Top job: Helen Sheriff, HR director, Kate’s Cakes

Where were you working before, and what were your duties?

I was an HR manager at Kate’s Cakes and prior to that, an HR adviser at MediTech Media.

What qualifications do you hold?

BA Hons History (Bristol), MSc in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management (LSE) and CIPD (LSE).

What are the duties in your new role?

I head a team of four, and am responsible for the strategic delivery of retention, recruitment, policy review, reward and recognition, training and development, employee relations, etc. By being on the board, rather than simply responding to the challenges and needs of the business, the HR function now influences business decisions, and HR strategy becomes an integral part of the overall business strategy.

What are the main challenges you face in the next five years?

Food science and product development are the key priorities for Kate’s Cakes. HR should also lead the way, influencing and driving issues so that other companies in the food industry look to us as a role model.

What is the essential tool in your job?

Not a tool really, more of a skill – but I would say first and foremost, to understand the business and the challenges we face.

And the most overrated?

We all rely on e-mail too much. But I wouldn’t call it overrated, just over-used.

What is the worst thing about HR?


What is the strangest situation you have been in at work?

In HR the unusual becomes the norm – strange situations are par for the course.

What is the most annoying piece of jargon?

We are pretty good at avoiding jargon. It is usually only used in jest.

Who is your ultimate hero?

Not so much heroes, but the people I admire the most are those who fight passionately for what they believe in.

How do you fill your spare time?

Travelling, socialising, cooking, and going to the pub.

How would you describe yourself?

Passionate, ‘can do’, committed to my work.

What song gets you on the dance floor?

It depends on my mood, but my top song of the moment is Standing in the Way of Control, by The Gossip.

What is your worst habit?

Convincing myself that I really should stay on and work late and, therefore, don’t have time to get to the gym.

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?

Giving up my job to go travelling for nine months across Latin America.

What three items would you take with you on a desert island?

A sun lounger, my partner, and a good book.

Who would play you in the film of your life?

My nan was convinced that I look like Gail Platt from Coronation Street, so maybe her.

Sheriff’s CV

  • Jan 2007-present: HR director, Kate’s Cakes

  • 2004-2006: HR manager, Kate’s Cakes

  • 2003: HR adviser, MediTech Media

  • 2000-2003: HR adviser, BOC Edwards

  • 1998-2000: Graduate scheme, BAE Systems

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