked with a number of gentlemen who had very little regard for HR and for the position that I was in but I held my own and worked to understand the business, its processes and how we could improve the performance of the company. 

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

Actually, I haven’t needed to do anything crazy to get a job.

Do you have any career regrets?

None, only teachable moments, as they say.

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

Colin Powell summed it up pretty well: “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.”

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

Keep taking the risks Clare, what’s the worst that can happen?


  • Coffee or tea? Tea, love an Earl Grey!
  • Jam or marmalade? Neither, I love Marmite!
  • The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? The Stones! Who doesn’t love Paint it Black?
  • Mac or PC? Mac, I can’t use it for love or money, but I do look the part!
  • The Guardian or The Times? Actually both…
  • BBC or ITV? BBC
  • M&S or Waitrose? M&S, only because it’s nearer and they do ace cheese scones
  • Morning or night? Night. I am a grumpy woman until at least 4 cups of tea have been consumed
  • Rain on snow? Snow!
  • Sweet or savoury? Sweet but I’ll sell my soul for brie!


  • App:  My banking app with Halifax. So quick and easy to use
  • TV show: Oooh that’s a tough one. I’d say Family Guy but I did download the entire box set of Sons of Anarchy which I watch at every available moment
  • Band: AC/DC, what’s not to love about them?
  • Song: Whole lotta Rosie
  • Book: A beautiful children’s book that I loved and still do very much is The Lord of the Rushie River
  • Sports team: Super City, Manchester City
  • Thing to do on a Friday night: Dinner with friends
  • Place to eat: Local Thai that is as good as any in Thailand or the pub that does a great ham, egg & chips
  • Holiday spot: Singapore for being frightfully civilised and Vegas because it’s Disney for grown-ups!
  • Piece of advice you’ve been given: You might be a really good HR professional but what will make you great is knowing the business and how it’s run