My name is Cherie Wilbraham, and I’m the Group Head of Human Resources for Linbrooke Services. I have a legal and moral responsibility to manage the employment relationships which we have with our staff- some 320 people at the time of writing. I sit on the senior management team and look after the whole of the Linbrooke group, so Linbrooke Rail, Infrastructure Services, Design, and Optical Networks; as well as providing support to our sister company NTRS.
Everyone knows me at Linbrooke, with my ridiculously bright red hair and tattoos I’m easy to spot anyway. However, for the most part, that’s not why everyone knows me. I am a very prominent person during the first few days of someone’s new employment period and so people tend to remember me from their induction. Additionally, I work alongside all our managers during times of intervention with our staff and so most people will have encountered me at some point during their employment.
Although my role isn’t particularly technical in terms of the work which I do, I am expected to have a good deal of knowledge about the Rail industry; from the Lifesaving Rules through to Sentinel’s expectations regarding fitness to work on the Railways, I’m subject to the same governance and regulation as everyone else around me. I’m lucky that I am surrounded by a team of excellent people who continue to teach me about the industry every day.
I joined Linbrooke back in April 2016, initially on a temporary contract. I’d just been made redundant whilst I was on Maternity Leave with my previous employer and it had knocked my confidence so badly that I cried during my interview; go me (!) Nevertheless, my boss at the time saw some potential in me and so I joined the HR team. Somewhere further down the line, I was offered a permanent role as the Head of Human Resources and the rest, as they say, is for the history books.
Have I always known that I wanted to work in HR? Not in the early days. I left university with a degree in Norwegian and decided to study a postgraduate qualification in teaching…and I hated it. I joined a recruitment agency as a headhunter initially and then worked my way around a number of junior roles in training and development. It was when I was working as a headhunter that I realized I wanted to be on the other side of the fence- the HR teams I spoke to were where I wanted to be.
Human Resource Management is one of those professions which is regulated by a professional body, the CIPD and it’s almost impossible to get a role in HR unless you have studied one of their (very costly) qualifications. I started a job as an Office Manager at a company called Technophobia and it was here that my career in Human Resources began in earnest. I was very lucky indeed, my MD was a remarkable woman who we all referred to as “ELM”; she not only taught me everything she knew about good people management but was also kind enough to loan me the money to pay for my Level 7 award in Human Resource Management, which I studied for over a period of 3 years at night school. Technophobia was an incredible place to work and I met some of my best friends there; I stayed for four years.
My next role was working for a national training provider – Positive Outcomes. It was here that I met the other very influential woman in my career, Cheryl Peto. Cheryl was the HR Director as I was the HR Manager and she taught me so much about employment legislation and how to deal with employee relations issues.
I left Positive Outcomes to join a broadband company in Sheffield as their Head of People, before eventually finding my way to Linbrooke Services.
As the sole female on the senior management team, I can say with certainty that it is my intention to promote the interests and abilities of my fellow women in our business. We add balance, emotional maturity and a multitude of other skills to a team, in addition to bringing our professional skills to the table. My strategic vision for my beloved Linbrooke Services is to develop and encourage more people from under-represented groups to progress through the business to take up senior posts within the next 3 years. This summer will see us launching a number of initiatives to mentor promising talent in the business through their management journey, and I am very excited to see the results.
Linbrooke Services, as a group, closely mirrors the overall industry’s gender split of roughly 80/20 (M/F) and we are fully committed to changing this demographic to become more balanced over the coming years. The aim of this blog is to help you, the reader, to understand how prominent women in this business got to where they are now; if we inspire you to join the industry (and perhaps even Linbrooke, take a look at our careers page to see if there’s anything which you think you’d be interested in) then we will welcome you, support you and champion your interests; very much like my two female mentors did for me in my formative years in HR.