Alison Barwell

Head of HR, Alchemy Partners
You can still be a part-time worker and progressive.

One of the great things about a career in HR, is that if you are adaptable and willing to learn, there will be opportunities to work across a broad variety of industries.  The Return Hub placement Alison Barwell chose a career path into financial services and is now Head of HR at the private equity firm Alchemy Partners.

Background

After graduating she joined a recruitment agency and it was here that a manager identified her as someone who would excel in HR. On reflection, Alison realised that this could be the perfect career path; in her own words “I like business, I like people and I love problem solving”.  She spent the next nine years building her expertise across the HR function at Texaco and then BAA, at the same time studying her CIPD qualification

She then took some time out of the corporate world to work as a consultant for smaller businesses and during this period, Alison was offered a part-time HR role with a boutique private wealth management firm. The role was appealing as this was a chance to head up the HR function, plus the flexibility fitted in well with family life.

A few years later the firm was acquired by Sanlam Private Wealth, her role grew substantially and Alison was promoted to the board. She enjoyed the strategic nature of the HR Director role and gained greater depth of experience as an FCA approved CF1, a member of the HR & Remuneration Committee, and as Chair of the HR Forum and Health & Safety Committee.

After 12 years with the firm, she decided to take a short break and return to consulting but a few months later she was approached for another senior level part-time role that really appealed. She quickly found herself working closely with the CEO of a fast growing financial risk advisory business, where shebuilt an HR team and developed the function.

Returning

In 2019, Alison took a career break and for the next few months she became a ‘West End Mum’, chauffeuring her son to and from the theatre where he was performing.  She really enjoyed this time but when Linda called from The Return Hub about a newly created part-time role at Alchemy,  Alison was keen to hear more. Alchemy really needed someone who had set up an HR function before and would be happy in a standalone role, which was exactly what Alison could bring.

Due to Covid-19, Alison was interviewed via video conference and started the role remotely in June.

The Return Hub supported Alison in securing the terms she needed and ensuring the contract suited both parties, she says  “The Return Hub were great at following up.”

Once in her new role, the tech support was great.  As a people based business, remote working poses a particular challenge for the HR industry as well as for those onboarding remotely. Using tech and video conferencing regularly has helped Alison to adapt to this, and she is building relationships across the Alchemy team and has worked hard to make sure that this is the case.She spends one day each week in the London office

Alison’s top tips:

Networking:  Ensure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and make it interesting.  Commenting on other people’s posts is a good way to increase your visibility on the platform and if you can, do pick up the phone and chat.  It is so often true that having a good network will help you get the job you want.

The interview: Research thoroughly and always be well prepared when you go into the interview. Never be afraid of being over-prepared!  Also equip yourself with a list of relevant questions about the company and the role itself.

Part-time working:  Alison has been working part-time at a senior level for over 20 years.  How has she achieved this?  Through credibility and trust; being flexible but at the same time gently assertive; communicating with managers and teams.

“You can still be a part-time worker and progressive.”