Vanessa O’Shea graduated in 1992 with a PG Diploma in Human Resources. Following 2 decades of working in the field of HR, she now works as a Consultant, and has just published a book/guide on how to shape a positive workplace culture. We caught up with her to ask a few questions…
What have you been up to since leaving University?
I spent 8 years (including a couple of maternity breaks) working for the local authority as a HR Officer followed by a 4-year career break. I then began working in a fast-growing charity, where I grew the HR service from scratch. It was during this time of rapid change, that I began to notice the impact on staff morale and performance, of workplace culture, in a positive and negative way. I realised that a lot of the recurring HR issues, were symptoms of a deeper issue; one of workplace culture. I left this role after 11 years as I was approached to consult in 2 further charities, and I became a freelance HR consultant. In one of the charities, I was able to trial my ideas, and develop a model for shaping their culture.
What are you doing now?
I spent much of last year putting my culture shape model design down on paper, and on 25th December, my book ‘Shaping your Workplace Culture’ was published. Since then I have been meeting with leaders (from a bank executive who is setting up a new service team, to a director in a local charity who are in a transition of leadership) who are interested in using the model, or some part of it.
I am leading workshops locally, and excitedly just getting set up to create a regular podcast where I will be interviewing all size and types of companies, to find out how they are creating their culture.
Any advice or tips?
We spend most of our lives working, so guide yourself towards the type of work you really enjoy. I would advise getting a broad range of experience and then noticing what motivates and enlivens you, and also what drains you. You will then gradually build a picture of the type of role, and organisation in which you would ideally like to work. It’s important to notice what frustrates or angers you, as this can be an indication that that an improvement is needed, providing you with an opportunity to make a real difference.
How has your degree helped you?
The knowledge and experience I gained from the general nature of my course i.e., employment law, employee relations, HR processes and training, were essential, when I need to set up the HR service from scratch. Working and studying part-time also enabled me to take what I was learning, directly into my workplace, so confidence in my own ability grew.
Stand out memory
One of my fellow students, at that time, worked at Haagen Daz. Our group work was particularly enjoyable as we used to demolish a tub of praline and cream ice-cream!