My first job was at the Halifax Building Society as a cashier. After four years there, I was running a small branch outside Swansea. One day I had to give a presentation to our regional HR director about staff development. Three weeks later I was asked to join the regional training department in Bristol and have been in learning and development ever since.

After a few months in my role as training officer I was asked to lead a project to train bank managers and mortgage advisers in the Financial Services Act 1986, which imposed a lot of regulation on the provision of mortgage advice. As a result of that project I took a significant career jump into a role as regional compliance manager and became a regional board member at 26. I was surrounded by very experienced bankers, mostly in their early fifties, when I moved into my first office. It reminded me of the final scene from the film Working Girl.

When I first moved to head office at the Halifax, I worked in executive development. It was a great role, but it made me a “sole trader” again after quite a few years of managing people. I was left to my own devices and, while it was great to have the freedom, I really missed running a team. After that role I always made sure that I had a team around me.

People at M&S really care about the business and employees feel like owners. It’s a great place to work in every sense. The welfare and development of our people is very high on the board’s agenda. We have about 50 L&D practitioners covering 85,000 people in the UK and 30 other countries .

I’m loving every minute of my role. I like to create sustainable change and I’m being allowed to do that. My main focus is on management development, performance management and succession planning, as well as ensuring that our store employees receive the right development.

My best career advice is to always be yourself. If your organisation doesn’t fit you, then you must move to one that does rather than become something you are not. Also, being bloody-minded enough to push change through has helped me to succeed. Organisations can be reluctant to change, but perseverance is key. You need to be clear to everyone about what you are trying to achieve and about the longer-term benefits to the business. You must hold your nerve when times are tough.

We're starting to see increased sharing of responsibilities between business partners and L&D practitioners here. I think this trend will continue. We need to find ways of making e-learning a much more compelling medium – my ambition is to create a world-class L&D function. Outside work I’m looking forward to a major house renovation, enjoying life with my kids and a bit more golf thrown in for good measure.

The CV
Education: Umist (BSc in financial services)
Previous roles: Head of learning, development and resourcing, easyJet (2006-08); head of learning and organisational development (2005-06), head of management and leadership development (2001-05), Vodafone UK; group training manager (1999), divisional training manager (1996-99), various compliance and training roles (1991-96), branch manager (1988-91), various administrative roles
(1986-88), Halifax
Personal: Two daughters
Hobbies: Golf and music (particularly Motown and jazz)