Interview with Susan Hill - Operations Manager, Novosco

Posted in : HR Interview Series on 17 December 2015
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Name:  Susan Hill
Position & Organisation: Operations Manager, Novosco 
Number of Employees: 
Time in Post: 7 years
Previous Job: HR Administrator

Tell us about your business in a sentence

Novosco is an IT company whose vision is to be the best Managed Cloud Provider.

Give us an idea about your early career

My first job was with Smart Windows as an Administrator. That was after the usual teenage stint in the local chip shops! At 18 I had two choices – University or full time at Smart Windows and following a lot of persuasion from my parents I decided to give the University of Ulster, Coleraine a go. Being from Bangor, Coleraine was far enough away to have my own independence but also gave me the ability to be a train journey from home.  This worked for me and I completed my International Business Studies degree. During that time I knew that I wanted to specialise in an area of business but I couldn’t decide on which and during a careers fair I picked up a leaflet about a career in HR and I decided that this was the one for me.  

After graduating I pursued a full time role in HR and in the August of that year I was offered a role in Sainsbury’s as HR Support Administrator in a new store they were opening in Holywood Exchange. That was an exciting time as my training was between their Forestside store and also going in to Holywood Exchange and getting things set up. Following that I had a job in the Personnel Services branch of the Department for Employment and Learning and I was lucky enough that they allowed me to pursue my CIPD at Belfast Metropolitan College, at the time on Brunswick Street, on half day release.

I then got a job as HR Administrator in Liberty IT whose HQ was out in Boston and I got the chance to travel there for training in a new training portal. Liberty IT let me finish my CIPD and a few months after that I decided to look for an HR Manager position, applied for Novosco and was successful, that was December 2007.

What are the key challenges you face in your role?

The main challenge I face is definitely in recruiting in the labour markets in the three areas in which we are located including Belfast, throughout England and Dublin. As a rapidly growing business we are constantly recruiting and this requires being innovative and finding new ways of attracting and retaining the right talent.

It is also about building a successful Employer Brand. Novosco have done this by achieving a number of awards. We have been placed in The Sunday Times Top 100 Best Small Company to work for award for the last 3 years. This is one that is recognised both in Northern Ireland and England where candidates who are job searching increasingly look for companies who are achieving these types of people centric awards. Other awards recently have been the UTV Employer of the Year Award and the Belfast Telegraph Company of the Year award. These send such a positive message to both employees who have a sense of pride in working for a company that has achieved these and again in people searching for jobs. For candidates it’s increasingly to do with a company’s culture and values and less to do with money in job searches today, which is why these awards are so important.

What keeps you going when things get tough?

There is no better feeling of offering someone a job and making that call to say that they have been successful. Our recruitment process includes a number of steps and so it can be a real achievement in getting through this successfully with a job offer. Also looking around the organisation and seeing how the company has grown in my 7 years’ service gives a real sense of what the business has achieved.

If you could do any job in the world, what would it be?

HR is perfect for me however I have always said that being a Midwife would be the most amazing job, bringing new life into the world everyday.   That would be grand if I wasn’t scared of needles and really squeamish!

Who do you most admire in business locally and/or internationally? Why?

I have been asked this before and I have to honestly say our Directors, Patrick McAliskey, John Lennon, Karen Shearer and Gary Parkinson. They have created the companies mission statement as Fearless Champions of Better and that is very true of how they run the business. They aren’t afraid of taking risksThat allows us to tender for business against much larger competitors and more often than not we are now successful in this. The business has carried this ethos into the English marketplace now where we are growing very quickly winning business in a number of Health Trusts and Housing associations.

How should employers here deal with skills shortages in certain sectors, particularly IT?

Employers need to be innovative in their searches and also go with a ‘grow your own’ philosophy bringing in Graduates, Placements and Apprenticeships and be willing to invest heavily from an early stage.

What is your proudest career achievement to date?

My proudest career achievement has to be achieving Fellow Chartered status with the CIPD. This just demonstrated the hard work to date in the area of HR. Also up there is being promoted in 2010 from HR Manager to Operations Manager. This was a great achievement showing that I was involved in not just HR but a Business Partner role with all areas of the business and this was only achieved with the help from my unofficial mentor Gillian Esquivel who I can’t thank enough!

This article is correct at 17/12/2015

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