HR Advisors Conference Blog

Further thoughts from the conference or about the challenges of being in an HR Advisory role.

HR Career Paths: how did they get to where they are?

At the HR Advisors Conference in the last couple of years, we’ve had some fabulous and inspiring HR people share their career paths, how they got to where they are, and what they learned along the way. We’d like to thank them all for sharing their time and experience – it’s been a section that the Elephant team have really enjoyed at the conference!

If you’re thinking about where your career might take you next year, have a read of where others have stepped before! (The career map is from Angela Atkin’s HR Career Guide.)

Susan Lowe, HR Business Partner, Warehouse Stationery

At the time of presenting in January 2014, Susan was in an HR BP role but shortly moved over into learning as L&D Manager at Noel Leeming Group. Her career path was working in operational roles within retail starting as a Graduate Trainee Manager. Her people management experience then set her up perfectly to move into HR.


Susan’s key learning’s and tips were:

  • to think about your own personal brand,
  • look for different opportunities and
  • know, understand and leverage your strengths.

Her operational career path gave her many transferable skills to bring into HR. Susan also talked about not everyone needs to aspire to being a GM HR. Being an HR Advisor is a challenging role and may be where someone’s skills shine. We don’t always have to move upwards!

Meredith Blackler, Senior Manager People & Capability, Horowhenua District Council

Meredith shared her very moving story of the struggles of an HR career, highs and lows. Her career path has been different from the rest as she completed her study first before moving straight into HR and working through a variety of roles into senior management. She shared the challenges of going from HR Advisor to HR Manager including having to take a helicopter view / stepping back from the frontline, leading change, knowing the business – all of it…, knowing “I’ll never be there” and having confidence to take risks & push the boundaries “successful people spend most of their time making mistakes” – Mark Zuckerberg


Meredith also shared her personal light bulb moments.

  • Staying true to myself & my values benefits the organisation and my own career
  • My experiences outside of work make me a better HR practitioner
  • Sometimes you know better than your boss… and… sometimes your boss knows better than you…
  • Ask for feedback from people you deal with: “Did you get the service from me you wanted?” “How could I have done this better?”

Since then Meredith has been pushing the boundaries and won the HR Game Changer of the Year 2015. For more about that click here.

Dave Malcolmson, HR Business Partner Manager, Contact Energy

Dave’s presentation had everyone in stitches and demonstrated having a sense of humour in HR can work wonders!! Dave’s HR career has taken him around the world including roles in Australia, South Africa, Europe and London. He talked about the different job titles he’s had including “personnel officer”, IR adviser, HR adviser, in-house recruitment, remuneration, OD, training, business partner, HR manager, HR Director. He’s thought of the roles as policeman, adviser, specialist, trusted partner, coach, mentor, “new opportunity encourager”, change agent and conscience.


He had some fantastic tips to share including:

  • Be flexible – move up, down and sideways, both life and work
  • Embrace change – it is your friend, your opportunity, your canvas
  • Be numerate – big data is where it’s at now
  • Business acumen and commercial nous are vital – managers (should) expect HR to help with the analysis, the business case and the ROI
  • Work in the business – sit in the managers seat so you have credibility but also empathy
  • Get experience across different areas of HR to develop breadth and depth, make lateral moves, be prepared to change companies, but remember…..
  • It’s good to be a generalist or, even better, a Specialist Generalist!
  • Not everyone needs (or wants) to be a GM…..and that’s OK

Huma Faruqui, GM HR, Z Energy

At the time of presenting in January 2014, Huma was GM HR however has now moved to a consulting role. She talked about her career path being in 3 stages. Being a Grad and then Store Manager for WH Smith, then moving into recruitment, then HR and finally HR and OD. She said there were different challenges for each transition. She shared what being a GM HR is all about. It’s not about getting bogged down in operational work, being reactive or making it about HR – instead it’s about thinking strategically, and making sure everything you do around people is focused on improving business performance, and talking about that with senior leaders.


Her top tips included:

  • Do some time in a business role, or do some non-HR professional study
  • Know what you want and be prepared to take sideways moves to get there
  • Lateral moves provide an opportunity to develop breadth and depth of expertise and are critical for taking on a senior role

So there you have it – some very different HR career paths. Is yours going where you want?


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This entry was posted on October 29, 2015 by in HR Career Paths and tagged , , .

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