Charlotte Rook has been at Software Solved for over 3 years. She has advanced in her career within the HR sector initially starting as a Human Resources Advisor, progressing to Human Resource Manager and now Head of HR. Originally inspired by her parents who both held management positions within the tech sector, we asked Charlotte about her interests and career journey to date:
“I have always had an interest and gravitated towards subjects to do with people. At college, I studied Sociology, Psychology and Politics. I found psychology extremely interesting, and that’s why I chose to pursue a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Psychology at the University of Sussex.”
She continued: “I didn’t have an end goal in sight, I just followed what I found interesting. I think it’s really important to work in a role that makes you happy and that you enjoy. After I graduated, I had no idea what I wanted to do next, apart from living back in beautiful Devon and working in a role where I could support people.”
Charlotte talked about her early career at Devon County Council, where her Mum worked as an IT Manager: “I worked in various admin roles and ended up as a PA to the Children’s Social Care Senior Management Team, who were a group of about nine inspiring women. Whilst at DCC, I had the opportunity to undertake the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) course which was run by the HR department, and this was my first interaction with HR. I thoroughly enjoyed the course and received feedback that I would do well in a HR role. This influenced me to have conversations with HR practitioners. I was very lucky that the people I PA’d for were supportive and offered me opportunities, which meant I was able to help with tasks such as recruitment and HR admin.”
She continued: “I decided to commit to a career in HR and completed my CIPD Level 5 Diploma in Human Resource Management. This provided me with a lot of basic knowledge, and I was able to find a suitable role at Software Solved.” Charlotte emphasised how much she was inspired by both her parents who were influential in pushing and persuading her to achieve her goals. She decided a career in tech would bring innovation, progression and creativity.
Starting at Software Solved in 2019, Charlotte revealed it became apparent that the fundamental HR aspects could be enhanced: “We didn’t focus on the culture or strategic pieces that we do now. There was a real opportunity for me to progress and help carve out the Software Solved culture, something I am incredibly passionate about. I am naturally oriented towards these areas of HR and have been lucky to make it my own”.
Adopting helpful strategies to aid leadership
Charlotte highlights the importance of knowing boundaries between work and home life: “To start with, because I am exposed to sensitive information and involved in heightened emotional situations, I found it really difficult to know when and how to switch off, and that’s something that I’ve had to consciously learn and still don’t always get right!”
Charlotte describes strategies adopted along the way: “I use the gym and dance classes as a way to compartmentalise. I found lockdown a real challenge as I was working from home and couldn’t go to the gym, so it was especially difficult to distinguish between work and home life. I’m known for being empathetic, which I think is a good thing in my role but can make it quite difficult for me. I think in all, it is knowing your limits, finding healthy coping mechanisms and not trying to control everything. A great piece of advice Lindsay, Software Solved’s CEO, gave me was to focus my energy and passion on the things I can change, not things I cannot”.
Charlotte said that she measures her own success based on those around her: “I listen to feedback, that’s what is important to me. I have never been one to say I want to earn X or have an X job title. If I feel like I am developing, growing, and learning, then I feel successful. I class myself as ambitious, but the intrinsic kind. I am internally motivated as opposed to by material factors.”
She continued: “Ultimately, you spend a lot of time at work and it’s important to be happy. I chose my career through following things that interest me, and my biggest strength is working with people. For instance, I was good at mathematics, but it didn’t interest nor inspire me.”
Inspirational women and close colleagues
Charlotte said that she has been very fortunate to be in situations where the people around her want to see her succeed, “I have had really strong female and male role models around me throughout my career who have helped to guide me down my path. I appreciate having open and honest individuals around me who I respect and trust. I think it’s important that you hear different viewpoints and can bounce ideas off people. I’ve never been told that I can’t achieve something”.
Charlotte talked about her involvement with Empowering Girls and why she enjoys being a mentor: “I feel passionate about being involved in things like Empowering Girls because I have had great role models in my life. I’ve always felt positively pushed and I want to help inspire other girls and give someone else the same experience.”
