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How I got here: Kate Howdon, eStar Truck and Van

Head of HR at eStar Truck and Van Kate Howdon shares her career journey and top leadership tips.

Head of HR, eStar Truck and Van 

July 2021 – present

When I was asked to join eStar, I knew the challenge it would entail: eStar took over from a failed business that lacked basic policies. I have been responsible for digitalising the department and building new reward and benefit strategies, ensuring equal pay and developing bespoke leadership training for the senior team.  

More career paths of HR leaders:

Philippa Bonay, Office for National Statistics

Tony Elliott, Robertson Group

Nathan Clements, SSP Group

Regional HR manager, Ford Retail (TrustFord) 

August 2018 – July 2021

This role required a lot of work in employee relations. The group has 60 sites across the UK and I looked after 800 employees within the North West and Yorkshire region. It was also the time of furlough, juggling keeping workshops open, but operating with heavily reduced staff.  


HR advisor, Premex Services 

June 2015 – August 2018 

Premex had a wonderful family feel and allowed me to spread my wings. I set up the first mental health policy and delivered workshops to managers across the group. I was also responsible for internal events to support the overall culture, reward, and engagement strategy.  


HR advisor, Manchester Growth Company 

November 2014 – June 2015

A not-for-profit organisation’s goals and ambitions are completely different to that of a business, which gave me lots of scope to explore new avenues. The complexity around contracts made for challenging restructures to bring in new colleagues that had come across as part of that.  


HR advisor, Cambria Automobiles 

July 2008 – November 2014

My first job in the motor trade, where I really got my HR stripes. I loved it. I got a lot of my employee relation experience working for Cambria, from building a brand and buying new businesses, to tribunals and everything in between.  


Branch administrator, Bairstow Eves Countrywide

July 2006 – July 2008

This role had a customer-facing aspect to it as well as HR admin. This meant I supported the sales negotiators in their sales, arranged property viewings and made some sales of my own. This role expanded my business knowledge and the interest in understanding the whole business rather than just my area. 


HR administrative assistant, Sainsburys  

September 2003 – June 2006

I started at Sainsburys at 16 years old. Shortly afterwards, a position in HR was advertised and I jumped at the chance. At 17 years old, I was taking notes in formal meetings, representing HR on the Colleague Council and heading up projects such as Red Nose Day fundraising for the store. 


Top three career tips

  1. Ask questions. There’s no such thing as a stupid question. The more you ask, the more you learn.
  2. Define your career goals. Don’t worry if you have to deviate temporarily, but keep the ultimate goal in mind and keep striving to achieve it.

  3. Ensure you understand the business. It’s easy to stay within the HR bubble, but you can make a difference by being a partner.  


The full article of the above first appeared in the January/February 2023 print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk.