Whilst studying for my science degree, I realised that the potential career pathways of teaching science or working in a laboratory did not appeal to me – that was my perception at the time. During my final year at university, I chose to learn more about ‘people management’ as my non-science topic. This was my first introduction to HR, and I was fascinated. I wanted a career that gave me the opportunity to work with a variety of people and make a difference. On a personal level, I had already developed a strong sense of fairness and equality for all, which motivated me to apply for my CIPD qualification. During this time, I worked in retail to fund my studies. I was able to apply my newly acquired HR skills to design recruitment days and assessment centres for Marks & Spencer. Equipped with my CIPD qualification, I applied for jobs relevant to my experience in Manchester (I am a proud Northerner!) but none were available. After a few unsuccessful interviews, I was offered a HR role in the NHS in London. I accepted the job thinking that I would gain a year’s experience and return ‘home’ – I am still in London, some 20 years later! Practising HR in the NHS gave me the invaluable breadth and depth of exposure to develop my HR expertise.
In addition to my HR generalist role, I supported colleagues to develop staff networks and further the equality agenda at organisational level, which I enjoyed. I therefore decided to pursue opportunities to work in the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion field. After a few years of this work, I volunteered to co-chair the London Equality Leads Network, a role which I currently hold and has enabled me to embed equality, diversity and inclusion thinking at system and sector level.
Through my work in both EDI and HR I have developed and applied my skills in coaching, mentoring and mediation training; all of which have enabled me to shape my own unique style of supporting colleagues.
Finally, much of this would not have been possible without having the good fortune of working with great leaders and peers who been a source of encouragement and positivity. Not everyone is so lucky to obtain this experience, so I am passionate about creating an environment that supports people to realise their potential and overcome whatever obstacles life may throw up.
Be patient – career progression is also about the personal growth you experience along the way. Stay positive, network with others and most importantly do not doubt your own capabilities!