Zoe Tweddle

HR Manager, School Aycliffe

Sector: HR

Although Zoë Tweddle grew up in a traditional working-class town, she didn’t let this hold her back and now works as a HR manager at Jacksons Law Firm.

Where do you call home? 

I come from a town a traditional working-class town called Shildon, but I now live in School Aycliffe.

Tell us about your role?  

I am a HR Manager at Jacksons Law firm.

How did you get to where you are today? 

I come from a working-class town, both my parents were hard working factory workers. 

When I left college, other than knowing I did not want to go to uni, I had no idea what I wanted to do. 

I worked in hospitality for a few years then in a call centre. I wanted to explore my organisational skills more and worked as a PA for a number of years before being employed as a HR Administrator in an engineering firm which is when career took off.  I had an amazing mentor in the finance director, Jo Benn, who really encouraged me and supported me through my CIPD. 

I was promoted to HR manager then HR business partner and worked on numerous projects with the global HR team but after nine years it was time for a change. 

I did some short-term contracts and realised that I work really well in challenging environments.  I’ve held several senior positions in various engineering / manufacturing companies, and I really enjoyed building HR functions and/or project and change management initiatives as well as handling the day to day HR operations. 

My husband retired a few years ago and at the same time, my folks had some health issues and whilst I had thrived on the leadership responsibilities and challenges held previously, it was time for me to have a breather and spend more time at home. 

When I met the team at Jacksons I was blown away and knew it was the place for me. Professional services were a completely new area for me and that in itself was exciting but the hours (I currently do 30), the culture and the employee centric approach was the what brought me here. 

Where my previous roles always seemed to be reactive, dealing with whatever drama had unfolded that day whilst trying to deliver various projects, in this role I get to be proactive and mostly work on employee engagement and talent management.

What struggles or obstacles did you face along the way? 

A lot of my experience has been in male dominated environments and whilst I’m not one to be pushed aside, I have had to endure some pretty difficult situations involving sexism. From having my ideas dismissed (then later adopted and the praise going to someone else) to being part of a leadership team but being given tasks irrelevant to my role, because they were considered ‘women’s work’ to being told that a woman could not possibly lead a manufacturing business (oh really!).  You just have to keep moving forward, not let yourself be marginalised and prove them wrong. 

I really dislike people assuming I’m fragile or sensitive because I am a woman, I usually display a lot more gumption than most.

Describe the moment you first got a feel for success? 

I guess with every promotion you feel a real sense of achievement, but one standout moment for me was when an old HR Director got me involved on a European project, I flew to Brussels, everyone on the team was far more senior than I, they were all multilingual and well established in the organisation.  I was new, spoke only one language and knew very little about the subject at hand.  I didn’t tell them that of course. The HRD later told me that I had been chosen as was ‘head and shoulders’ above the rest of the team.  I ended up the project lead with a big proud smile on my face.

Do you have any advice for aspiring young females? 

We are all equal, don’t get hung up on your socioeconomic situation. Don’t worry if you don’t know what you want to do. Roll your sleeves up and get stuck into something…. Anything…. you will find your own way. 

“Careers are a jungle gym not a ladder”.  

Read ‘Lean In’ by Sheryl Sandburg. Its brilliant!

What advice would you give to your younger self?  

Trust your gut, do what makes you happy, it will all come together in the end. Surround yourself with good people. Don’t be fooled by illusions of wealth (big houses, fancy cars, designer bags) it’s mostly probably debt, wealth is freedom, options, time and health.

What three words inspire you and encourage a positive path?  

Can I go with two instead?


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