Career profile: Carrie Birmingham, founder, Carrie Birmingham Counsult ltd.

Written by
Tom Ritchie

03 Nov 2017

03 Nov 2017 • by Tom Ritchie

CV in brief

  • 2009 – 2016: HR Director, News UK
  • 2006 – 2009: Management development manager, News UK
  • 2003 - 2006: Learning & development manager, Virgin Holidays
  • 2002 – 2003: Training consultant, Leaps & Bounds 

A day in your life

Tell us about your job, organisation and team.

I am the founder of a consultancy ( focused on change and handling extraordinary events. Starting up your own business is a learning curve and rollercoaster. Some days I am convinced it is the best thing I have ever done and other days I wonder why I left the security and sense of belonging you get in a corporate role. I have a great network of friends, consultants and specialists who as part of my extended team, and this allows us help clients with a range of problems.

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

I get deep satisfaction when I see clients creating organisations where people can do their best work, as I know it benefits customers and profits. I find it deeply challenging when organisation treat employees as if they are machines or robots.

What does a typical day look like for you?

One of the things I love about my job is I don’t have a typical day. As someone who gets bored easily this really suits me. Overall my time is spent in three main areas: Firstly, partnering with clients, to help them resolve a problem or help make something different happen. Secondly heading into London, catching up with my network or helping clients articulate what they need and thirdly I am working in my garden office, running and developing my business, and looking after myself, my family and my dogs.

Why did you choose your current organisation to work for?

I left News UK, as HR Director, because I wanted to have more control over the work I did and how I do it.  I learnt a lot from work at News UK working through such turbulence. Whilst I was tempted to join a new business, I felt I could make more of a difference if worked across a breath of organisations.

What skills are essential for your role?

My path to being a HR Director was through L&D and management development, and I know this has influenced my approach. The skills I find I use most often as a consultant are: facilitation, coaching, awareness raising, and OD thinking.  

Career path

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

I finished my schooling, planning to join the Police, and never would have anticipated being where I am now. I think you have to be open minded about your career. Look for things you enjoy and are good at and try to find ways to do more of them! This has meant that on paper, I have made some strange career decisions.

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

It’s so easy for leaders to fall into the trap of believing that employees will do as they are told and are not invested emotionally. In difficult times we have to remember that employees want to be their company’s greatest ambassadors and we need to spend time with them to enable this.

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

My HR team at News UK, nominating me for a prize for my leadership. I felt very honoured.

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

To join the people business and truly make a difference you have to be resilient and comfortable with debate. HR is not a place to have an easy life.

In my experience the best people partners, hold their advice lightly enough that they can fight their corner and also look for ways to adapt to get the best outcome. HR is still an evolving profession and so people that will question your value, so you also have to patient.

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

Don’t be so hard on yourself. 


Coffee or tea? Coffee, I am a bit of a coffee snob. Love the smell!

Sweet or savoury? Sweet. Any excuse for cake is welcome.

The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? Neither. Give me Pink, Paloma Faith, Ed Sheeran or The Script.

Apple or Android? Apple every time (much to husband’s annoyance) - I love their design, reliability & functionality

Introvert or extrovert? Raving extrovert, I get ideas and energy from people. Although as I have matured, I have learnt to value time alone and insight that can come from reflection.

Early bird or night owl? Early bird. I would rather get up and enjoy the day.

Winter or summer? Both, I enjoy the difference of the seasons. G&T’s on the decking in the summer, and lighting the wood burner in the winter.

City or countryside? Countryside. I live in the South Downs national park, and love walking my dogs there. Now if you have asked me about the seaside then that would be a difficult call! 


App: Gratitude. I great little app, that helps me think about what I am grateful for. Such a powerful habit for positivity, which I find beneficial.

Film: Silence of the Lambs. An iconic film, with some twists and turns, great acting and moments you just can’t forget!

Song: My favourite running track is Heaven by Emile Sande. It lifts my spirit and makes me want to go faster!

Book: I found the The Kite Runner both a deeply moving & disturbing read. I enjoy books that explore difficult topics, and so Jodi Picoult is a favourite novelist.

Childhood hero: I struggled with this question because I am embarrassed to admit that despite trying to think of a better answer, the person who comes to mind is Superman. Watching Christopher Reeve (showing my age now!) on the big screen playing this role is a very vivid memory for lots of reasons!

Guilty pleasure: Having recently completed my first sprint Triathlon, it would have to be a great massage to help relieve tired muscles & work out my knots.

Place to eat: I love mexican food so it would have to be Wahaca. I do have the cook book but find the list of ingredients rather intimidating!

Holiday spot: We have a motorhome and so regularly enjoy camping. The camping spot that keeps calling us back is Wittering. There is an amazing beach at West Wittering and Billy’s on the beach in East Wittering does an amazing breakfast.

Piece of advice you’ve been given: Whether you think you can or you can’t, you are probably right.