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How Did I Get Here? David Kelly, Aventis UK

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David Kelly, Head of Development and Training for Aventis UK, a global pharmaceutical company, shares his experiences of working in HR to date.


What's your current job role?
Head of Development & Training for Aventis UK. Main responsibilities include cultural transformation and maintenance; executive and leadership/management development; talent management; generalist HR for subsidiary company.

What did you do before this job?
I was Head of Public Affairs and Communication for a predecessor organisation – dealing with politicians, patient groups, media as well as internal communications.

Describe your route into HR?
Following a degree in business economics and marketing, I took up an initial role with Building Societies Institute as Education Officer – looking after student programmes and exams. A variety of roles within engineering and retailing then followed with a mix of communications, development and HR. I had a couple of international development roles involving cross cultural awareness training.

Did you always want to work in HR?
I had always wanted to have a role where I could impact the total business – across all functions. That meant a staff role and I believe that in a true HR role you are a key business partner. The pay and rations side of HR was never of real interest to me. Working with unions, development and business transformation were my main interests – and still are.

What would you say has been the most significant event in your career to date?
At a time of merger in 2000, my role as Head of Public Affairs was to be made redundant. At the very last minute I was invited to stay with the organisation and, with the CEO, lead the development of a new and vigorous culture for the business. The resultant change in our business and the positive feedback we got on the 'new' organisation from employees, potential recruits, customer and suppliers showed we had delivered. In 2002, we reached the Sunday Times top 100 companies award and in 2003 got into the Financial Times' top 50 Great Workplaces. Both depend on the input of employees so we must have done something right.

How do you think the role of HR has changed since you began your HR career?
HR has to be much more closely aligned to the business these days. Much of the basic transactional stuff can either be outsourced or is taken as a given. The added value is providing challenge to the line managers – challenging their ways of thinking, their actions and their attitudes. Equally, HR must support them too. In the 70s, the 'sexy' side of HR was industrial relations, whereas now the real benefit is derived from the development side of HR. Equally, there has been a move away from HR as the policy and procedures 'police' to being the coach, mentor and catalyst for the business.

What single thing would improve your working life?
Having the dedication and the time to really invest in my on-going learning. Business changes occur increasingly rapidly and we must always be able to question – and find answers – to new challenges. Some of yesterday's solutions still work but many need or will need rethinking.

What's your favourite part of the HR Zone site?
Overall, HR Zone provides a quick and easy-to-read summary of topics of current interest. Different parts of the site appeal depending what my need on any day is.

Have you made contact with any other members?
Not directly but I have contributed to comments and added my two pence worth now and again to articles.

Do you have any advice for those looking to embark on a career in HR?
As with any career path, once you've chosen it go for it. Be passionate about what you do and show you are committed to making a difference. Be prepared to challenge 'the experts'! Gain experience – even if only for a few months – in a non-HR role. Enjoy your role and inspire others.


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:
Jenny Kevan, UK HR Manager for Abbott Laboratories
William Martin, HR Manager, Telewest Broadband
Craig Truter, HR Manager, The Body Shop
Martin Stockton, HR Transformation Leader, Towers Perrin
Nick Heap, Consultant, New Directions
Crispin Garden-Webster, HR Specialist, Asian Development Bank
Sandra Walsh, HR Delivers
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 The new Housing Association
Iain Young, Head of HR for Cofathec Heatsave

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