A Career Well Travelled

From YTS to the Top.

Making sure people skills and business skills are aligned has been critical to the success of Resource, the Leeds-based company that provides award-winning marketing communications products and services to social housing organisations nationwide.  HR and Performance Director Gail Weathers explains the critical role she has played in the company’s development and describes her journey from Youth Training Scheme (YTS) trainee to company director.

When I joined Resource as HR Manager almost a decade ago the economic climate was difficult, so we needed to refocus the company’s vision and get everyone to buy into it.

It was a real baptism of fire, but I am extremely proud that with a lot of hard work and an open mind, we were able to create a business model which deployed skills and set the foundation on which to build the success we enjoy today.

I was asked to join by the MD to help shape the strategy for the business. At that time the company had no HR presence.

The importance of developing people and making the best of their skills soon became obvious to the Board and management team. People are our most important asset, so it was imperative to get them to buy in to our vision and be on the same journey, which I think we did extremely well.

My own journey, from YTS trainee to company director, is proof that continual development backed by determination can deliver outstanding results.

After A Levels I went on to a YTS scheme – the Apprenticeship schemes of the 1980s!!  I was so lucky as mine was brilliant; it was at British Rail and brought me into contact with many business and operational areas of learning, plus we had a day at college once a week.

I gained so much confidence through hands-on, practical experience and I witnessed situations which I think part made me the person I am today; I am forever thankful for the opportunity I was given.

My career has mainly been in professional sectors, mostly financial services and each role has provided me with the operational skills to develop into management.  I have studied professionally all through my career to achieve insurance exams and diplomas to facilitate my role.

It was through my role in insurance that I first came into contact with the social housing sector and today, of course, Resource is recognised as a leader in providing a vast range of marketing communications services to the sector.

I never really chose HR but perhaps it chose me.  I loved the fact that it provided me with the opportunity to combine business skills with people skills and to understand the two should always be aligned. When the opportunity arose, I grabbed it and went for it.  I enrolled with CIPD and went to Huddersfield University to complete a HR and business degree and graduated when I was 40, which was a great personal achievement.

Within the business environment I work, it is very rare for a woman to hold the position I do and so I always feel very proud of this achievement.  Whilst we are no longer a traditional manufacturing company, we were when I joined so the stigma attached to a woman being at a senior level, let alone on the Board, was something I have personally worked hard to change.

I am the only female member of the Board which is a personal achievement for me and to be honest I do think the dynamic is good, we do have a great balance of minds and equality.  I have a strong voice and a determination to be successful in what we want to achieve; this is common to everyone on the Board and we have only seen positive outcomes.

This strengthens my belief that women should take more of a strategic role. While Resource is still a male-dominated company we are gradually recruiting more women, so I am confident that by the end of 2018 we will have at least another 20% women within our business environment.

Being a woman in my position has both advantages and disadvantages, but I try not to dwell on either as they can deflect from the task in hand.  If we use both to the best of our ability, we will succeed!

A question I am often asked, mostly by other women, is what I enjoy most about my position and I always find it hard to answer, I just love everything about it!  It’s a unique role and so I love everything that it allows me deliver into our business and I feel nothing but pride when we achieve things, no matter how big or small.

Over the past five years we have been on a journey to channel our services and create a more diverse business which has been both rewarding and challenging, and this has been a tremendous team effort – people are so important and should never be undervalued so I guess, in short, it is that part that I most enjoy.  People creating possibilities every day – what more could we want!?

What I would say to other women is be confident, inquisitive, approachable and balanced.  I strongly believe in all four and have carried these attributes with me throughout my career; you may need to be all four at once if a situation dictates it but used in the right context it will pay off.  Always have the confidence to be what you want to be, but remember to keep a balance otherwise you end up getting lost.

Because I have seen the true value of training and developing people, I would love to formulate a training academy which is branded Resource; HR should always underpin the operational infrastructure of a business, so it is imperative that we never stop learning. Watch this space!

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