Sophia Bell, Senior Human Resources Advisor
Sophia has been with DPAG since April 2018, and as part of the HR team, is responsible for delivering a full range of HR services and support to staff. Prior to this, she spent 5 years in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, part of the Radcliffe Department of Medicine. Interview on Tuesday 29th January 2019.
How did you come to work in Human Resources? What appealed to you about it?
I started out working in CVM as part of their finance team. Finance were based in the same open plan office as HR which meant that I got to find out about what the HR team did for the department. This interest led me to being given an opportunity to work on the recruitment side. I found that I really enjoyed the people-focussed nature of the role, and when a maternity cover HR Officer role came up I decided to apply and was lucky enough to get the job. Definitely a case of being in the right place at the right time! The more I learnt about HR the more I enjoyed the role, so I decided to go for it full-time and undertake a MSc in HR Management. The department were very supportive, helping to pay for the course and also giving me time out to study. I got my CIPD Accreditation (Chartered Institute for Personnel Development) in 2017. I am now working towards my full CIPD membership status.
How did you come to work at DPAG?
I had been working in CVM for about 5 years and was ready for a new challenge. I was lucky to have a mentor via the RDM mentoring scheme and during one of our regular meetings, we discussed what things I could do to advance my career. I knew I wanted to stay in the University and in the Medical Sciences Division if possible, and so one of the options we talked about was moving to a HR role in a larger department. Working in a large department would give me a greater breadth and wider variety of experience, as well as providing me with the opportunity to manage my own casework load.
What were your first impressions of DPAG?
It’s a big department! There's a huge breadth of science covered here, covering a wide range different themes. This is so different to CVM, which is much more of a niche area. Starting out was also quite challenging, not just because of the size of the department, but also because I joined as the HR team was in effect being re-built. This made the new role even more exciting albeit a little scary.
Tell us about your role here
I am the Senior HR Advisor within the HR team; my role is to provide support and advise all departmental staff, while at the same time ensuring that university policies and procedures are followed, as well as developing effective departmental HR policies and procedures. We are responsible for managing all recruitment campaigns, supporting international recruitment, all aspects of payroll, as well as supporting all aspects of the employee life-cycle from the moment they join the department until the day they leave.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
The job is busy because the department is very active. The more successful the researchers are the more HR there is to do! I really enjoy being able to work with such a diverse range of people. This role provides me with many opportunities to network with other members of the Division and Central University, learn different areas such as research administration, and also to get involved in university initiatives such as Athena SWAN. I have to be honest, the work can be hard, but you don’t learn anything from things being easy.
What has the highlight been for you so far?
There have been a few. When I joined I had the opportunity to grow and develop a newly formed HR team. Everyone was new and enthusiastic and we bonded really quickly. We set about developing new policies and procedures from the start, and it has been great to watch them be implemented and work! We have recently been working together on our group induction process. It’s been great listening to the feedback from staff – the good and not so good – so we can continue to review and develop the sessions.
What are your biggest challenges?
As with all roles, the biggest challenge is balance. Whether it be balancing the requirements of the employees, division and university, balancing the day-to-day workloads with developing new initiatives, or simply working on my own work/life balance.
What are your interests outside of work?
After two years of studying, I needed a bit of rest. I enjoy keeping fit, and go to a lot of weddings! Always the bridesmaid never the bride! It might surprise people to know that I have a degree in History and Archaeology, where I was able to be part of a team excavating a site in Greece dating back to 6000 BC.
What's coming up for you and your team this year?
The team are excited to be working on a number of things which we hope to introduce to the department over the next 12 months. Our priority is the rolling out of the new online PDR system called Simitive, which will simplify the process of carrying out and recording Personal Development Reviews. As part of the department’s Athena SWAN initiative, we will be working on the implementation of a Buddy scheme for new starters, which will complement our new induction process. We have also just advertised for a new HR Advisor who will be the final piece in the HR team jigsaw puzzle.