As part of the 8th March International Women's Day, we want to highlight the women working at all levels at AluK. Meet Vicky, she is our HR Manager. We've prepared an interview where she shares her experience in this industry as a woman.
Can you share a little bit about yourself and your work at AluK?
After various HR generalist roles, I joined AluK as HR and Internal Communications Co-Ordinator in March 2018 and became HR Manager in December 2018. As HR Manager I get involved with all aspects of the business on a daily basis, it can be challenging at times, but it is a rewarding role, and I enjoy every minute.
What influenced you to pursue a career in the aluminium/building industry?
At the time I was looking for a new challenge. I had worked in the highly regulated financial sector for years, and I needed a change away from that very corporate/political environment. The aluminium/building industry is a world away from that environment and very refreshing.
What do you like most about your job?
If I say ‘people’ it’s perceived as somewhat of a cliché. But we spend a lot of time in the workplace, and it is important that we have the support of and in turn support those around us. Also in HR, no two days are ever the same. One day I could be welcoming new recruits to the organisation and preparing payroll, the next I could be reviewing policies and delivering training. True HR generalist roles are becoming rarer, as people specialise in fields such as recruitment, learning and development etc, but for me being a true generalist is what HR is all about. Spending time with the people in your organisation and helping it to become the best that it can be.
What is your biggest accomplishment in your career so far?
Completing my Masters degree in Human Resource Management whilst still working full time! It was very challenging and resulted in a lot of sleepless nights, but it was worth it in the end. My career progression to date has been far quicker than I ever could have envisaged, but the only way is up as they say. Challenging as it can sometimes be, I wouldn’t change it for the world.
What else would you like to achieve in your career?
I’m fairly comfortable where I am right now, and as one of my former colleagues used to say ‘in HR every day is a learning day’. But that’s not to say I don’t have aspirations to be a Head of, or HR Director someday, perhaps not just yet…
How do you balance career & family?
Work/Life balance is important, and as much as I can I ensure that I make time for family, hobbies and activities outside of work. Weekends are my true work shut off point, I’m not going to lie and say I don’t check the occasional email of an evening, but I am mindful not to start working again once I have left the office. I lecture other people on doing so for a living, so it wouldn’t be professional if I were working 24/7!
Aluminium is a field mainly dominated by men. Have you faced any obstacles in your career which you believe were due to be a woman? If so, how did you overcome this?
I think I have been lucky, as HR is still a fairly female-dominated field, so to date I haven’t faced any obstacles due to my gender. I was welcomed into AluK with open arms, and I know that we go out of our way to treat everyone fairly.
In your opinions, what challenges women face in the aluminium/building industry?
I think the perception is that male-dominated industries can be difficult for women to infiltrate, but we have a number of women in key high profile roles at AluK, including on our board in the UK, our HR Director, and our group CEO. The world is ever-changing, and the more women we recruit into these roles, the easier it should be for other organisations to take a step back and think ‘what if …?’, then perhaps follow suit.
What do you think is the best part of being a woman in the aluminium/building industry?
Not so much in my role, as HR is largely female-dominated still… but I think for most it’s about challenging the status quo and infiltrating those roles that have previously been held by men. For most women it’s not industry specific, it’s still all about breaking that glass ceiling, and reaching for the very top, no matter what industry. Top roles in many organisations are still held by men.
What woman has influenced you most in your life and/or career?
It’s a horrible cliché, but my Mum has always been the one who has supported me throughout life’s challenges. Without her support it’s doubtful I’d be doing the job I am today.
What advice would you give to a woman looking to start her career in the aluminium/building industry?
Don’t think of it as a male-dominated industry, think of it as a new and exciting industry to be a part of. Trust your own ability. Be yourself. Believe in yourself.
What do you think companies like AluK can do to encourage more women to choose careers in the aluminium/building industry?
The promotional work that takes place on days such as international women’s day is key, but I think it’s more about educating women that roles exist for them in these sorts of industries and they will be welcomed with open arms. Taking a role in such an industry should be seen as exciting not daunting.