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Thursday 19 November marks International Men’s Day, a celebration of the positive value men bring to the world, their families and communities. 

Thomas Westcott Head of HR Simon Irvin answers some questions about his career to date and reflects on some of the themes of International Men’s Day.

1. International Men’s Day focuses on men leading by example. Has there been an important male role model in your life and, if so, how has he influenced your life choices?

I have been very fortunate over the years to work for many very good leaders, both female and male. All have added qualities or techniques, which I have either used or advised others on as some of my role is coaching others.  

Those who have influenced me the most were enthusiastic, respectful, approachable, supportive, honest, great at communicating, loved a good result and celebrated success. They also all had a great sense of humour. 

2. When and why did you decide to become an HR professional in an accountancy firm?

It was in 2014. I had worked in food retail for 14 years, then hospitality for six years, and was keen to move into professional services.

3. What are the greatest barriers you’ve faced in your career and how have you overcome them?

Working in HR there are always challenges and barriers and, most often apart from your immediate boss or immediate team, they are not known to others and are kept confidential. Overcoming these challenges is often about planning, doing, then reviewing or reflecting to learn what went well and what to do differently in future. It is important to treat every situation uniquely, expect the unexpected, and have perseverance and a degree of resilience.

4. What advice would you give to your younger self, just starting out in HR in an accountancy firm?

You made the right career choice.

5. Thomas Westcott is a firm that values being part of communities across the South West, not only being there for its clients but also supporting many local charities. Have you been involved with any charity events and how do you support your community?

One of my reasons for joining Thomas Westcott was the ability to get really involved with the local community, having lived all of my life in Exeter, while studying there, and in Plymouth. I was recently able to volunteer at Exeter School, taking part in mock interviews with sixth formers, which was great having been one of them 27 years ago.

6. What drives you in your role?

To make a real positive difference to the firm’s performance through our people, HR processes and systems. 

7. The theme for International Men’s Day 2020 is ‘Better health for men and boys’. What do you do to stay healthy and achieve a good work life balance?

At the moment in lockdown two, I generally go for a six mile run two to three times a week and spend about 45 minutes on the exercise bike two or three times a week. I usually do this before work, otherwise I may make an excuse not to. When I need to start work early I have been known to go out at about 5.30am but usually it is 6.30am these days. I go for a daily 15-minute walk during my lunch hour and in non-restricted times, I play a bit of squash, racketball and tennis.

8. We have seen many changes in our professional lives over the last few years. Which positive changes would you like to see in the future?

I would like to see the further embracing of technology. I have recently enjoyed introducing a digital HR system to the firm. This will take time to become a normal way of working for most but I know also there are other exciting technologies on the horizon, which may be developed further in the future.