Chartered Member of the CIPD (MCIPD) & QSCA Certified Life Coach.

I have over 25 years’ experience in Human Resources, gained from working at Readers Digest and IBM.  My first 10 years of working at IBM was in Customer Services and then I moved into Finance & Planning.  I left IBM in 1993 re-joining 1999.  My broad experience and knowledge is drawn from several positions within these organisations across the publishing world, different lines of business, and multiple industries, for example: – Public Sector, Banking & Finance, telecoms and Retail.

The key job roles have included First Line Management having responsibility for both junior banded staff and later senior staff at early executive level.  I am told that I am an outstanding people manager pulling on my coaching style of management.  Other roles have included HR Business Partner for The Strategic Outsourcing division.  I made a brave decision to take on a challenge when I assumed the additional role of Union Relationship manager for traditional unions including AMICUS, PCS and UNISON.  As HR Business Development and Engagement Manager I became a critical member of the outsourcing sales teams.  My HR people solutions helped to secure multimillion dollar new logo deals.  I am most proud of the UK deal for Shop Direct, in Ireland Musgraves and in Dubai, Emirates Nation Bank of Dubai.  I am currently the Global Immigration Lead for Mergers, Acquisitions, Outsourcing, JV’s & complex deals.  (I know it’s a very long title)!  Before this role (2012 – 2016) I was the Immigration Partner for North & West Africa and The Caribbean.  My responsibilities included maintaining IBM’s reputation and brand by driving a strong compliance posture.  I set strategy for the business on how to land employees from abroad into Africa quickly and compliantly.  In some countries, there were no processes, and, in these scenario’s, I would use my knowledge, experience and network to create a working structure.  I contribute to blogs and articles, sit on panels of Immigration experts which have included The World Economic Forum, Worldwide ERC and Fragomen.  I am known for crafting sensible and pragmatic business solutions.

I have a passion for people, talent development and growth.  I have served as a mentor and coach to youngsters over many many years, this comes very naturally to me.  I led the London chapter of ConnectingWomen@IBM for 4 years.  I sit on the advisor board for the LEAD curriculum which is a new venture which prepares young people for the world of work, bridging the gap between education and the world of work.  I am a Watson Ambassador which plays to the geek in me.  I gained chartered membership to the CIPD some years ago and qualified as a life coach over 2 years ago.  I am a mother of two grown daughters both pursuing their ambitions in life with success and style.  My hobbies include landscape painting, travelling, singing, creative writing, visiting air festivals and learning new things.

Can you tell us about your background and career to date?

I was born just outside London to immigrant parents from Jamaica (Windrush era very topical right now).  My dad died when I was aged 9 and my mum raised my siblings and myself.  My youngest brother was autistic and mum was often engaging with various MP’s trying to gain proper support for his schooling, not so easy in the 70’s.  I went to school in South Norwood and later went to a grammar girls schools.  My mum INSISTED that I stayed on at school instead of leaving at 16 like everyone else was doing.  Going to grammar school for those 2 years was instrumental in what would happen later in my life.  I didn’t go to university as my mother couldn’t afford it.  I worked every school holidays for an agency at different banks and insurance companies doing admin and filing.  My first permanent job was for a frozen foods company taking orders for all the large London hotels and restaurants.  I completed my orders quicker than everyone else, I would always manage to over sell and I built a great repour with the clients. I loved it!  After a few years I decided to leave and took on another sales role which was horrible.  I left that very quickly and went back to temping.  As a favour, I did 3 days at Balfour Beatty as a tea lady,  never again.  As fate would have it, the next week I was rewarded (I say) with a week’s stint at a company with no name.  I was simply to turn up, suited and booted.  The company was IBM and I was taking calls for typewriters, system 34 & 36’s.  I excelled. They took me on part time and then I eventually gained a full-time contract.  I grasped that opportunity and worked my way up.

What would you say are the main personality traits you have that helped you progress?

A can-do attitude, Determination, A willingness to learn new things and reinvent myself.

In your career, what has been the most difficult challenge and how did you overcome that?

I would say the most difficult challenge earlier in my career was balancing a young family plus an aged parent whilst trying to keep up and on top of my work load.  I learned to prioritise and focus on one or two things at a time.  I also discovered that I can have everything but not all at the same time!  IBM allows flexible working, so I could attend a school play or sports event and deliver project notes on time.  I never missed a deadline and I took pride in that, no excuses.

