This year, the HR Rising Star Award recipient is Talent Advisor for Talent & Rewards, Anna Stonelake. Anna shares her experience on finding out that she had won and her insights on working at Willis Towers Watson.
What was your initial reaction to hearing you were nominated for and won the award?
It was a very surreal moment and one I will never forget! Our Chief Administrative Officer and Head of HR, Anne Bodnar, invited me to an online meeting to share the great news. I wasn’t aware I had been nominated (as this is the process for the HR Rising Star Award) so it took a few minutes to sink in. I felt very overwhelmed, humbled and honored that I had been recognized by my fellow colleagues. Since winning the award I’ve learned from different teams across Willis Towers Watson what a positive and inspiring impact Gail had on the colleagues she worked with, I am so glad her memory and legacy continues to be honored through this yearly award.
What are your interests or hobbies outside of work? Have you developed any new hobbies or interests since the onset of COVID-19?
I have two young children (four and six years-old) so they keep me very busy, but when I am not running around trying to keep them out of mischief, I enjoy renovating our house. It was built in 1903 and it hadn’t been touched for 30-40 years when we bought it six years ago. It has been a labor of love (and stress) ever since, but we are nearly there, just the garden to finish now!
Since the onset of COVID-19, I have a newfound appreciation for the outdoors. My family and I are lucky to live in a village with lots of countryside on our doorstep. My local gym has been shut on and off for most of 2020, and to counter this I now enjoy running three times a week and walking in the local woods at the weekend with the family. It’s surprising how sticks, mud, bikes and puddles can keep children entertained for hours, and fresh air really does help to clear your mind.
How has Willis Towers Watson supported you in unlocking potential in your career and development?
Since I joined Willis Towers Watson just over two years ago, I have been given opportunities to get involved in lots of different projects and initiatives across HR. I feel lucky to have such supportive colleagues to bounce ideas off, discuss challenges with and ask for advice. I have always been encouraged to try and improve the way we add value to the businesses we support and believe having this freedom and encouragement to think creatively has really helped me grow as a professional.
Gail E. McKee impacted the lives of many colleagues. Is there someone who has had an impact on your career, and can you describe how they have influenced your career growth?
It is very difficult to choose one colleague, within our HR function there are lots of strong female leaders based all around the world that inspire me. I have noticed over time that all have very similar leadership values: a strong work ethic, compassion, pragmatism, fairness and a positive energy which is very compelling.
If I had to choose one colleague, it would be our Global Talent Business Leader for Talent & Rewards and member of the Willis Towers Watson Global Inclusion & Diversity council, Suzanne McAndrew. Suzanne is a very inspiring leader and colleague. Her leadership style is open, positive, creative and direct, and through our interactions and partnership she inspires me to be a better version of myself professionally. I am always thankful for her feedback and insight.
I am also a strong believer that your support system outside of work impacts how you perform professionally. To that degree I think my husband has been amazing at supporting me to focus on my career and in helping me balance my personal and family commitments, especially in the past six months.
What do you think it takes to succeed in Human Resources at Willis Towers Watson?
Willis Towers Watson offers fantastic HR career opportunities if you have a positive attitude, strong work ethic, curiosity to learn, confidence and energy to question/challenge the status quo constructively. You also need to be a strong team player; in my experience you will not be successful if you try to do everything yourself, particularly when there are so many HR colleagues with a wealth of experience that you can reach out to for help and advice. The support network within Willis Towers Watson’s HR teams is fantastic, but you need to put the effort in to build your own network and always be willing to help one another out.
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