William Gibbon took up the position of HR director at Barclays Africa in 2002 following a London-based position with the bank. Previously, he was with Marks & Spencer (M&S) for 14 years where, after joining its management training scheme in 1987, he worked his way through the HR ranks to HR director of the food business.
Half of his time with the retailer was spent overseas, and he developed a "real interest and flavour for things non-UK". Here, the winner of Personnel Today's HR director of the year award 2004 answers questions about his career and tells us how he reached the top.
Why did you choose to leave M&S after 14 years?
The decision to leave was probably still the single biggest decision I've ever made. There was no real motivation to leave, but the stage I was at in my career meant it was now or never. I spent a long time looking at what I wanted to do. I didn't want to go to another retailer, because M&S was seen as the best. I wanted to find the kind of HR philosophy that it had around people in another sector. I decided to move into financial services, and Barclays had that same kind of philosophy.
What professional qualifications do you have?
I have to say I'm not CIPD [Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development] qualified. At M&S, it wasn't seen as something you needed to do. I was going to do it, but I was posted to Madrid and it would have proved difficult. I have done quite a lot of bespoke pieces in terms of either study or work with other organisations - subject-led, rather than just a generic qualification - and will continue to do so.
What's your take on personal development and learning?
It's important to keep learning, but you get to different stages in your career where you need to identify the actual issue, and then go and swot up. That's what's so fantastic about moving from one organisation to another - you bring learning with you to the new organisation, and immediately, you are confronted with lots of new learning. I'm a big proponent of learning by doing.
Did you plan your career?
I think the key to this is owning it. At some point in your career, an 'a-ha moment' occurs, where you realise that you have to take control, and not be at the beck and call of the organisation. Mine occurred at M&S when making the first significant management redundancies in 1997. We provided a fantasti