What is the single, greatest instance of trade-off you have had to make in reaching the role you currently hold and, in hindsight, would you change it if you could?

My greatest trade-off…I could have reached a higher level in my career by now however at age 25 I went on a course called Women in Focus.  At the beginning of the week I was sure I wanted to be an executive, by the end of the week I had to re think the journey and prioritise.  I was asked who was on this executive journey with me?  I had to think hard, I didn’t want to miss out on the most precious young years of my daughters lives, I could always pick up on my career later.  It was a huge gamble and in hindsight it was the absolute right way to go.  My daughters are grown, and I still have ambition to move to the next level and have moved to the next level.

What are the top 3 things you would advise people to do to manage their career growth?

(1) Be very clear about what you want and gain the qualifications to support that. (2) Find a sponsor (3) Get a coach.

How can one ensure that they are a top performer in this competitive and ever changing environment?

Being a top performer every year can be a tough ask, however, I would say: –

Understand the business priorities and objectives, know how and where you will contribute to that area.  If you don’t know ask for examples of how you can contribute.  Keep your skills and expertise fresh and current.  Look for stretch opportunities to broaden your skills and raise your profile (internally or externally).  Share your achievements and always look to add value in everything you do.

What does diversity mean to you?

Diversity means varied, different and a mixture of different people and abilities.

What observations have you made about the progress of diversity and inclusion in organisations that you’ve worked in?

Here in the UK…Slow, Slow and Slow!   When I look at the intern and graduate population there are early indicators that a change is on its way.  The trick is retaining the talent once they are into the companies.  When I look upwards (minus the US population here in the UK), there is still a tiny percentage of diverse faces in senior roles.  The gender needle has moved greatly over the years, however with regards to the BAME population, very slow.  To be fair I know that some companies are championing this topic and making deliberate changes, so they attract and keep enabling them to have a senior leadership which is diverse for all the right reasons.  There are still a number of companies who talk the talk only.  I do think that over the years diversity fatigue has set in.  I personally like to think about Inclusion for all regardless of age, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or other.  We all bring different ingredients to the table and that is when the magic starts to happen and you get a fabulous mix of ideas and cultures and true richness.

What do you think is the key to unlocking the talent pipeline in women of colour that could open the door from middle management to senior management?

To become Head of something you have to understand all the key aspects and roles within that function.  Therefore having a broad range of expertise or learning them is essential.  To unlock the door you need a SPONSOR who is at the table when the decisions are being made on who gets the job.  You need to watch and learn how the game is played, consider, who else you need to lobby (key stakeholders / influencers) to be on your side and root for you.  Make sure you have all the skills and more for the job.  Ensure you have the like-ability factor and the emotional intelligence.  Show yourself willing to go the extra mile.  Have your home life in place to support all the long hours you are going to be working.  Get you health right, (lots of days off sick makes people ask questions).  Show resilience in all the roles leading up to the one you want, therefore demonstrating a track record.   Make known your ambitions, i.e. One day I want to be Head Of…Think about who will succeed you and assist in grooming that employee for your role if possible…When it comes down to it you are the very best person for the job.

What role do you think mentoring plays in career progression?

I believe that Mentoring and Coaching are priceless to one’s career progression.  I look back at the mentors I have had over the years and where they have assisted and guided me.  In the early days these were mostly men.  They helped me to hone my soft skills, listened to my general issues and concerns, they offered personal support.  They have imparted their knowledge and shared their network with me.  They have given me examples of how to/not to go about things.  They have been there to bounce ideas off.  I know that mentoring has enhanced my chances of success and increased my productivity over the years.  Mentoring is Invaluable, and you can have multiple mentors for different reasons.  I was blessed with a coach about 4 years ago and this one move has transformed my life totally so much so that I am now a certified Life and Law Of Attraction coach.

What advice would you give to someone beginning their career in any industry?

The advice I would give to someone at the beginning of their career is as follows: – Know the ‘why’ you are choosing that career path and that industry.  When you have bad days and you will, this will serve as a good reminder for you.  Seek to be the very best in everything you do.  Know who the experts and thought leaders are in your industry and field and why.  Take the initiative, do research, read, attend master classes and expand your learning, become versatile.  Be adaptable and remember that things take time, this is a journey and not a race. Don’t compare yourself to no-one.  Smile and enjoy the journey!