Top job: Julia Tyson, group HR director, Wates

Where were you working before and what were your duties?

I joined construction group Wates from Centrica, where I was corporate HR director. I was responsible for: leading the HR transformation project in HR shared services policy and proposition development for employee engagement, corporate acquisition and investments in Europe and UK and was business partner to the executive functional directors.

What qualifications do you hold?

A BSc in geography and I am also a fellowof the CIPD.

What are the duties in your new role?

My core duty is driving the people agenda. This is a growth business in a strongly performing sector where people development and good HR has not historically featured. I report to chairman and chief executive, Paul Drechsler, and have a team of 20, including HR and training professionals.

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

My main challenge is responding to the growth agenda. Also, embedding leadership and talent management, closing the skills gap, developing our employment proposition and creating career development opportunities for all with a strong diversity focus.

What is the essential tool in your job?

Influencing – understanding, insight and ideas are worthless if you can’t influence people to adopt them.

And the most overrated?

Intellect – commonsense is more important than just understanding something.

What is the worst thing about HR?

Too many practitioners lack the belief that they can make a difference. They tend to focus on offering support.

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

Rejecting the unprovoked attention of a senior male colleague.

Who is your ultimate hero?

My dad – I’m a daddy’s girl.

What is the most annoying piece of management jargon?

Most of it.

How do you fill your spare time?

Socialising, shopping, cat watching (and napping), house renovation.

What three words would you use to describe yourself?

Pragmatic, fair, personable.

What is your most popular web page?


What song gets you on the dance floor?

La Bamba – ‘our song’ for no good reason.

What is your worst habit?

Opening the fridge door as soon as I get home.

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?

Jumping from a plane at 2,000ft for a solo parachute jump.

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

Drinks, company and books.

Who would play you in a film of your life and why?

I was once told I looked a bit like Audrey Hepburn – that will do for me.

Sum up your philosophy on life in one sentence.

You only get one life and it’s up to you.

Tyson’s CV

  • 2007-present: Group HR director, Wates

  • 2002-2006: Corporate HR director, Centrica

  • 1999-2002: HR director – corporate banking and financial management, Royal Bank of Scotland

  • 1994-1999: European HR director, Barclays

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