Top job: Judith Smith, HR and estates director, DVLA

Where were you working before and what were your duties?

I was working for the Audit Commission, responsible for a team of specialists, working with organisations to improve their value for money.

What qualifications do you hold?

I have an MSc in personnel management and am a fellow of the CIPD.

What will be the duties in your new role?

I am responsible for 220 HR and estates staff, developing an HR and workforce development strategy and ensuring the agency delivers its efficiency targets for sickness absence and head count. I will lead the estates team to manage the private finance initiative (PFI) and ensure security of the organisation.

What are the main challenges HR faces in the next five years?

Ensuring it is positioned to deliver the business needs. I think workforce planning and development are fundamental to achieving business excellence.

What is the most overrated tool in your job?

E-mail. People need to talk more and have time to consider decisions. With e-mail, everything becomes immediate and important.

And what tool would you like to see invented?

A fool-proof recruitment process, where you know absolutely that you have the right person.

What is the worst thing about HR?

Very serious disciplinaries. I never fail to be surprised at how cruel and stupid a minority of people can be.

How do you wind down after a bad day in the office?

I love horse riding and just being outside, especially if office-bound all day.

What is the strangest situation you have been in at work?

The most recent was in my new job. On the first day, there was a fire drill and I stood and watched 4,500 people stream out of one building, thinking that not only was I their HR director but having estates within my remit, I was also responsible for their safety.

What three words would you use to describe yourself?

Enthusiastic, focused and fun.

What was your lucky break?

Going to the Vehicle Inspectorate. I was their first HR director and it was a fantastic place to learn.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

Queen Elizabeth I, an incredibly insightful woman.

What advice would you give someone starting out in HR?

Think of the consequences of your advice and decisions.

What job would you like your children to do?

Anything they enjoyed. There is nothing worse than doing a job you hate.

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?

Moving to the North East and carrying on commuting to Bristol.

Sum up your philosophy on life in one sentence.

Live for now, as tomorrow may not happen.

Smith’s CV

  • Jun 2008-present – HR and estates director, DVLA (issues driving licences and tax discs)
  • Jun 2004-May 2008 – Area performance lead, The Audit Commission (audits the health service and local government)
  • Jul 2001-May 2004 – Director of HR and operations, Newcastle Primary Care Trust (healthcare provider)
  • May 1999-June 2001 – HR director, The Vehicle Inspectorate (now VOSA) (vehicle testing and enforcement)

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