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How Did I Get Here? Linda Parrott, HR Director for Interdean.Interconex

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Linda Parrott reveals what took her from rock musician to HR Director and the reasons why AC/DC – Back in Black must always be played at full volume.



1. What’s your current job role?
I’m the HR Director for Interdean.Interconex, the world’s leading global corporate moving specialist with 63 offices in 42 countries. Interdean.Interconex offers fantastic opportunities to its people to develop and bring innovation into the business, which is the exact path I’ve been following over the last ten years of my career here.

2. What did you do before this job?
I was predominantly involved within more functional HR/admin, a three year spell apiece at Europa Foods and Ernest & Julio Gallo Winery head offices continued to fuel my enthusiasm for broadening my horizons into as many areas of the business as possible. The opportunity to understand the client/supplier relationship with the example of Gallo and Europa Foods from both sides of the fence was of particular value.

3. Describe your route into HR
Mmmmm – this is a good question!

An early involvement in sales, marketing, and administration whilst working in the family businesses in the hotel and catering sector gave me a wonderful hands-on foundation course for a business manager. It was there that I learnt the worth not only of the pound, but of good people!

Enjoying the people interface, I pursued my personnel career with Grand Met, TrusthouseForte, and Youngs Seafoods/ Imperial Tobacco, all of whom proved to be excellent and caring employers for young graduates.

After 3.5 “gap years” (see answer to question four!) I resumed my career and over the next few years, whilst continuing to develop my skills and experience with Ernest & Julio Gallo Winery and Europa Foods, started investigating my next career move.

With my “owner/ operator” background, I liked the feel of a family run business where I knew I could make a difference and not be frustrated by red tape. I subsequently investigated profitable industries in the private sector with zero HR representation – more of a greenfield site – so I could be afforded the opportunity and budget to trial various ideas and not be too disadvantaged by those that didn’t work!

The Interdean.Interconex Group (or Interdean Ltd as it was then) was a highly profitable global emergent business but without many of the essential people management tools –commonplace in the transportation and logistics sector.

Change management and communication were the major challenges on the HR agenda, especially surrounding the 1999 MBO and 2000 acquisition. With strong board support in recent years, the successful implementation of many HR processes and innovations has contributed to the current leading market position of Interdean.Interconex Group as an employer of choice.

4. Did you always want to work in HR?
No! In my twenties I decided to brave the wrath of my parents (who still claim they had to repeatedly downgrade their brand of champagne to pay for my private education!) … by becoming a full time professional rock musician!
Music always was and still is a major part of my life. I just didn’t want to be one of those people who said “What if?”!!

So I spent three and a half years touring with various bands as a keyboard player, doing synthesiser programming sessions working for various artists, commercials and film.

It was an amazing experience. But eventually it was time to return to the “real world” when an opportunity arose to office-manage the recording studio where much of my session work was conducted.

Once I got my feet back under a desk, I considered my future career carefully. With the considerable influence of the European Union and ever changing complexities of employment law; the increasing number of vacancies for HR professionals; and (without entering the age old debate of same wine/new bottle to update the image of HR!) the distinct shift from “personnel” to “human resources” and more publicised emphasis on the strategic role, I decided that HR was a great choice with many options and challenges. And I was so right!!

5. What would you say has been the most significant event in your career to date?
My recent study for the CIPD qualification was a shock to the system! I thought I had a deep knowledge of HR but was proved wrong. Achieving the accreditation whilst running a full time job and a home with crazy demands was a personal triumph for me, and the study and networking with fellow professionals has been of enormous benefit to not only myself but to my organisation.

6. How do you think the role of HR has changed since you began your HR career?
Most people would talk about the strategic direction HR now leads with at senior level. I think it’s more fundamental than that. There’s a real commitment in the majority of organisations to investigate and understand what they need to do to keep their people happy and healthy. Even when they get it wrong, the fact that there’s a visible umbrella of care supported by management and the HR department makes such a difference.

The 50k+ increase in HR vacancies underpins the trend that organisations now take HR more seriously, if only from a compliance angle, but at least that’s a major step forward towards the basic right of people to be treated reasonably and respectfully. It’s the elementary key to improved performance.

7. What single thing would improve your working life?
Less traffic!!

8. What’s your favourite part of the HR Zone site?
All of it! Even though it encourages me to spend far too much time on researching subjects – it’s so easy to become sidetracked – Any Answers is the main culprit!

9. Have you made contact with any other members?
I know several members and continue to recommend HR Zone as it’s so useful and well designed.

10. Do you have any advice for those looking to embark on a career in HR?
It’s a great profession with unlimited opportunities both nationally and globally. If you’re interested in what makes people tick. Study the CIPD, even if you think you don’t need to. Undertake as much self development as possible especially in terms of influencing skills if you want to be able to make a difference.

Don’t ever say “you can’t do that” to a line manager – just let them know how much the financial penalty might be. And most importantly, don’t pigeon hole yourself as an HR manager. Be a business manager.

11. How does your business use HR practices to get ahead?
Creativity and communication. Coming up with different ways to improve the working relationship between people managers and people and communicating these effectively.

12. If you have a mantra/motto what is it?
Be brave. And in a tricky situation follow the 24-hour rule and sleep on it.

13. What are you currently reading?
I always have two or three airport novels on the go! I love to wind down by losing myself in light hearted material – I spend too much time in the real world as it is!

14. What would be your desert island disc?
AC/DC – Back in Black … it must be played LOUD (loud enough to scare the sharks away!).

15. If you could have lunch with three famous people, dead or alive who would they be and why?

  • Queen Elizabeth I – bet she wouldn’t have hit the glass ceiling or not had a place on the Board! Incredibly successful woman in a man’s world and it’d be fascinating to learn more. Plus … a royal presence. It would ensure the best lunch in town!

  • Freddie Mercury – such a talented performer and songwriter – and in keeping with the regal dinner theme!

  • Coco Chanel – Someone who makes such fabulous clothes would definitely be worth talking to!

16. If you’d like to be remembered for one thing what is it?
At work? My avoidance of jargon, PowerPoint presentations and unsubstantiated HR measurement!

At home? My diplomacy: knowing when I can get away with changing the TV channel from football to something else. Anything else!

Previous career profiles can be seen on the How Did I Get Here? page.

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Annie Hayes

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