Advertisement: open in new window
My father was the general manager of a hotel, so I grew up in a hotel wanting to be a hotel manager. By the age of seven I was helping the chambermaids in the bedrooms and preparing prawn cocktails with the chefs. But my father advised me against following the general manager career route so I completed a broader degree in travel and tourism instead.
My first job after graduating was as a quality and service manager at a Jarvis hotel and, over time, this evolved more and more into personnel and training, which I really enjoyed. After helping the chain to get its first Investors in People recognition and starting up an NVQ programme, I was then certain that I wanted to pursue a career in HR. Hotels are in my blood so working in HR in a hotel was ideal for me.
I was Hilton HR manager of the year for the central north region in 2001. My hotel had the highest score in the company for employee job satisfaction and I had helped to deliver a wide-ranging NVQ training programme.
Working in Canada was a big highlight for me. It was a huge cultural change because HR was at the centre of everything. The focus on people in the hospitality industry was much greater than I was used to in the UK, so it really elevated my status in the hotel.
After my daughter was born and I returned from maternity leave I made a conscious decision to broaden my HR experience. I also felt hotels were not conducive to the kind of family life I wanted so was really pleased when I got the job at Graduate Prospects. I have a much better work-life balance.
Switching industries was challenging. In hospitality, staff generally accepted HR policies without too much of a backlash, but when I first started at Graduate Prospects it was a battle to try to introduce anything new. People asked lots of questions and really challenged me, so I soon learnt the importance of building relationships. Getting managers on board with what you are trying to do and being open to changes if they don’t think something is going to work are essential.
The best part of my job is seeing people develop and getting promoted within. I also like it when the work I have done helps people to feel more satisfied with their job and the company.
The worst aspects of my job are taking disciplinary action and making redundancies. The biggest challenge for me at the moment is motivating people and increasing morale. Over the past couple of years we’ve streamlined the organisation through a lot of natural wastage and, more recently, we have had to make some tough decisions to let people go, and that’s been hard.
In times such as these HR becomes even more important in an organisation because we have to keep happy a workforce that is dealing with losing people and not getting all the benefits and pay rises they were used to. We also have to justify our own position and the value we bring to an organisation.
My biggest lesson in HR was to not step over the line and always respect all levels of people. When I first started out I remember saying “but I’m a manager” to someone. Unsurprisingly, she didn’t like this and it changed our relationship from then onwards. I would never do that again – HR is about working together, whether you’re a manager or regular member of the team.
I’m very determined and don’t like to fail. I’m also impatient which isn’t always a bad thing as it means things always get done and move forwards. The CVEducation: University of Northumbria (BA in travel and tourism management)Previous roles: HR manager, Marriott Pinnacle Hotel, Vancouver, Canada (2001-03); HR manager, Hilton Leicester Hotel (1998-2001); quality and service manager/ personnel and training manager, Jarvis Springfield Hotel, Newcastle Upon Tyne (1996-98)Personal: Married with one daughterHobbies: Going to the gym, Formula One racing, reading