My brilliant career – Paula Ward

by 15 Dec 2008

What is your current role?

I am the National Human Resources Director for PKF with responsibility for leading the HR and Knowledge, Learning & Development (KLD) teams. PKF in Australia is a specialist group of chartered accountants and business advisers with practices throughout the country in capital cities and a number of regional centres.

What qualifications do you hold?

I have a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in psychology from the University of Queensland, as well as a graduate diploma in applied psychology from Monash University. After university, I completed a two-year supervision program with the Australian Psychological Society to become a registered psychologist.

How did you get into HR?

I worked in a consulting firm focusing on psychological practice and executive recruitment. After a couple of years of consulting and a couple of brief secondments to client firms, I was keen to move to an in-house role. I joined a big five accounting firm just prior to its merger with another big five firm. Although my role was predominantly recruitment-focused, as part of an HR team I learnt an enormous amount by watching those around me and seeing the ins and outs of a global merger firsthand. Broader HR roles followed.

Why did you get into HR?

I have focused on opportunities which use my strengths and skills and provide a learning curve for continued development – and those that enable me to have an impact at an individual and firm-wide level. HR fits these aspirations. HR has allowed me to build and use legal skills, which was one of my early career considerations.

What has been your biggest career high so far?

Each year brings a significant initiative to implement and/or challenge to address and there is a certain amount of satisfaction in delivering the end result. There is not one initiative that stands above others in my mind. As long as I am able to make a substantive contribution to building team performance and, ultimately, have a positive impact on the firm’s bottom line, I am satisfied.

What do you think it takes to succeed in HR?

Balancing a pragmatic, commercial approach while maintaining empathy.

How do you manage relationships with senior executives?

By maintaining integrity, having an opinion on the way forward when issues arise and keeping a sense of humour.

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

Think commercially and build your general business knowledge and skills. It will vastly improve your ability to link people strategies to revenue and firm performance. Often, and particularly in a downturned market, this direct link is the only way you will be able to continue to move the people strategy forward.

Describe yourself in three words:

Adventurous, intuitive, pragmatic.