Top job: Kirsten Zapotok

What is your new role?

Head of learning and development for AstraZeneca’s marketing arm.

Where were you working before and what were your duties? 

I was an HR business partner at AstraZeneca, supporting the primary and specialist care sales and marketing functions.

What qualifications do you hold?

I have an MBA, a degree in international relations and I am a graduate of the General Electric (GE) HR leadership development programme.

What will be the duties in your new role?

I am accountable for the development of the 2,000 employees in the UK marketing division. My team consists of 34 individuals and I report to the HR director.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

A true development culture, where learning becomes self-directed based on employees being more self-aware and receiving great coaching from their managers.

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

HR must focus on its core competencies that drive business performance and let go of the ‘nice to haves’ and those areas that can be outsourced.

What advice would you give to people starting out in HR?

Develop your consultation skills – they will serve you well in multiple roles and in life.

What is the essential tool in your job?

Having a strong, motivated and incredibly talented team.

And the most overrated?

Metrics that don’t provide insight.

What is the worst thing about HR?

Often having an insular view and forgetting the business.

Who is your ultimate guru?


What is the most annoying piece of management jargon?

‘Low-hanging fruit’.

What is your essential TV viewing?

In the US, it was The West Wing and Alias. Since moving to the UK a year ago, I’ve started watching Grey’s Anatomy and I really enjoyed the series Making Slough Happy.

How do you fill your spare time?

Travelling in my camper van with my husband, dog and our bikes. Mountain biking; reading; travelling; spending time with friends; and pushing and challenging myself to try new things.

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?

Hard to say since I consider myself a risk-taker, but the most recent and significant risk I took is probably moving to the UK.

Who would you most dislike to work with?

Donald Trump – his directive leadership style just wouldn’t work for me.

What song gets you on the dance floor?

Crazy by Gnarls Barkley.

What would be your dream job?

Sailing around the world and writing about my adventures.

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

My sister – I don’t see my family enough and I’d really enjoy a nice long catch up.

Zapotok’s CV

July 2005-April 2006 – HR business partner, AstraZeneca UK

February 2002-June 2005 – Senior HR brand partner, AstraZeneca US

September 2001-February 2002 – HR brand partner, AstraZeneca US

October 1998-August 2001– HR partner, Bank One (now JP Morgan Chase)

June 1996-September 1998 – HR leadership development programme, GE Capital

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