Top job: Grace Conacher

What is your new role?

Assistant director of the Horniman Museum.

Where were you working before and what were your duties?

I was deputy director of HR at the British Council – covering 7,500 staff in 110 countries.

What are the duties in your new role? How big is your team and who do you report to?

I oversee the finance, facilities and HR in the museum, which employs about 120 staff. I report to the museum’s director, Janet Vitmayer.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

The Horniman has been incredibly successful in the 105 years of its existence, with major expansion five years ago. A critical challenge for me will be to ensure that the museum is well placed to respond to challenges it faces in the 21st century.

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

Maintaining the high levels of motivation, commitment and professionalism required in an environment where there is increasing competition for resources. We have a very diverse workforce, which includes museum professionals – world experts in their fields of natural history, musical instruments and ethnography – staff who look after and interact with our increasingly large number of visitors, and staff with the skills and experience to manage our buildingsand gardens.

How do you fill your spare time?

Home and family activities take up a large part of my time. I also enjoy playing tennis, visiting the theatre and travelling.

What is your most popular web page? – a really great, easy-to-use and well-run website.

What was the last book you read?

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka.

What song gets you on the dance floor?

I’m far too embarrassed to admit.

What would be your dream job?

My current job meets most of my criteria: the museum world gives almost endless opportunities to learn and work with interesting people my responsibilities give me a broad range of challenges and the opportunity to make sure that our resources and policies are ‘joined up’ and I have an easy walk to work and great views overlooking London from the museum. And the museum’s 16 acres of garden are on my doorstep when I feel the need for some fresh air.

What is the worst office party you’ve ever attended?

It would have to be a British Council party I attended during my time in India. Someone had arranged for us to do Scottish dancing – in 45-degree heat.

Who would you most/least like to be stuck in a lift with?

I would just love the chance for 10 minutes of peace and solitude, so would much rather be alone.

What is your essential TV viewing?

Grand Designs. We have recently had a lot of work done on our house, and other peoples’ aspirations, trials and tribulations have become endlessly fascinating.

Conacher’s CV

  • November 2006-present: Assistant director, Horniman Museum
  • 2004-2006: Deputy director, HR, British Council
  • 1998-2003: HR manager, British Council, New Delhi, India
  • 1995-1998: Head of HR management information systems, British Council
  • 1993-1994: Project manager, Wet Tropics Management Authority, Queensland, Australia

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