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How Did I Get Here? Susan Stevens, Toshiba Information Systems


Susan Stevens

All the previous career profiles can also be seen in the special How Did I Get Here? page.

1. Current job title

Head of HR

2. Describe your initial training within the profession

Following completion of my degree in Psychology, I was fortunate enough to obtain a temporary role at British Gas Headquarters analysing manpower data. I very quickly decided that if I wanted a career in HR, I needed to start studying for the Diploma in Personnel Management, so decided to fund myself. Six months later, I applied for a permanent position in one of British Gas’ regional offices and I got the job. I spent my first year setting up manpower reporting and statistics – although I had a supportive manager who gave me the opportunity to get involved in other HR areas such as Graduate recruitment and training. I then went on a couple of secondments – one to a district office, which gave me the opportunity to deal with real people issues and subsequently onto a project team implementing a new HR system.

3. What positions have you held?

At British Gas;
Personnel Assistant
Assistant Personnel Officer
Personnel Advisor

At Toshiba Information Systems (UK) Ltd;
Assistant HR Advisor
HR Advisor
Senior HR Advisor
HR Manager
Head of HR

4. Is there a significant event you can tell us about which had an impact on your career?

When I was Senior HR Advisor at Toshiba, my manager at the time went on maternity leave and the same time the next most experienced person in the team decided to leave the company. I initially panicked, thinking how will I cope as I was the newest team member at the time. I ‘care took’ the role of HR Manager for four months and during that period managed to complete a number of HR projects, recruited a new HR Advisor and dealt with all the usual day to day issues. I demonstrated to myself, HR colleagues and the senior management team that I was up to the job, so when the role of HR Manager became vacant, I was promoted to the role. Toshiba philosophy is to promote internally where possible.

5. What has been your greatest achievement?

Two things stand out for me;

  • Implementing our online flexible benefits scheme ‘pic ‘n’ mix’ – despite the sleepless nights and grey hairs. We were an early adopter of flex back in 2001 – so the challenge going forward is to keep it fresh and maintain its positive perception amongst our workforce.

  • At an annual conference, I presented the results of our employee survey. After the event, employees approached me to say how interesting they had found the results and were reassured to hear that the company had listened to their feedback and were using it constructively.

6. Which of your colleagues played the biggest role in you getting where you are today?

I am a self driven individual and believe my own hard work and determination has got me where I am today – along with lots of encouragement and support from my husband. However, I would say that success can only be achieved with the support of your team and your colleagues.

7. What advice would you give to someone thinking of entering the profession?

HR like Marketing is a popular career choice for graduates – so it’s very competitive. I would recommend trying to get some work experience in an HR department (even if it’s voluntary). Typing and PC skills are a ‘must’ and will give you a useful way in. It will also help you decide whether HR is for you or not – I personally enjoy the variety of problems and issues that come my way whether it be from employees, managers, or changes in employment law – and get going on your CIPD qualification as soon as you can.

Previous How Did I Get Here? features:
Susan Stevens, Toshiba Information Systems
Irene Burwin, HMG Paint
Trevor Lakin, IPPM
Alison Clarke, Quantica
Laurence Collins, Ceridian HR Consulting
Paul Kearns, PWL
Fiona Knight, KPMG
Adrian Glynn, Wilkins Kennedy
Joanne Darling, Cooper Parry
Sue Matthews, Coventry City Council
Nichola Nair, European HR Strategic Programmes Manager for Xerox
Alison Lewis, Corporate Learning & Development Manager, Oxfam
Jessica Diggins, HR Manager, Chartered Management Institute
Linda Klassen-Brown, Group HR Manager, The Logic Group
Keith Hanlon, HR Manager, Quantum Business Media
Andrew Mayo, frequent speaker and writer on HR issues
Jim Brooks, HR Manager for ServiRail Ltd
Jean-Bertrand de Lartigue, Chairman of HR2all
Karen Caddick, Head of HR, Channel Five
Madeleine Tate
Keith Luxon, HR Policy and Reward Director, The Laurel Pub Company
Jeremy Thorn, Chairman and Director of QED Consulting
Roger Pattison, HR – Training & Management Development Consultant
Verity McVarish, HR Manager for Sift Media
Rus Slater
David Kelly, Head of Development and Training for Aventis
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

Have you got any useful insights or cautionary tales regarding your career? If you would like to contribute to the ‘How Did I Get Here’ feature please email our employment correspondent: Dawn-Marie Dart

Career resources

  • If you’re looking to recruit, save yourself hundreds of pounds in advertising and agency fees by talking to CareerZone manager Louise Nicholls or ring 01179 159 625.

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