Top job: Philomena Gray, group HR director, UK and Nordics, Publicis UK

Where were you working before, and what were your responsibilities?

I spent more than 13 years in a variety of HR-related roles with the former HBOS Group.

What qualifications do you hold?

I am a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

What are the duties in your new role?

Responsible for the strategic leadership and implementation of all people activities across the group, including attracting, retaining, developing and rewarding our talent.

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

Given the current economic climate, directing and steering the business through its people issues.

What is the most overrated tool in your job?

E-mail and the BlackBerry – because of them, we sometimes just forget to talk.

And what work tool would you like to see invented?

There are too many tools – we just need to remember that we learn more from listening to the people and world around us.

What is the worst thing about HR?

Paperwork – there is far too much of it.

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

A glass of wine and of course – being from the North – watching Coronation Street.

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

Holding a formal meeting with a member of staff while the cast of a live theatrical show were rehearsing on stage.

What three words would you use to describe yourself?

Hardworking, direct and fair

What was your lucky break?

Getting my first role in recruitment while working for Halifax.

What do you regret about your career?

Nothing. I have met some great people, learned some valuable lessons and made some really great friends

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

US president Barack Obama, to get an insight into his thinking on the world and how he impacts on it, former England rugby manager Sir Clive Woodward, to hear how he motivated and empowered the team to win the World Cup, and someone to cook the dinner.

What advice would you give someone starting out in HR?

Keep your mind open regarding which area of HR you wish to be involved in, and gain as much experience as you can in all areas of the function.

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?

Leaving an organisation that I thought I would be with for the rest of my career, moving more than 200 miles away and not knowing a single person – that said, I loved the uncertainty and the challenge so may be it wasn’t that much of a risk.

Sum up your philosophy on life in one sentence.

Life is what you make of it.

Gray’s CV

  • Jan 2009-present – Group HR director, UK and Nordics, Publicis UK (media and advertising)
  • Jul 2004-Dec 2008  – HR director, Live Nation (online concert listings)
  • Aug 2002-Jul 2004 – HR manager, Clear Channel Entertainment (online concert listings)
  • Feb 2002-Aug2002 – HR manager, St Andrews Group (healthcare)

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