CV in brief
- May 2016 – current: HR Director, Accenture UK and Ireland
- July 2015 – May 2016: HR Service Delivery Lead, Accenture UK and Ireland
- May 2012 – July 2015: Talent Supply Chain Lead, Accenture UK and Ireland
- Sept 2009 – May 2012: Products UK and Ireland HR Lead, Accenture UK and Ireland
- Apr 2003 – Sept 2009: Consulting HR Transformation Manager (Business Process Outsourcing), Accenture UK and Ireland
A day in your life
Tell us about your job, organisation and team.
I’m HR director for Accenture's UK and Ireland businesses. Together with my talented team of 170 HR professionals, I’m responsible for the recruitment and professional development of nearly 13,500 employees. My team’s remit covers everything from talent strategy (including our diversity & inclusion agenda), employer brand, recruitment and HR service delivery through to rewards, pensions & benefits.
Accenture is a leading global professional services company, providing a broad range of services and solutions in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations. We work at the intersection of business and technology to help our clients improve their performance. We have approximately 425,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries - driving innovation to improve the way the world works and lives.
What is the most rewarding and challenging parts of your role?
Talent is my business, and I find working with the Accenture’s companies particularly rewarding as I can see the direct impact that we, have on the success of the firm. But it’s not always just about the people in the talent-equation, it’s also about getting under the skin of each of the businesses strategies, understanding their numbers and where HR and talent supply can have an impact.
On my best day, I’m working hand-in-glove with the UK and Ireland executive team to understand where we can provide the right support and insight. When it comes to the more challenging days, keeping all the plates spinning across a very disparate portfolio is the hardest part. However, my focus is very much on the bigger business challenges, ensuring we have the right talent for the future and driving the necessary change to make that happen.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I split my time across multiple offices and geographies with complex stakeholder groups and in an environment, that is by design, perpetually changing. Routine is not in my vocabulary!
Why did you choose your current organisation to work for?
Funnily enough I first chose to join Accenture (in 1997) not because of the work, but rather because I fancied working in the most exciting city in the world – London, for a blue-chip corporate. Of course, why I’ve since stayed with Accenture is the valuable work I get to do, the opportunities that are on offer and the fantastic people I get to work with every day.
What skills are essential for your role?
It’s incredibly important to be interested in, and curious about people. Networking and building strong, trusting relationships (both internally and externally) is vital. To do that listening-skills, compassion and discretion are critical. I also have to be good at taking complex data and understanding the implications and insights it provides.
As a leader, I couldn’t possibly survive by being a micro-manager. Instead I trust my leadership team to be accountable across our broad portfolio of HR functions, that’s what ultimately makes us successful.
The final thing I would say, and this is less a skill and more a philosophy, is that any leader knows there’s always “more to be done”. On any given day our view is typically limited to the immediate horizon, but beyond that horizon the next challenge is lying in wait and we have to try our level-best to anticipate and prepare for it.
How did you get to where you are now? Have you followed the career path you expected?
My career path certainly has not been a conventional one… I started out as a legal assistant then I took a role as an office manager for a high-end estate agency (I have some crazy stories about the lifestyles of the rich and famous, but sadly I can’t share them with you here!)
In 1997, I spotted an advert for Accenture (or rather Andersen Consulting as it was then) for an Executive Assistant position and joined the business shortly thereafter. I travelled the world in my role as an EA to some of our senior leaders, which gave me great insight into how our business works. I was quickly promoted to supervisor, then office & buildings manager. That role lead into the “people management” side of things – which I loved. As a result, Accenture sponsored me to complete my CIPD qualification and I started working in an HR Transformation capacity for our clients, locally and globally.
I transitioned fully into HR when I took the role of Client Account HR Lead for one of our clients… and I’ve never looked back. I think it’s probably clear that I’ve never had a 5- or 10-year career plan, but at every stage of my career, I’ve been lucky enough to have mentors that have pushed and stretched me and that has never been truer than within Accenture.
What challenges have you faced along the way? How did you overcome them?
The specialist skills required to service our clients’ needs are becoming simultaneously more diverse and more niche. At the same time, the pace of change in technology is exponential. That makes talent prediction a real challenge - seeing beyond our immediate needs and anticipating the shape of the workforce of the future. I work constantly with my colleagues from across the Accenture businesses to predict what our future critical talent requirements are likely to be e.g. AI, Blockchain and Cyber-security are currently “hot”, but what’s next?
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
I’ve never been prouder than when I made Managing Director at Accenture – especially considering my unconventional career path.
What advice would you offer to others who are looking to get to where you are now?
Always be open and alert to the opportunities that come your way – you never know where they might lead.
What advice would you give to your 22-year-old self?
Don’t worry! I promise you won’t regret any of the big life decisions you’ve made, and in fact you’re going to have such a lot of fun.
Coffee or tea? Tea
Sweet or savoury? Sweet
The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? It has to be The Beatles. My Dad went to school with John Lennon and more importantly, he met my Mum at a Quarrymen gig (the band Lennon created that evolved into The Beatles) So without The Beatles there may have been no me!
Apple or Android? Apple
Introvert or extrovert? Depends who I’m with!
Early bird or night owl? Early bird
Winter or summer? Why choose?
City or countryside? I’m lucky enough to split my time between the two and get the best of both worlds: my family and I live in the countryside with all the magnificent views and open spaces, but I work in the heart of the city where the energy and pace is thrillingly relentless.
App: Facebook’s my favourite app, especially as helps me stay connected with people I wouldn’t otherwise be able to
Film: There are so many great films that I’m sure I answer this question differently every time it’s asked. But let me say the 1999 remake of the Thomas Crown Affair – for its wit, music and glamorous styling
Song: U2’s “Beautiful Day” is my guaranteed feel-good track
Book: Literally anything by C.J. Sansom works for me. He’s a Scottish-born writer of historical crime novels. I’m fanatical about the Classics and specifically with the medieval renaissances and Sansom often uses the medieval period as the backdrop for his fiction
Childhood hero: This has to be Elizabeth 1st, Queen of England and Ireland from 1558 to 1603. I am in awe of what she managed to achieve, especially as an independent woman, living and leading in those times
Guilty pleasure: Indulging in a day spend doing absolutely nothing, sitting on the seawall at St Mawes on the Roseland Peninsula on the south coast of Cornwall
Place to eat: Hotel Tresanton, again in the village of St. Mawes, is a firm favourite. And it’s dog friendly too, which is very handy as I have two dogs as well as two children
Holiday spot: As I said above, I love the classics: the philosophy, history, and archaeology. So, anything Greco-Roman in location works for me. When I can’t drag my girls to Italy and Greece, we’re quite happy to settle closer to home, in Cornwall
Piece of advice you’ve been given: If you need to give someone feedback, go into the room thinking about what is in their best interest, rather than your own agenda.