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Hi, I'm John.

HR director and ballet dancer, London

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My journey so far…

I grew up in Lewisham in South London with my parents, where we lived in a one-bedroom flat. Most of my family worked in the construction trade and there was an expectation that I would embrace ‘traditional masculine’ values. By the age of 14, I realised I was gay, and I worried I wouldn’t be accepted. When I first came out, it was challenging, but after some difficult conversations my family were extremely supportive.

After school I knew I wanted to do something creative, and I gained a scholarship to study at the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama. I then went into a career as a professional contemporary ballet dancer, performing across London and other locations around the world. While I loved this experience, I knew I needed to have a long-term focus. I didn’t have a financial buffer to fall back on, so after retiring from dance in my late twenties, I decided to go into HR. It’s a people focused job that gives you the opportunity to solve complex problems, which really appealed to me. I started in recruitment in investment banking, before moving to Deloitte in 2016. I was won over by the people, the firm’s ambition and the exciting work they do.

“As an openly gay man with neurodiversity from a low-income background, I want people to know that these things don’t define how successful you’ll become.”

Work that matters

I’m now head of strategic workforce planning, resourcing business partnering and senior hiring in HR. As a director, I take business growth plans over a five-year period and translate that into workforce solutions so that we can deliver those plans. I manage the team of resourcing business partners to make sure the senior business leaders get what they need from resourcing. I’m also responsible for our senior hire strategy and delivery teams, so that we can attract the best leaders in the market to the firm.

Outside of my main role, I’ve been supporting HR around neurodiversity at Deloitte, setting up training and a lot of the infrastructure we need. A year ago, I was actually referred for a neurodiversity assessment myself. I’ve since been diagnosed with ADHD, with traits of Autism. Knowing why I think differently helps me to understand myself a lot better, and I now know why I deal with situations in the way I do. I’m able to get reasonable adjustments in place when I need them, and my colleagues have been really supportive.

I’m also a member of the PROUD network, and I’ve helped to shape how we use inclusive language in our recruitment materials. My partner and I do sometimes experience homophobia when we go out together on weekends, so that message of equality and inclusion is important. It’s one of the reasons why I attend regular Pride events, especially the ones in smaller towns and cities. Our networks are important at Deloitte, because they recognise our differences and ensure everyone can have a sense of belonging and voice in the organisation. As an openly gay man with neurodiversity from a low-income background, I want people to know that these things don’t define how successful you’ll become.

Highlights from my week

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
I work from home in Bristol today. I’m looking at aligning some workforce plans with the key skills we need to bring into the business. In the evening I go to a ballet class.
Today I focus on a project for improving our onboarding processes for the partners and contractors of our firm. I also think about how we can improve our hiring activities outside of London.
I travel to London from Bristol for a meeting, which includes about 35 people from different teams. We share information about how we can work better together, which is important for building relationships.
I take my leadership team offsite in London today to plan for the financial year ahead, which is a great opportunity to connect outside of our natural work environment. After work I go to watch football with the team.
I meet with our recruitment leaders to focus on how we’re directly attracting people to Deloitte, and the steps we’ll be taking to improve this over time. I then travel back to Bristol in the afternoon to kickstart my weekend at home.

My weekend looks like

I live in Bristol and always enjoy driving somewhere new at the weekends, either a beach or somewhere in the country. My partner and I take a lot of long walks with our dog, a black Labrador called Heston. I also love cooking and going out for meals- especially Chinese food. While I don’t dance professionally anymore, I enjoy recreational ballet, and going to see live dance performances.

3 things I've learned

The only constant is change

As a firm we are always striving for excellence and that often means changing things. Once you learn how to support yourself through change, you can start to support others, or even lead those changes.

Adaptability and a growth mindset is essential

I’ve had five roles in eight years across different areas of HR. Being open to new opportunities, embracing them and then learning and growing as a consequence, will not only help you to have a successful career, you’ll also be a better leader.

Be comfortable in yourself

I realised I could be myself and explore who I was both professionally and personally. I seem to tick a lot of diversity boxes, but luckily you don’t need to fit a cardboard cut out of perfection to be successful.

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John's book recommendation

Invisible Women: Exposing the gender bias women face every day by Caroline Criado-Perez

I read this book on holiday and couldn’t put it down. It exposes the gender data gap, and shows how this creates bias in society and has a profound effect on women’s lives. It’s a really important insight into discrimination, and these lessons can help us to navigate a better and more positive future for our people.