Top job: Karen Brown, head of HR, Intelligent Marketing

Where were you working before and what were your duties?

I was regional HR manager at Burton, part of the Arcadia Group, looking after the south of England and parts of Wales. This was a generalist role where I helped shape strategy in the HR and training team.

What qualifications do you hold?

Postgraduate Diploma in Human Resource Management, chartered member of the CIPD.

What will be the duties in your new role?

I have sole responsibility for HR and training – I’m the only one in the team. My responsibilities include working with the business directors to build a solid HR strategy and develop and implement policies and processes that fit with the culture of the business. I report to agency director Katharine Roseveare.

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

Attracting and retaining talented individuals. HR needs to lead the way to inspire passion and loyalty throughout an organisation to ensure that long-term business goals can be achieved effectively.

What is the essential tool in your job?

Having the ability to make order out of chaos. And to meet challenges with a positive attitude and a good sense of humour.

What is the worst thing about HR?

The image – I find that there are still a lot of people who work outside HR who have an outdated perception of what we do. The role can often be perceived as dull and boring, so there’s an assumption the people doing the job are dull and boring too.

What is the most annoying piece of management jargon?

‘Let’s just flip that on its head’.

How do you fill your spare time?

Playing bass guitar, going to gigs, socialising with friends, travelling and riding horses.

What three words would you use to describe yourself?

Positive, happy and unique.

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

I conducted a job interview where the candidate began removing items of clothing. He started with his jacket – fair enough. But then his tie, and then his shoes and socks, too.

What is your favourite web page?


What is your worst habit?

Impatience, but I blame the fact that I’ve lived in London too long for that.

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?

Leaving my full-time job with Burton in search of improved work-life balance. I needed a flexible, part-time role that would allow me to play guitar with my band, take time out to ride horses, and still have a rewarding and successful career.

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

My bass guitar, my best friend and a solar-powered refrigerator stocked with lots of great food and wine.

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

Angelina Jolie. She has a lot of really great qualities, and is complex and fun-loving too.

Sum up your philosophy on life in one sentence.

Have fun, take each day as it comes, be honest and open-minded, and don’t be afraid to question or challenge routine.


  • Sep 2006-present: head of HR, Intelligent Marketing

  • Feb 2005-Aug 2006: regional HR manager, Burton (menswear retailer)

  • Nov 2003-Feb 2005: HR adviser, The Sanctuary Group (media group)

  • Jul 2001-Nov 2003: HR adviser, HMV (music retailer)

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