My Brilliant Career – Teresa Grove, GE Money Australia & New Zealand

by 30 Sep 2008

What is your current role?

Head of Industrial Relations, HR Compliance and Corporate Citizenship, GE Money Australia & New Zealand

What qualifications do you hold?

I am currently finishing my Master of Law (Workplace and Employee Relations) (LLM) at MonashUniversity. I also hold a Grad Dip in HR from SwinburneUniversity and a Grad Cert (Financial Markets) from the Securities Institute of Australia.

Why did you get into HR?

I was seeking a career that would combine my business knowledge with my natural ability to read and understand people.

How did you get into HR?

Through a successful career in investment banking and recruitment. I started my career on the fixed interest desk of a major investment house and then moved over to the derivatives desk. The firm I worked for then consolidated to Sydney and I needed to stay in Melbourne at the time, so I decided to apply my business knowledge to the recruitment market. Being a recruiter equipped me with a depth of knowledge and a skill set that I still draw on and find invaluable. I then gradually began to expand the work I did for clients, until I was working as a full HR consultant. I started at GE in 2001 in a recruitment/HR capacity and currently have a role that fully utilises my HR skill set as well as my passion for employment law and compliance.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?

In five years I hope to be in an HR Vice President role, in a business that has a strong ER/IR focus. Alternatively, I may consider a move outside of HR to a business role that utilises my HR, legal and compliance skill set.

What has been your biggest career high?

In 2003 I was lucky enough to be a key member of the GE Australia team for the Jeff Immelt visit. It was incredible to be only two years into my tenure with GE and get to spend so much time with one of the world’s great business leaders – listening to him speak and learning from his business perspective, both GE-specific and beyond.

More recently, though, my biggest career high would be my current role because of its diversity and close links to our overall business strategy. I also fulfil this role on a flexible agreement with GE, while I look after my two young children (three years & two years) and finish my LLM.

What do you think it takes to succeed in HR?

To be a really successful HR practitioner you have to understand the mechanics of the underlying business – without this you are always going to put a ceiling on your career. Part of excelling in the HR role is being able to flex the people strategy to support the direction of the business. To do this successfully you have to speak the language, understand how your business makes money and the upcoming challenges and opportunities it may face. You then have to have the leadership and courage to integrate the HR strategy to augment this.

How do you manage relationships with senior executives?

Before I meet a senior executive for the first time I make sure I have an understanding of their business and the challenges they face, including HR challenges. In all executive meetings, I just try to be myself, answering questions clearly and with common sense HR solutions linked to their business strategy.

Who is your biggest professional inspiration?

Anyone who is striving to balance the work/family/study equation, while still retaining a modicum of sanity!

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

In great HR practitioners the people skills are a given. You have to have those to progress through the lower and middle levels of your career. I believe the differentiators have a strong leadership skill set and business knowledge. I would strongly advise anyone studying HR to gather some leadership experience and general business knowledge along the way. When you start your HR career, don’t be afraid to ask questions so that you can learn from every exchange and opportunity.

Describe yourself in three words

Common-sense, results-driven, empathetic