How I got here: Sally Hopper, Hertfordshire County Council  

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The assistant director of human resources at Hertfordshire County Council gives her tips for a successful career in HR 

Trustee, London Playing Fields Foundation, 2009-present

This is a great leveller in my life and something close to my heart – providing outdoor space for people to play sport and paying attention to the green space around us. This has never been more important than now during our response to COVID-19

Assistant director of HR, Hertfordshire County Council, 2016-present

I was attracted to the opportunity and challenge this role brought to me and have not been disappointed. When I started in HR, it was my ambition to become a director of HR within the public sector. This has fulfilled that ambition and then some.

I enjoy providing HR support to such a diverse range of services and attracting people to make a career in the public sector a career of choice. Having worked in the public sector throughout my career, I think it is one of the most interesting professions where what you do really makes a difference.

Director of HR, London Legacy Development Corporation (Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park), 2013-2016

I took a risk with this job moving from a permanent contract with the Scouts to a two-year fixed-term contract here – but it really paid off. My job was to bring together four organisations involved in the delivery of the 2012 Olympic Games to form one organisation.

My two years turned into three and I enjoyed the exhilaration of trying to bring four different cultures, terms and conditions and ways of working into one.

Head of HR, The Scout Association, 2008-2013

Here I learnt about the amazing contribution of volunteers – the lifeblood of what makes scouting happen for millions of young people every day across the world.

I gained invaluable insight into the charity sector. I worked on reviewing pretty much everything ‘people’, including pay and reward and performance management. I also travelled to various activity centres across the UK.

Resources manager, City of London Corporation, 1989-2008

I started here as an admin assistant and didn’t really have any idea what the public sector did, but quickly gained an understanding of it. It’s where I earned my ‘HR stripes’ and I’m forever grateful for the number of opportunities I had during my time here.

By the time I left, I had undertaken so many different roles including taking on a non-HR management role.

Top three career tips

  • Do the right thing not the easy thing
  • Give something back – whether that be by volunteering, mentoring or giving a talk
  • Don’t be confused by the power of kindness or let anyone tell you it’s a weakness. Great things happen when you are kind. HR can be full on, and kindness helps you to think through tough decisions without losing sight of the individual

Sally Hopper is assistant director of human resources, Hertfordshire County Council

This piece appears in the May/June 2020 print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk

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