Top job: Sarah Webb, HR director, Stiles Harold Williams (surveyors and property agents)

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

I was previously HR manager for my current employer, responsible for creating and implementing HR policies and practices. Over time the role has developed a greater strategic element, reflected in my promotion to HR director.

What qualifications do you hold?

I have a BSc in management science from Warwick University and I am a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

What are the duties in your new role?

To provide strategic HR input in line with organisation’s business plans, and to continue to develop HR practices that support the organisation’s culture and fit the sector we operate in.

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

Careful management and planning of resources during the economic downturn, while maintaining employee engagement.

What is the most overrated tool in your job?

HR theories and text books.

What work tool would you like to see invented?

A mind reader.

What is the worst thing about HR?

The reputation that it can be just for the ‘bad news’ situations.

How do you wind down after a bad day in the office?

Pottering in my garden. It’s the best therapy available and it’s free.

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

Receiving an application for a job accompanied by pornographic material. The vacancy was for a magazine layout designer, so applicants were encouraged to send in examples of their work.

What three words would you use to describe yourself?

Pragmatic, positive and determined.

What was your lucky break?

Meeting my husband.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

My three old school friends, plus chef Gordon Ramsay, London mayor Boris Johnson (pictured), and actor and author Stephen Fry.

What advice would you give someone starting out in HR?

The tougher the job appears to be, the more you will benefit from the experience later in your career.

Sum up your philosophy on life in one sentence.

Be positive – count your blessings every day.


  • May 08-present: HR director, Stiles Harold Williams

  • Nov 04-May 08: HR manager, Stiles Harold Williams

  • Feb 99-Nov 04: HR manager, William Reed Publishing (B2B publishers)

  • Sep 93-Feb 99: Personnel manager, Sainsburys Supermarkets

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