Putting the Right Talent in the Right Roles
Portraits by ChiChi Ubiña
Tell us about yourself and where you grew up. What brought you to the United States?
I grew up in the beautiful, historic small town of Bridgnorth in Shropshire, England. My parents grew up in the north of England. My Dad was a teacher and moved south for his first job. My two siblings and I were lucky that they discovered Bridgnorth to raise us.
I studied History at Durham University. Durham is an amazing historic city with a famous cathedral. My college was in Durham Castle, so I can accurately say I lived in a castle – which is unique.
Upon graduation, I was lucky to be offered a job at Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) and moved to London. I spent a few years there and then moved to General Electric and worked in one of their European businesses. My husband was working for UBS at the time and was offered an expat assignment in New York. I asked GE if they could find a role for me here and they did, so I moved over in 2001 for a new role at GE Corporate in Fairfield.
How did you get into Human Resources? What was your path to where you are now in the business world?
I fell into HR and then realized it suited me. I joined the HR graduate program at Andersen Consulting largely because I didn’t want to travel extensively for consulting work and the HR role was based in London. HR blended my business and relationship skills. I enjoyed the work and benefitted from GE’s willingness to move and promote people. By the time I was 28, I had worked my way up through multiple GE businesses and was promoted to an executive level HR role. GE used to own NBCUniversal, so I moved as an internal transfer to lead HR for CNBC in 2008. I was the HR leader for CNBC for four years, then moved to lead HR for the News Group (NBC News, MSNBC & CNBC) in 2012. News was fast moving and being in the midst of digital transformation – the years flew by. I recently moved to a new role within NBCUniversal leading HR for our direct-to-consumer businesses including our new streaming service Peacock, Fandango and International Networks.
What does your job entail?
HR can seem a bit of mystery as we often cannot openly share what we are working on. At its essence, I am responsible for ensuring the people strategy and tactics to support business strategy. That includes everything from organization design and evolution, ensuring we have the right talent in the right roles, attracting and retaining talent, building a positive culture and employee experience and employee relations. It is important to balance the business needs with employee needs, so we play a key role in employee advocacy. It requires a deep understanding of the business and the ability to partner with all levels in the organization. The work is challenging, varied and fast paced – there is never a dull moment.
What’s work life like at 30 Rock? It must be an exciting place to work.
30 Rock is an historic place to work, and history seems to be a theme for me. NBCUniversal has great energy and is focused on the future, though the organization has been a part of the American culture for years, with Saturday Night Live, movies like Jurassic Park and NBC News. 30 Rock brings that to life, it’s wonderful to see our current businesses operating in a place with a lot of history.
It’s been a unique 15 months with Covid. Some people in News were not able to work remotely so we had a consistent presence in 30 Rock. No one missed a beat. We learned a lot about different ways of working that we will carry forward post Covid.
How did your parents influence you?
My Dad was a teacher, and my Mum was the office manager for a local franchise of Sevicemaster. They both worked hard and did a great job bringing up three children on a budget. They influence me in different ways. My Dad did well at school, went to university and transitioned the family from a working-class background to a middle-class life. He showed me that you can change your path and by doing well at school, it enables you to do that. My Mum had a different path academically, she is a wonderful warm woman who connects with everyone and builds relationships very easily. She has power of personality. I’m fortunate to have a bit of both of them in me.
Tell us about your family.
I met my husband, Brad in London in 1998, through my ex-boyfriend, but that is another story. We were lucky enough to be good friends for a while before we got together and that has been a great foundation for our relationship (though he would tell you it means I know all his secrets…). Daniel arrived in 2010 and our little unit of three was formed.
We’re a busy family – lots of sport together and often watching Daniel play his sports (soccer, cricket, tennis, rugby, flag, swimming, water polo – not a short list). We’re lucky to be able to do things together from skiing to golfing to tennis. Unfortunately, Daniel is now better than us at most of these things…and we are all a bit competitive, so that’s interesting.
We also like to travel, cook when we’re in the mood and go out to dinner. We like to have a TV show to watch together, right now we are watching old episodes of Survivor.
How do you balance having homes in NYC and Stamford?
It is great to have the flexibility, however, my mental check lists are long – always making sure we have what we need in both locations! Daniel goes to school in the city and work is based there. This year made it unique, as we didn’t need to be in the office. Going forward it will be easier. The city is a great experience for Daniel in so many ways, quite different from living in Shippan. He has become an expert commuter on Metro North.
Tell us about your involvement with your community.
For a few years I’ve helped manage Daniel’s soccer team which I enjoy doing. The team have been together for a while, and it is a great group of kids and parents.
What do you do to relax and exercise?
Exercise is very important to me – I enjoy it and it helps me manage stress. I work out six days a week – running, biking, strength – we have the Peloton bike and tread. My favorite Peloton instructors keep me going and encourage me to give it my all working out most days!
I also enjoy walking and the outdoors. We are members of the Stamford Yacht Club which is great year-round and very close by. I potter in the garden, read when I can (and always every night before bed) and cook when I am in the mood.
Do you have any favorite travel spots?
We like to mix it up – go to new places and then some favorites because that can be easier at times. We love the Cape and were married in Chatham. We go there every year. I love the variety of the beaches, ponds, biking and hiking. We also go to Watch Hill twice a year. Beyond the closer to home, familiar places, we have traveled all over the world including New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina. In a normal year we will go to new spot and the favorites. India is next on our list.
Favorite book? Movie/series?
My favorite book is the Handmaiden’s Tale by Margaret Attwood – which I read in the mid 90s. It is interesting to think when I read it it seemed true fantasy/science fiction, sadly it doesn’t seem so fantastic these days, given the events of the last few years.
TV series – Game of Thrones, though I needed to leave the room for the nasty parts and movie has to be Dirty Dancing.
Tell us about your work/life balance.
I enjoy my work and never minded long hours. When Daniel arrived, I had to reprioritize. Instead of leaving work at 7:30/8 I needed to leave around 5pm. It made me very targeted and disciplined and I use my time more efficiently now. I’m open about needing to spend time with my family and encourage that same transparency in leaders I work with. You have to be confident in yourself and what you contribute to the organization and know that you can do that while making time for your family. That is life and you don’t need to apologize for it.
Brad is great with Daniel, and we’ve always been a partnership which works very well. We are both there for Daniel when he needs us with homework. I cannot do the Math at this point!
Who is your mentor?
I was fortunate to work for a wonderful woman who was Chairman of the News Group, Pat Fili-Krushel. Pat worked her way up through media in more challenging times for women. She was a great role model to me and many others. She was a vocal advocate for work-life balance and invested her time in developing women around her.
What are your plans for the future?
I am incredibly grateful for the life I am able to live and am fulfilled every day. I hope to support Daniel as he moves through school and onto whatever is next for him. Work is fun but I do not want to do it forever, so hope to retire at an age when I can make the most of having more flexibility to travel, play golf, hike, garden, read and not be tied to the commitments of the office. I hope for us all to be happy and healthy.