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How I got here: Philippa Bonay, Office for National Statistics

Philippa Bonay, director of people and business services, ONS, and HR director for the Government Analysis Function, shares her tips for a varied and successful career in HR.

Director of people and business services, Office for National Statistics, and HR director for the Government Analysis Function, August 2018 – present

This role brings together my experience. It is varied and allows for plenty of innovation and transformation. It’s an executive-level corporate services role with the added bonus of also being the HRD for a cross-government function. I’ve worked hard to build a highly professional team. I invest in nurturing and developing them.  


Head of HR, defence, equipment and support, Ministry of Defence, March 2016 – August 2018

I went for this role because the MOD was going through organisational transformation, which is rare. I wanted to bring my specialisms to add value. I learned about military culture, notably the Army, and continue to draw on the best of what they do to enhance civilian HR.  


Director HR, corporate communications and CSR, Middle Europe and Japan, AXA Tech Services, May 2015 – November 2015 

I went to AXA on secondment to challenge myself, return to the private sector and lead the people elements of a global transformation programme and an HR and comms team.  


Head of HR, Home Office and head of corporate talent management and executive learning and development, Cabinet Office, March 2010 – May 2015

I joined the Civil Service because I wanted to contribute to the common good, it also offers many career opportunities. Outside of my stretching day jobs, I was involved in a range of projects outside HR. This enhanced my work and got me noticed. I worked very hard and enjoyed developing and challenging myself.  


HR business partnering/L&D lead, Autologic (Logistics), Honeywell, Thales, October 2006 – February 2010

I moved to the UK with my family and needed to learn my profession in a new legal context. I chose to move into business partnering and transforming HR teams to deliver with the business. Creating sustainable and skilled HR teams became an absolute focus for me. I also studied for my CIPD, working full time with two toddlers – you can do anything you put your mind to.


Group head of HR development, leadership and talent, Lagardère group December 2000 – October 2006 

This was a broad and senior job very early in my career. I ran critical recruitment campaigns, won a national communications award, created a corporate university, introduced coaching, mobility and talent management. I learnt the importance of centres of excellence, listening and working with HRBPs.   


HR and internal communications manager, Grayling, January 1998 – December 2000

I wanted to use my languages and live and work in France. I started in marketing, communications and PR. I learnt how to run an office and manage clients. I fell into HR in this first job. After three years, I was headhunted for marketing and HR jobs simultaneously; the HR one just drew me in and I’ve never looked back.  


Top three career tips: 

  1. Treat everything as a learning opportunity. My team is a learning team – we put a premium on learning from each other, from our mistakes and from the world around us. 
  2. Be professional, compassionate and support people. People will always remember how you treat them.
  3. Keep asking ‘what do people care about?’ and really find out, then bring that into your work. 


The full piece of the above appears in the July/August 2021 print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk.