Transferable skills can take you anywhere

Helen Baker, speaker at the recent CGIUKI event 'Building your governance career – Steps to take for success', discusses her alternative pathway into governance and why transferable skills are so important for the governance professional.

Having been asked to form part of a panel at the CGIUKI’s event about “Building your governance career – Steps to take for success”, and as I start a new chapter in my career, I’ve been reflecting on what led me here. I’ve been lucky to work in a variety of sectors and to have experienced an enviable breadth of work. But certain themes have been constants throughout and the foundations remained the same in each role.

Chapter 1 – Maths and Physics Degree

I’m a real advocate for entrants into the governance sector with non-law degrees. I use skills I learned through my degree all the time. In particular, the ability to think a problem through in a structured way as well as regular use of Excel and maths.

Chapter 2 – BPM (part of TBWA\)

I worked with a team of consultants who specialised in database marketing and internal communications. Who would have foreseen the financial models I built would be great foundation for share capital and share plan modelling later in my career? Our client were usually senior stakeholders within large corporates, which was great exposure early in my career.

Chapter 3 – National Grid

My first governance role was as PA to the Company Secretary and General Counsel at National Grid. I was immediately interacting with Board members, arranging meetings and travel. This made the move to Company Secretary later in my career much more straightforward: I understood the importance of the unseen processes running smoothly so they could focus on their role and duties. I progressed to Assistant Company Secretary and was Secretary to a Board Committee as well as looking after a portfolio of UK and international entities and contributing to the Annual Report. I also led the implementation of new technology solutions to drive efficiency and enable better collaboration.

Chapter 4 – Atkins

During my time at Atkins (then a FTSE 250, now part of the SNC Lavalin group) I was given a broad range of experience. I was Acting Group Company Secretary twice, worked on pensions and data protection, developed a deep understanding of share plans, and supported entry into new markets and joint ventures. Through it all, I used and honed the skills I'd used throughout my career. Collaboration and pragmatism were key. The importance of clarity and simplicity also came to the fore, particularly working with colleagues whose first language was not English and who came from different cultural backgrounds.

Chapter 5 – Legal and General

While my time at Legal and General was short, I learned a lot. The financial services industry has its own particular requirements, but the building blocks remained the same as in other sectors. Each sector and each business have their own language and learning this new language was important, while ensuring clarity of communication.

Chapter 6 – Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP)

At CCEP I had the opportunity to apply myself to a new technical challenge. Listed on 7 stock exchanges in 4 countries, CCEP presented a unique set of challenges and new experiences. I learned the language of another business but still approached things pragmatically and in collaboration with others. A structured approach was key to ensuring compliance with all the requirements to which CCEP was subject, with a view to streamlining things as far as possible.

Chapter 7 – ITM Power

Once again, I had to learn a new business language. But, once again, the foundations of my role were the same as previously. In a growth company, and being the first dedicated company secretary, it was important to collaborate with others to develop pragmatic solutions that enabled ITM Power to meet its obligations without creating unnecessary bureaucracy. Here, I was able to employ technology and process solutions to support compliance and improve efficiency.

Chapter 8 – HN06

The latest chapter is only just starting so I’ll have to see how it develops. I have no doubt the following will remain key themes:

  • Collaboration
  • Pragmatism
  • Clarity
  • Simplicity
  • Enabling through technology

About Helen Baker and HN06

Having gained 19 years’ governance experience, mainly in the secretariats of large listed, international companies, in 2022 I set up HN06 with my husband. We work collaboratively with our clients to deliver pragmatic governance solutions.

We seek to:

  • Provide expertise
  • Add clarity
  • Simplify
  • Enable through technology

Find out more at https://www.hn06.co.uk and follow HN06 on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/company/hn06/

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