Neil Wilks, manager human resources, Cisco Australia New Zealand

by 27 May 2009

What is your current role?

As the HR Leader for Cisco in Australia and New Zealand, I am respon sible for our people strategy and operations, which enable our business to deliver its goals.

What qualifications do you hold?

An MA in Human Resource Management from the University of Newcas tle and a BA (Hons) degree in Geography from the University of Leeds, both in the UK.

How did you get into HR?

Following my Masters degree I entered a graduate program with British Rail, where I learned the real HR basics: recruitment, IR and administration

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

In a global HR leader role with Cisco. Looking further ahead, running a leadership consultancy with quite an amazing former colleague, after hav ing published a book together, as well as owning a hospitality business with my partner.

What do you think it takes to succeed in HR?

Companies make the business world far too complex. Keeping strategy and solutions simple, different and commercially relevant are the keys to success. A good place to start thinking about this relevance is by seeing the world through the eyes of your company’s customer. The personal qualities that it takes are numerous – but presence, courage, having a decisive commercial brain, integrity, being street-wise and having a sense of fun are all critical.

How do you manage relationships with senior executives?

The best business relationships are built on trust, credibility and, of course, chemistry. Understanding the business and giving sound advice creates the credibility; acting with integrity and taking time to listen builds the trust; and your interpersonal intuition allows the chemistry to take effect. To challenge and be challenged is the payback for doing the groundwork.

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

This is a brilliant career. Be open to as many experiences as you can. HR cannot be learned just from a textbook. Be prepared to learn the opera tional basics early on and then your talent will lead you to the exciting proj ects and development opportunities.

Describe yourself in three words?

Calm, thoughtful and analytical.