How I got here: Paul Campbell, Gateshead College

The head of people and organisational development at Gateshead College gives his tips for a successful career in HR

Head of people and organisational development, Gateshead College, August 2020 - present

“This broader role will give me the opportunity to shape the people agenda for the next three years with my excellent team and colleagues.

"There is never a dull moment and although many things are the same as in my last position in terms of the fluidity of HR, I am excited by the opportunity to collaborate with internal and external colleagues to push the boundaries and achieve more for our staff and students.”

People and organisational development manager, Gateshead College, 2014 – 2020

“Following the arrival of a new people director and subsequent changes to the team, I was given the opportunity to contribute towards creating an impactful people agenda including strategies on succession planning, leadership development, performance management, mental health, agile working and people metrics. The result of this has had a significant impact on our employee engagement and the positive culture within the college.

During this time, I also developed my coaching practice and collaborated with a range of regional and national contacts by participating in a variety of HR Forums. I will always be grateful for the coaching and mentoring I received from the people director as he prepared me for the transition to the lead people role”.

Organisational development manager, Gateshead College, 2009 – 2014

“I like to think that I stuck to my word and progressed to a new role, even if it wasn’t with another organisation. During this time, we were going through extensive change projects and the college was growing both nationally and internationally. This role enabled me to demonstrate my programme management skills to deliver the required transformation exercises and develop skills in global HR.”

HR manager, Gateshead College, 2005 – 2009

“I’d previously studied marketing at the college and I had such a great experience as a student so was attracted to the role. I recall informing the panel that I would put everything into this new position for three-five years tops and then I would move on. At this point I was yet to learn how the college would shape my career. The experience I gained during this time was priceless, including cultural change, multiple TUPEs, performance and service design.”

Acting HR manager, pensions service, DWP, 2003 – 2005

“This was my first generic HR role and included L&D and customer services. It really gave me a passion for working in HR and I was instrumental in introducing talent management and reward strategies to attract and retain talent.

"During this time, I learnt that I should approach my career in three year blocks – in the first year learn the politics and deliver quick wins, second year demonstrate added value and the third year continue to show ROI while progressing to the next role or organisation.”

Resourcing manager, pensions service, DWP, 2002 – 2003

“I joined a transformation programme as part of a start-up team of nine with a planned increase to 300, including both staff and external consultants. The purpose of the programme was to create the architecture and systems to transform the pensions service. I had commenced the AAT qualification so I was tasked with setting up the finance systems, monitoring and reporting on a £25m budget. This was a real life-changing experience where I developed the resilience and tenacity that have shaped me into the person I am now.”

Generic corporate service roles, Newcastle City Council, 1991 – 2002

“The various positions I held covered a wide range of departments including HR, finance, pensions and customer service. The experience of working in these different functions informed my career path into HR rather than finance which I had started to move towards.”

Top 3 career tips

  1. Be patient in the first five to 10 years of your career. The range of repeated experience you gain and the knowledge of your business will pay dividends later when others will expect you to know what to do in all circumstances.
  2. Don’t plan too far ahead. Be aware of what you are good at, build on in, and find a mentor or role model, then grasp opportunities when they come your way. Be brave, not safe and don’t worry if you make mistakes as these lessons could define your career.
  3. Being able to understand someone’s experience, whether it’s a customer or colleague, is necessary in every sector. While I believe in agility and speed in responding to business challenges it’s also important to show empathy when dealing with people.


Post graduate diploma HRM and development & MA HRM, Northumbria University, 2003 - 2011

Chartered fellow HR, CIPD, 2010 – 2011

Level 5 coaching, Xenonex, 2016 - 2017

Further reading:

What got me here: HRDs on key career experiences

How I got here: Sally Hopper, Hertfordshire County Council

How I got here: Marshah Dixon-Terry, interim HR project consultant