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How Did I Get Here? Jenny Kevan, Abbott Laboratories


Jenny Kevan, UK HR Manager for Abbott Laboratories, shares her experiences of working in HR to date.

What’s your current job role?
I am the UK HR Manager for Abbott Laboratories, MediSense Products, responsible for 2 sites – Abingdon and Witney. I have 9 HR staff, 3 Reception staff and 6 EHS staff. We currently have about 1300 permanent staff including manufacturing, quality & regulatory, R&D and central services. I am a member of the site management team and report into the Site Director with a dotted line into my American HR Director. My role is to provide an HR and EHS service to the business. My main current HR activity is recruitment – we have recruited approx 325 people in the year to date and have 65 vacancies, mainly in professional and support functions.

What did you do before this job?
I was UK HR Manager for CompAir with a team of 6, responsible for 4 UK sites with a staff of around 750. When I started 5 years before we had about 1200 people across 5 sites. Much of my time at CompAir was involved with restructuring and redundancy programmes of varying sizes.

Describe your route into HR?
I did a variety of jobs early on in my career, including retail management, an Executive Officer in the Dept of Environment (District Audit) and the travel industry. I took a training administration role with Bank of America, because I could walk to work. I really enjoyed it and decided that training was the career for me. For over 15 years I worked in a number of different training roles in the public and private sectors and also widened my activity to include assessment and psychometric testing. I then decided that I wanted to become an HR generalist and joined part of T&N as the HRD Manager and within 3 months was also given responsibility for general HR for the Head Office functions of my wholly owned subsiduary and later took on a pan-European role.

Did you always want to work in HR?
No. I originally wanted to go into the Foreign Office and work abroad, preferably in Italy (I am an Italian speaker). I just fell into HRD and then progressed into HR.

What would you say has been the most significant event in your career to date?
The move from management training to general HR and in particular my first redundancy exercise and trade union negotiations.

How do you think the role of HR has changed since you began your HR career?
A faster pace of change and a need to be more flexible and adaptable.

What single thing would improve your working life?
A mechanism to fit 48 hours into 10 hours and still have fun.

What’s your favourite part of the HR Zone site?
Any Answers – I love its variety.

Have you made contact with any other members?
Yes, by responding to the questions posted on Any Answers. It is a useful way to network.

Do you have any advice for those looking to embark on a career in HR?
Be proactive. Try to gain a wide variety of work and life experiences. Remember that you can be wrong and that rarely is anything black and white.

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:

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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