Be open-minded and push yourself out of your comfort zone
Charlotte stated that she likes to be challenged and enjoys continuing to learn: “If I didn’t continually learn and develop, I would quite quickly fall behind the curve. Being open-minded is important. HR isn’t black and white and there are so many different ways of doing things. Often there is no right or wrong way, and it depends on the company and its people.”
She continued: “I actively attend HR networks run by Sarah West Recruitment, which are really useful, and provide an opportunity to engage with other HR professionals, as do the CIPD forums. I’m a big advocate of sharing ideas and knowledge. This year, I am excited to start my CIPD Level 7 Advanced Diploma in Strategic People Management to further develop my knowledge and competencies. I am currently preparing a presentation for the Employee Experience Awards as we are finalists for the first time in the category ‘People Centric SME’; this is something that will positively push me out of my comfort zone!”
You can’t be everyone’s friend
Charlotte highlights the pandemic as a real challenge from a professional HR standpoint: “Everything moved so quickly and there were a lot of unknowns. Equally, I learnt so much and know that if I hadn’t had that experience, it would have taken me a lot longer to absorb the knowledge I did.”
She continued: “Another challenge is not being everyone’s friend. I had to adjust when I stepped into management and joined the leadership team. The relationships you have created with people do change. The way that you interact with the team shifts because suddenly you are wearing a different cap. It’s important to get the balance right of being approachable and respected.”
Actions speak louder than words and emotional intelligence as a leader is crucial
Charlotte explains the importance of making sure everyone is on the same journey: “I saw something recently that resonated with me about culture. Whilst there is a general agreement that yes, you should be supporting your employees with mental health, flexible working etc. Actually, each business is going to have its own culture. There is no right or wrong culture, it is about making sure that your employees and the people that you are recruiting have personal values that are aligned to the company’s values. Otherwise, I think you are going to struggle from the start because fundamentally personalities don’t change.”
“I thoroughly enjoyed working on our values piece in 2019,” added Charlotte. “The purpose was to recognise what we already do in the business, but also what we wanted to achieve going forward. We asked the team to choose our values to ensure they were genuine, and they have had a huge impact on our culture. We can remain aligned and know what we are striving for. Actions speak louder than words and companies must make decisions with their values in mind; values shouldn’t be just a marketing exercise.”
Charlotte thinks emotional intelligence as a leader and the influence it has on culture is huge. Taking the time to understand others and show empathy, knowing how to diffuse conflict and how to overcome obstacles, whilst remaining self-aware all play a part in successful leadership. “Receiving feedback is so important on both a personal development and wider company level. We constantly seek feedback from the team through mechanisms such as employee forum and staff surveys. Feedback helps us stay on the right track and is as important as having a top-down goal. I think it is a particular, and really important, skill to successfully take on board constructive feedback. Not everyone can do it!”
Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose
Charlotte stresses the importance of getting the right strategy in place to motivate a team: “I think all too often people assume that motivation is really transactional and that actually if you pay someone more, they’re going to be more motivated or engaged. Whilst obviously, financial rewards do have an impact, I am a firm believer that intrinsic motivators are as important.” Charlotte makes reference to Daniel Pink’s theory around autonomy, mastery and purpose, “I think if you as a manager or leader can provide those three things alongside the hygiene factors of salary etc, then you’re onto a winner.” She continues: “It’s about knowing your team and how to get the best out of them. Your approach towards each person should be different.”
On the subject of delegating, Charlotte concludes: “I’m definitely not a natural delegator, but I have learnt to pull back and not jump in! Again, it is important to be aware of your own strengths and challenges. Trust people to have a go and know that they might do it differently. Support people enough that they don’t feel like they are out there alone struggling. Finally, and this applies to every aspect of my role, be approachable and welcome questions.”
Find out more about the people at the forefront of what we do on the Meet the Team page.