For Johanna Hooper, understanding how businesses operate and what contributes to their success, is an intriguing element in her HR consultancy role at PA Consulting. She says: “Essentially, organisations are complex, social organisms and how they can excel or flounder on the basis of their human capital is fascinating.” She adds: “If you’re an amateur psychologist, HR is definitely for you.”
A typical day at PA Consulting may start with a working breakfast, with a member of Johanna’s network, to work through a pertinent issue or consolidate the relationship.
It’s no joke that a large part of her role is to familiarise herself with the best eateries in the area as it’s not unheard of for Johanna to go from 2-6pm with back to back meetings followed by a dinner engagement.
Johanna says: “PA works on networks so many meetings will be about working with people in other parts of the business to share ideas, opportunities and contacts. Some meetings will focus on insight from my Defence sector or People and Talent expertise. And some will be about developing propositions to take to the market about what PA can offer in support of various, topical issues.”
Johanna joined the logistics branch of the Royal Navy where she spent most of her career between jobs in HR and roles more closely related to logistics. Her last job in the RN was in remuneration policy and was the most current experience drawn upon in her job hunt.
She says: “As I’d spent only half my 23 years doing HR ‘stuff’, I wasn’t sure I’d have the credibility to go into a full HR role whereas in consultancy all of my experience is valued.”
Johanna has found the variable portfolio career of the RN ‘extremely helpful’ in consultancy, particularly in helping her to learn quickly and apply judgement and experience to new situations effectively.
She says: “We have so many skills that we take for granted that are really helpful in consultancy – advocacy, gravitas, communication (written and verbal) and our chameleonic adaptability. We’re also able to act with only half the information and remain unflappable – nothing is sinking is it??”
Has it been as straightforward a trajectory as she expected?
She says: “I knew the transition would be a challenge so that wasn’t a surprise. I guess I underestimated how much my personal confidence would take a knock and how much I would be uncomfortable about feeling as though I wasn’t doing a good job straight away.”
She adds: “The key message here is to mentally keep hold of the wealth of transferrable skills we ex-Service folk have, so even if you feel like everyone’s talking in a foreign language, you know you’ll be able to perform as soon as someone provides a little Babel fish.”
What are her first impressions of the industry?
She says: “The people I work with are extremely hard working and very able. They are very similar to the military in that they work hard and play hard, and are very keen to look after each other – that may sound incongruous for a commercial organisation but certainly my organisation believes in doing things for the good of everyone, rather than for individual agendas.”
The life of a consultant is similar to the life of a Service person and so may not be for those seeking a more relaxed paced retirement. Johanna lists a string of benefits to working in the consultancy industry – great rewards for good performance, an interesting and diverse portfolio, ‘sparky and fun’ colleagues, plus the opportunity to take control of your own destiny within the organisation.
She says: “The overarching aim is to make our clients better in whatever way we can and, when that happens, that is very satisfying.”
Johanna is happy to take questions about the different routes in to the industry – as long as you buy her a coffee! Please contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org