Career profile: Shereen Daniels, head of HR, Caffe Nero

Written by
Tom Ritchie

19 Jun 2017

19 Jun 2017 • by Tom Ritchie

CV in brief

  • Metropolitan Pub Co. (September 2013 – August 2016)
  • Hobbs (September 2012 – July 2013)
  • Gala Coral (February 2012 – August 2012)
  • Carphone Warehouse (September 2009 – Feb 2012)

A day in your life

Tell us about your job, organisation and team.

My primary role is to keep my HR team happy and engaged so they feel supported and inspired to deliver our people agenda across Caffè Nero.  Reporting into the Group HRD, my focus is our UK operations of which we have just under 5,000 employees and 600 stores.

What is the most rewarding and challenging parts of your role?

The most rewarding part of my role is creating an environment where my team can have fun, sing (literally) and have the space and support to explore the world outside of HR so that they can bring new insights and ideas to help us tackle our people challenges.

The most challenging part of my role? There is so much to do and we have so many great ideas, but we have to focus on our people plan, limit distractions and make sure we are in a strong position to deliver. I am a big believer in doing what we say we are going to do and that can often mean putting some great ideas on the backburner. It’s a challenge every HR team faces I’m sure.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I’ll potter into the office just after 9.30am (I usually train four times a week in my local Crossfit gym at 6.30am). Finding out what radio station we are listening to is first order of the day (we oscillate between Smooth, Kisstory and Capital Xtra if we feel we need some additional motivation).

Then it’s a check in and a laugh with my boss (Andrea Cooper) in her office and it’s catching up on emails, phone calls, LinkedIn activity and lots and lots of random conversations with my team and our head office colleagues.

Why did you choose your current organisation to work for?

Primarily due to rapport I had with my now boss, Andrea. I remember my first interview with her and whilst it was completely unplanned, I ended up telling her my life story. From coming to London in 2003 from ‘up North’, to having my daughter as a single mum and then having stage four cancer (I’m four years in remission, touch wood!).

There were a lot of synergies with what was important to me, my strengths and the values of Caffè Nero and the support Andrea needed to develop the HR function and take ownership of the team. The Neal Street office is relaxed and informal and from the very beginning of my process, I felt relaxed and at home.

I remember thinking to myself ‘yep, I can see myself working here.’ Low and behold, nearly a year later I am still laughing every day, surrounded by a great team and a supportive manager. Caffè Nero is my home.

What skills are essential for your role?

  • Ability to be objective
  • Ability to inspire and empower those who directly and indirectly work for you
  • A sense of humour
  • Strength of character and assertiveness
  • Ability to influence through charm and persuasion – not policy and procedure
  • Confidence and articulate in getting your point of view across
  • To have a point of view and to embrace challenge/difference of opinion without taking things personally
  • Have a watchful eye on what is happening outside Nero and how this affects the business from both an operational and people perspective.

Career path

How did you get to where you are now? Have you followed the career path you expected?

Did I follow a career path I expected? Absolutely not. I’ve always gone for roles that have been a challenge. My first proper HR role as working for a risk management company (now part of G4S) and I looked after the transactional HR support for the Middle East. From working with ex military/police employees to book publishing to retail and now hospitality I think I have an eclectic mix of experience.

As well as HR I have been able to pursue my other interests, sport and writing in particularly so I’m lucky I’m at a stage in my life and career, where I can combine all of the things I love to do and still be curious about what else I can achieve.

I can never sit still but it’s served me well so far.

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

I think the hardest moment for me was finding out I had stage four cancer (Hodgkin’s Lymphoma) shortly after I joined Gala Coral in 2012. What a way to start a new job!

There was a restructure there at the same time so I found myself balancing chemotherapy, navigating a new business and then working out if the restructure was right for me in the long term.

In the end I said goodbye to Gala Coral and even though it seems like madness now, I carried on working. I remember having chemotherapy and then going off to see agencies and having interviews. I never told anyone I was sick (I rocked the no hair and elaborate eye makeup with style).

I was also a single mum of a 5 year old (Tia) at the time so I had a lot going on and I remember often reflecting if I was doing the right thing – working and having treatment. Whilst I have no idea how I did it, if I had to go back I would do it all over again.

The experience has made me quite blasé to change and disruption actually and has set up for success in the long run I believe. I can’t think that I will ever experience a situation as challenging as that. I got through it just by putting one foot in front of the other.

It has been the most challenging but also my most proudest career moment.  Like many cancer survivors, I will always maintain that having cancer was the best thing that happened to me and I feel like I have gone from strength to strength.

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

  • Be really clear on what’s important to you and take the time to evaluate job roles and the people you will be working with (and for) to make sure you don’t compromise
  • Find people to work for who are supportive of you, your ambitions and your values. I can’t tell you how much of a difference it has made and I can still name key people who have been instrumental in my development within the last 16 years
  • Pay it forward. As you progress, grow and develop, do what you can to help others coming up behind or beside you. Many of us are at a stage in our careers and our lives, where we can have such a positive impact on others who are struggling to find their way or lack confidence to go after their dreams but we can be so focused on ourselves we forget to help others.

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

Have a plan. No matter how vague, have a plan.That way you are in a perfect position to seize opportunities that come your way and recognise them as a chance to help you fulfill your life and career aspirations.


  • Coffee or tea? Tea. I love the smell of coffee and the romance of it all but I’ve just never acquired a taste for it. Even though I work for Caffè Nero!
  • Sweet or savoury? Sweet! Give me a lovely sponge cake with buttercream icing and I’m all yours!
  • The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? The Beatles.
  • Apple or Android? Android.
  • Introvert or extrovert? Extrovert (but I do need peace and quiet to recalibrate every now and then).
  • Early bird or night owl? Early bird (but this has been a relatively recent preference).
  • Winter or summer? Summer.
  • City or countryside? Countryside.  I like the silence and greenery of the countryside.


  • App:  Instagram – because everything is so quick, it makes me feel less guilty for wasting time on social media.
  • Film:  Alien. No matter how many times I watch this film, I always feel like it’s the first time I’ve watched it.
  • Song: Lady in my life – Michael Jackson. I continue to be Michael Jackson’s biggest fan. I know all of his songs back to front, inside out but this one has such funk and soul to it. It’s an underrated gem on his Thriller album.
  • Book: Working with the law – Raymond Hill. My coach recently introduced me to this book and it literally blew my mind. It has changed my perspective on my life, my capabilities and what I can achieve. It goes deep so it’s not for the faint hearted.  If anyone has read it, please connect with me as I can talk about this book all day.
  • Childhood hero: Janet Jackson. Partly because she was the sister of Michael Jackson but also because she was cool, could sing and had some killer moves. I remember moving the furniture out of the way for compulsory recreation of some dance moves from her (and MJs) music videos. 
  • Guilty pleasure: Old Hollywood musicals. One of my all-time favourites is Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I know it’s super cheesy but I still watch it every now and then.
  • Place to eat: Barafina (Spanish tapas). The food is consistently amazing.
  • Holiday spot: Tenerife. It has never failed to disappoint.
  • Piece of advice you’ve been given: For every day you stay in a job (or situation) that isn’t right for you, you put it out there into the universe that you don’t deserve any better.  Be clear on what you are worth and stick to it.