Top job: Karen Edwards, director of organisational development, Writtle College

Where were you working before and what were your duties?

I was director of human resources, training and development at the Connexions service, with responsibility for people management and training for all staff working in 10 London boroughs.

What qualifications do you hold?

A Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and a member of the Institute of Directors.

What are the duties in your new role?

Introducing new people management practices across the college and developing the skills of managers to implement these. I am in a team of eight, reporting directly to the principal.

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

Complacency – HR people need to thoroughly understand business drivers.

What is the essential tool in your job?

My personal organiser.

And the most overrated?

E-mail – I feel we’re all becoming slaves to it.

What is the worst thing about HR?

The acronym ‘HR’, as it doesn’t actually describe what we do.

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

Finding a couple engaged in an activity they should probably be embarrassed about, at an office party.

Who is your ultimate hero?

The mountain guide who led me down a very narrow snow and ice ridge on the Vallée Blanche, Mont Blanc. One wrong step, and I’d have been a goner.

What is the most annoying piece of management jargon?

‘Thinking outside of the box’.

How do you fill your spare time?

I love watching my son play rugby.

What three words would you use to describe yourself?

Enthusiastic, fair and loyal.

What is your worst habit?

Thinking out loud, which comes across as interrupting, but that’s how my brain and mouth work in tandem.

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?

Flying back at my own expense from holiday for the job interview that landed me this role. I flew back out again later that same day to re-join my family.

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

A Ray Mears book of survival techniques, my reading glasses, and a mirror – to get someone’s attention with, of course.

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

Billy Connolly.

Sum up your philosophy on life in one sentence.

If you really want something to happen, you will make it happen.


Oct 2007-present
Director of organisational development, Writtle College

Dec 2002-Oct 2007
Director of HR, training and development, London East Connexions Partnership (information advice and guidance agency for young people aged 13-19)

Jun 1999-Dec 2002
HR manager, Addaction (a drug and alcohol treatment charity)

Jun1986-Jun 1999
HR manager, The Benefits Agency

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