In this popular feature, we take a closer look at the working lives of some of HR Zone's 18,000 membership. This week, Sandra Walsh, of consultancy HR Delivers, shares some of her experiences of working in HR.
What's your current job role?
I have established and work in my own HR Consultancy.
What did you do before this job?
I have always been in HR before starting out on my own. I was HR Director with GEC Alstom Distribution Switchgear.
Describe your route into HR
I went into a training role straight from school, my only qualification was in Art and I was employed at British Steel to illustrate training manuals.
Did you always want to work in HR?
No, I wanted to be an engineer - but that was a career for boys only when I was at school. I didn't have a clear view of what career I might follow until I had been working for a few years. During that time, when I saw an opportunity I took it. I also went to night school to get some qualifications.
What would you say has been the most significant event in your career to date?
Passing my IPM exams first time. Having left school with no real qualifications, I had to go to night school to do NEBSS and IWM before I could enrol on the IPM course. It was a really proud moment and turning point - not many people passed all 3 papers first time and it spurred me on to enrol on an MBA and move into a management role. In case anyone thinks there has been a typing mistake, it was IPM when I did my exams. There were hundreds of us sitting in a room waiting for the exam paper to taken out of a sealed envelope - I'm glad we've moved on from there!
How do you think the role of HR has changed since you began your HR career?
When I started in HR (Personnel as it was) it was very much a function that was custodian of the rule book - keeping managers and staff in line, it wasn't unusual for staff who erred to be sent to Personnel for a warning.
It's a much broader function now and better placed to be an influential part of the business. Of course, we still need to make sure that the basics are in place, but now managers manage their people with our guidance - we no longer do it for them - although I think there are still some pockets of resistance out there.
What single thing would improve your working life?
Does it sound smug if say that I'm really satisfied with my working life? I could add "at last" because it has taken a long time to achieve it, but it has been worth all the effort and soul searching along the way.
What's your favourite part of the HR Zone site?
Any answers - it's a good way of keeping in touch with HR thinking and experiences - it's all too easy to work in a vacuum when you are self employed, this is a great antidote.
Have you made contact with any other members?
I recently offered to help a CIPD student with their project. It seemed like a good way to "put something back".
Do you have any advice for those looking to embark on a career in HR?
There is such a variety of environments and specialisms open to people looking at an HR career, I think my advice would be not to jump too soon. A breadth of experience is valuable - ideally spending some time in functions other than HR.
If you're willing to share your experiences of working in HR to date with other members, we'd like to hear from you - e-mail us to receive a copy of this questionnaire.
Previous 'Introducing...' features:
Carole Leslie, Director, IT Learning Ltd
Shaun Dunphy, Project and Process Manager, EMEA HR Service Centre for MCI
Debra Artlett, HR Officer, NGJ
Dianne Miles, HR Manager, Rollalong Ltd
Jacqui Mann, HR Manager, Integra NeuroSciences
Isabella Montgomery, Human Resources Officer at Thenew Housing Association
Iain Young, Head of HR for Cofathec Heatsave