Just two months into his role as HR director at standards developer and business services provider BSI Group, Jim Newell has already made the corner office his own.
High up above Chiswick High Street in west London, with views over the Thames to Kew Gardens, it is full of knick-knacks collected over the course of his unusual career. Miniature cars, planes and guitars are scattered across the broad windowsills – testament to his broad interests both in and outside the workplace.
A big friendly Irishman with an infectious laugh and a passion for Six Nations rugby, Newell took an unconventional route into HR, starting out as an engineer.
Born and brought up in the County Antrim port town of Larne, he left school at 16 for an apprenticeship with GEC. But, like so many of his generation, Newell chose not to live in a Northern Ireland beset by the Troubles, and moved to Canada.
After a couple of years, he returned home to finish his studies. The political situation having worsened in his absence, Newell headed across the water to Warwick University, researching the niche field of wind resistance in magnetically levitating high-speed trains.
His subsequent move from aerodynamics into HR may appear bizarre, but to Newell, it made perfect sense. "Research didn't satisfy my need to be in the broader arena, bouncing off people," he says.
He took an entry-level role as a recruitment officer at Austin Rover, his engineering background giving him a rather better idea of what to look for in candidates than colleagues who had taken a more traditional route into HR.
Newell began to spot some of the factors behind the function's lingering 'tea and sympathy' image - not least his colleagues' approach to interviewing. He recalls how line managers would turn up for interviews bearing "a crinkled little list of eight questions to ask, regardless of the candi