Twelve or 13 years ago, I was working for Victim Support. I’d been there for a couple of years and had become incredibly inwardly focused on the organisation. My focus had become more and more narrow, and I didn’t even have time to do the reading I needed for my own personal development.
Then I came across and joined a group called Capital Network (now the London HR Connection). Within a few months I joined the board. Not long afterwards, the chair stepped down, and their replacement, Helen White, asked if I’d be interested in becoming vice-chair. And again, I thought ‘Why not?’.
Helen and I worked together to rebrand the organisation, and I ended up taking over from her as chair. I was fortunate that when this opportunity came up, I had been in a role for some time, and had the space and capacity to devote to my new responsibilities. I couldn’t do that now.
Being chair really helped me broaden my range of skills. Being a voluntary organisation, the board involved quite a range of people, who had a huge wealth of HR experience. Most of them were from the commercial sector, which I had never worked in, so I gained a great deal of transferable knowledge.
I don’t think I would have moved into my current role without the experience I’ve had managing a pool of very opinionated, truculent, but down-to-earth and committed HR professionals. It really gave me a chance to enhance and develop my skills.
My worst decision was failing to appreciate the power of the internet – twice. I wrote to the editor of Personnel Today a few years ago about the amalgamation of unions. The letter was published, and I thought no more about it. I also spoke to Personnel Today’s sister publication Employers’ Law about TUPE transfers, and I brutally but flippantly said I would like to see TUPE legislation disappear. I even said it was the worst piece of legislation ever drafted.
But years later, there I was in a consultation meeting when someone said ‘Mr Pink, we’ve been on the internet, and have seen what you said about unions – you seem to be very anti-union’. And at a later meeting, it was ‘Well, Mr Pink, we know your views on TUPE – how does that apply to us, when we’re transferring into your company?’
It was a salutary lesson on the power of the internet – you really never think someone will Google your name, read something you said three or four years ago, then throw it back in your face at a meeting. But I’ve learnt from it.