Under the Radar with Kate Conroy
Dennis Publishing's Talent Acquisition Manager, HR, has always thrived in a customer-centric environment, making her the perfect fit to work on the new apprenticeship scheme, Evolve. More on this to follow, but first, let's get to know the woman behind the project.
Ellie Austin scored a job at Immediate Media as a Features Writer for Radio Times after graduating from the Magazine Journalism MA course at City University. Here she talks about working in the fast-paced world of a major weekly magazine and the power of a good coffee.
What made you want to work in the magazine industry?
Magazines are more than just glossy pages and fantastic images. They can add a huge amount of value to a person – whether you read them as a source of information, like The Week to stay up to date with current affairs, or Cyclist to fuel a passion/hobby. You might turn to them for helpful tips on self-improvement, wellbeing or just for the juicy celeb gossip to take a break and escape for an hour. Some of the content can really make a difference to the people who read it. I got the opportunity to be part of the industry and I'm incredibly lucky to have ended up here and to be working with such talented people!
Can you chart your journey from when you started out to your current position?
I started my career as a lot of young students do – with a Saturday job in retail. When I left education with no clue what to do, this became a full-time job. I quickly progressed to be a Store Manager at places including Reiss and Warehouse. I loved being in a customer-centric environment. I had a contacts book of regular customers who made the phrase retail therapy very literal. Marriage issues, IVF troubles – I've heard it all! I liked the feeling of helping my customers, even if it was just providing an open ear and a perfectly fitting dress. When I finally decided I needed a work-life balance (I missed my weekends and the Christmas holidays), I was asked to join the recruitment agency who I had approached to help me with my job search.
I'd never thought about recruitment before, but it offered me a role where I could continue to add value to people’s lives. I think most people stumble into recruitment. I eventually grew out of the country – I grew up in Cheltenham – and moved to the big city five years ago. I was lucky enough to be approached by ZenithOptimedia to build out their in-house recruitment team. I loved working for an agency, but magazines are where I wanted to be. Dennis is a fantastic business with a purpose much greater than creating brilliant brands, which it does!
Do you have a go-to work outfit?
Lipstick and heels! I'm 5ft 3½ – the 1/2 is very important! I never go anywhere without stilettos, the pointy kind. Our environment is quite relaxed, but I love office wear and I'd always rather be overdressed than underdressed. After all, you never know where your day may take you!
What do you turn to when you’re on deadline – tea/coffee/snacks?
When I'm really feeling the pressure, I turn to wine, even when I'm not on a deadline. I think it's a by-product of both media and recruitment! I am also a tea addict. My nan used to drink about 10 cups a day – it's the Irish in me!
What’s the most unusual situation you’ve found yourself in because of your job?
It's more awkward than unusual, but I once interviewed a candidate who decided she would like to make her interview a forum to talk about how she had caught her husband cheating on her! It was one of the longest, strangest interviews of my life.
What would people be surprised to know about your job?
In-house recruiters are one of the most important functions in any organisation. Hiring the right talent can make or break a business and its profit – but it is often the least valued. I'm lucky enough now to work for a company who hold my team in high regard, but surprisingly this hasn't always been the case!
Walk me through your typical day.
My role is so varied, but usually I get in and catch up on emails, scan through Slack to see what's going on in the business that day and action anything urgent. A large part of my role is talent attraction and I'm responsible for all our social media channels (I'm @LifeAtDennis), so I’m always on the hunt for photo opportunities, capturing what life here is really like and showcasing some of the amazing talent I work with.
I always have a list of candidates to call or interviews to attend. I meet our Hiring Managers regularly for updates and I spend a portion of my day working on larger projects. There are too many to list, but they include our apprenticeship programme and toolkits for recruitment best practice.
If you didn’t have to sleep, how would you use the remaining hours in the day?
Sleep is one of my favourite things to do, so I find it hard to imagine a world without it, but I would take up all the hobbies I wish I had time to do now and exercise more!
What is the last photo you took on your phone (at time of interview)? Why?
We hosted a Drupal Show and Tell and I took a lot of pictures of our attendees. It's the first one we've had since I joined the business and it was a huge success, with 50 people coming to hear about some of the things we're doing with Drupal, Behat and Terraform [software systems]!
What’s your guilty pleasure?
A Jackie Collins novel. I know, super trashy, but so good!
Whose phone number do you wish you had?
Maya Angelou – Poet, Singer and Civil Rights Activist. Her poetry speaks to my soul.
What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Not sure I have ever been given bad advice, not that I have listened to anyway. Best piece of advice was from my mother – Things can't always be black and white, they’re not always so simple. She's a very wise lady.
What/where is your happy place?
It sounds cliché, but wherever my family and friends are.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I'm quite creative and I love making things. When I was in school, I spent a lot of time in the woodwork shed and pottery class. My poor parents have a lot of candlesticks, boxes and vases in their house!
What would be in your Room 101?
Semolina pudding. No amount of jam makes this an acceptable pudding! Selfishness would go in there too. If you can do something to help someone you should, because life's short and the impact on you may be little, but the impact on them could be great!
Introvert or extrovert?
Optimist or pessimist?
An aspiring optimist.
Film or television? What are you binge-watching at the moment?
Films, but at the moment I'm re-watching Desperate Housewives, and I'm glued – again!
Sweet or savoury?
Morning person or night owl?
Neither. I like a lie-in and an early night. I told you I love my sleep!
Tea or coffee?
Emojis – cool or cringey? Which emoji do you use the most?
Some are cringey depending on the context, but generally I'm a fan. The speak no evil monkey is the one I use the most.