Top job: Andy Gillham, head of intrnational HR, 3Com

Networking solutions provider 3Com has appointed Andy Gillham as head of international HR, to direct HR and training in Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific.

Where were you working before and what were your duties?

My previous role was with Overture Services as European HR director. Before that, I was HR director for two start-ups in the IP [internet protocol] sector that both went under, with me turning out the lights – quite literally in the second case.

What will be the duties in your new role?

I have joined 3Com at a time when the business has been through four years of radical reductions and job losses around the globe. My role is to manage a team of HR professionals in territories from the UK to Taiwan, providing an HR service to about 1,000 employees in 32 countries.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

After years of severe reductions and the inevitable impact that has had on both the structure and morale of the business, my role is to drive a number of initiatives to rebuild confidence and capability in the business.
What is the strangest situation you have been in at work?

As a very junior HR officer, standing in for the site safety manager of a meat processing plant. I was ‘invited’ by the shop steward to pass judgement on 40 tonnes of pork of dubious quality recently delivered to the factory. You really don’t want to know the details.

How will HR change over the next five years?

Probably less than we think, but continuing a trend towards a higher value consultancy/ business partner role, with the process elements increasingly outsourced.

Who is your ultimate guru?

Jacob Bronowski, the great humanitarian and academic. His book, The Assent of Man, was a masterclass in reducing the complex to the understandable.

What is the best thing about HR?

It’s the breadth of view that you get across an organisation – seeing the sinews and levers that make it work. Obviously, the people provide the colour and contrast that make the organisation what it is and HR is cast in the role of providing the systems, processes and inputs that enable it to achieve its true potential.

And the worst?

Standing in front of a room full of people and taking their livelihoods away. It never gets easier and neither should it.

How do you fill your spare time?

I spend time at the theatre and attending concerts (nothing sophisticated, usually loud). I travel extensively and have a long-held interest in military history and anything to do with aviation.

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?

Going to the board of a company I worked with to let them know that my boss was working against the best interests of the business. Not an attractive proposition with two children and a mortgage.

What is the essential tool in your job?

A sense of realism.

And the most over-rated?


What advice would you give to people starting out in HR?

Be very clear about why you think it is a career for you. It isn’t warm and fluffy. Get an internship in an HR function before committing, if it is possible.

What would be your ideal job?

Getting involved in the key business transactions and not just being wheeled in to do the ‘HR bit’. If that can be done working remotely from the verandah of a large bungalow facing the Caribbean or Mediterranean – rather than a cube on a business park – so much the better.

Gillham’s CV

2004  Head of International HR, 3Com

2003  European HR director, Overture Service

2001  European HR director, Genuity Inc

1999  Global HR director, Madge web

1992  Various HR roles, Cable & Wireless


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