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Rising star: A career in HR via the Navy

As the basis for a profession in human resources, few careers offices would suggest the Navy as an obvious starting point.

And that wasn’t the career ladder Gill Banham laid out when, at 17 years and 20 days, she became the youngest woman to join the Wrens.

“It was something I had wanted to do since the age of 11,” she says. “I applied at the first opportunity but didn’t expect to get in so quickly.”

Banham spent six years in the Navy. Training centred on leadership and motivation, and it was those people skills that she decided to exploit when she left.

Her big break came with a Cambridgeshire printing firm as pa to the HR director. The company, Domino Printing Sciences, encouraged her to do a diploma in training management as she was promoted to training officer and, after the HR manager left, a masters degree in HR management.

“Sometimes in life you have an element of luck where your career aspirations and those of the company you are working for match,” Banham says. “But you need to be willing to take a risk and go the extra mile to make the most of it. And you should look for the support from people you admire and respect to become your mentor.”

Via two years as group HR manager at Bell Language School, Banham was appointed group HR director at Jardine Motor Group in 1996.

Traditionally, HR managers have been seen as personnel managers; people who listen to employees’ problems and offer tea and sympathy. But the position is increasingly becoming a key job function.

At Jardine, Banham has responsibility for strategy and implementation of HR policies, management training and development, customer services, and health and safety. She is at the hub of the business.

“HR gives you the opportunity to influence every area of the business. You get involved with recruiting people in all departments. And you have to give them the skills to do the job, especially when they are promoted into a management position.”

Prospective Rising Stars will need to display ‘JOLIP’ qualities – judgement, ownership, leadership, integrity and passion. Banham will also be looking for examples of HR managers’ involvement in the business.

“I will be looking to see what they have done to learn and understand their company; how much time they have spent visiting different departments, sitting in on meetings and understanding how managers make an impact on the business,” she says.

“An HR manager needs to have credibility. To do that, they have to take a big interest in every part of the business to understand the issues.”

Rising stars HR judge and Jardine group HR director Gill Banham #AM_ART_SPLIT# How to enter Rising Stars

Three finalists from four core industry sectors – retail (car sales and repairs), manufacturer, fleet/leasing and industry supplier – will be identified in six categories: marketing, HR, sales, general management, finance and PR.

To qualify, you must be under 40 and submit the following by June 23:

  • A summary of your career to date
  • A brief outline of your current role, business challenge and key priorities
  • Three key achievements

    Winners will be announced at an exclusive dinner on September 12.

    Complete the form on the website (

    Our Partner

    Courland Automotive Practice is the only resourcing firm dedicated to the global automotive industry.

    With unrivalled knowledge of all automotive sectors, Courland has a reputation for high quality executive search, interim management and consulting services.


    The judges

    Jon Olsen, BCA chief executive
    Sponsored by Capital Bank Motor

    Nigel Stead, Lloyds TSB Autolease
    Sponsored by Rockingham

    Paul Willcox, Nissan Europe
    Sponsored by Google

    Graham Biggs, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars
    Sponsored by pf & pr communications

    Sir Peter Vardy
    Sponsored by PricewaterHouseCoopers

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