My brilliant career – Dean Sparshott

by 16 Sep 2008

What is your current role?

General manager, human resources, for Ergon Energy.

What qualifications do you hold?

I hold a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in HR and marketing, from GriffithUniversity and an MBA from the University of Queensland.

Why did you get into HR?

I really enjoyed the HR subjects when I was doing in my commerce degree and I realised that it was a field in which I could enjoy what I was doing and make a difference. I also had an interest in organisational psychology and was looking to work in an area where I could apply my knowledge there.

How did you get into HR?

I was working as an administration officer in the Brisbane City Council and studying part-time — about 20 years ago I am afraid to say. I had applied for a supervisor job, but was unsuccessful. The HR manager on the selection panel called me a few weeks later and said that he thought I would be better suited to working in HR. He offered me a secondment to his team and I never retuned to my old job. I was then fortunate enough to be able to move through a range of HR generalist positions and specialist roles in areas such as organisation development, staff development, employee relations and recruitment. All this gave me a terrific grounding to move into a HR management role.

Where do you see yourself in five years' time?

One thing I love about the HR profession is that you can work in different industries. In five years I would hope to still be in a general manager or director role for a major company, but perhaps in a different industry.

What has been your biggest careerhigh so far?

Overseeing the people issues in the sale of Ergon Energy's retail business last year was a big challenge and an excellent learning experience for me. I got great satisfaction out of being able to influence the sale process so the needs of impacted employees were addressed, while still achieving the required commercial outcomes.

What do you think it takes to succeed in HR?

You need to be commercially savvy, able to think strategically, enthusiastic and able to relate well with people at all levels of an organisation. It is a competitive field, so you need to have qualities that set you apart from the rest.

How do you manage relationships with senior executives?

First, I try to gain a good understanding of their business and where they want to go strategically. Then I try to develop a friendly and personal relationship with them so that they are comfortable dealing with me and understand that I can truly help them and their team to be successful.

Who is your biggest professional inspiration?

Sir Richard Branson. I admire the way he has been able to innovate, take risks and build such a successful diversified business with a strong underlying culture characterised by fun and high performance.

What advice would you give to graduates considering a career in HR?

Apart from acquiring technical HR skills, the best thing a graduate can do is develop a good understanding of how business works and realise that the HR function is there to add value to the bottom line. In terms of personal qualities, they should always be enthusiastic, professional (never let your guard down) and customer focused.

Describe yourself in three words

Relaxed, objective and focused