Leaders with Ambition - Sarah Draper

Leaders with Ambition - Sarah Draper

Published on 6th September 2021

​In this episode of Leaders with Ambition, Nicky talks to Sarah Draper, Partner and Head of People and Culture at Rider Levett Bucknall. They discuss Sarah’s journey within Human Resources (HR), the challenges she’s faced and what she has learned from her numerous HR experiences.

Sarah explains how her hard work and determination has led to her success – she realised that making a difference in others’ lives was especially important for her and HR was a perfect sector for her to flex this attribute. Finally, the two discuss how Sarah’s role has shifted as people are still working remotely during these times in the workplace and the various systems Sarah has implemented to maintain a high sense of inclusivity within her firm.

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Key takeaways from this episode with Sarah Draper:

How Sarah started her career in HR

Sarah talks about her interesting path into HR in which she went originally went to university for international studies, with the intention of becoming a bilingual secretary. However, she stumbled upon HR when her friend referred her to a HR position in a firm and the rest is history.

As someone who loves helping people and wanting to make a difference in people’s lives, Sarah knew HR was the right decision.

The purpose of HR

Sarah explains that ultimately her purpose is to protect the business and protect the employees.

Hard work pays off

Sarah notes that it is imperative to have a great work ethic, perseverance and an understanding of your skills, which will help guide you toward success.

Her time at Reuters helped to propel Sarah to truly grasp the roles in HR, which has been a stepping stone to her success.

The challenge of moving into professional services

Sarah’s transition to professional services gave her a new style and a new opportunity to tackle situations in HR. She mentions that she learnt that she had to adapt and take people on a journey rather than just telling people what to do.

Working in a large firm added to her skillset

Sarah explains how working in a large firm helped broaden her skills as a mentor, fostering better coaching skills within the workforce.

Sarah's goal:

“It’s not about ticking the boxes – it’s about making a difference and doing the best you can for other people.”

The challenge of remote working

Sarah explains how one of the big issues currently is how to provide a sense of inclusivity while people are still working remotely.

Career highlights

She lists three main highlights that have been meaningful to her: seeing people develop with the help she’s given, winning an industry award, and empowering her current team through the adversity of the previous year and a half.

Conquering fears

Being thrown into a public speaking role has given Sarah the opportunity to get even better at communication and she reminds listeners that it is important to face your challenges.

Words of wisdom

Sarah reiterates that people are often prone to fixate on what they are currently doing and need to step back from time-to-time to see the progress they’ve had and the achievements they’ve earned through their journey.

Key quotes from the podcast:

  • “HR is very much about looking after the business but also looking after the employees as well, and it’s 50/50.”

  • “I’ve always followed a generalist pathway because I like the variety that it gives you into the window of the business.”

  • “Nothing comes easy and I felt very lucky I found something that I wanted to do, and I’ve enjoyed, and I’ve been able to build a really fulfilling career out of. But it is hard work.”

  • “There’s that constant learning through your career and you’ve got to remember to keep learning and evolve.”

  • “Taking people on a journey and selling them the benefits of why we were doing something rather than the telling style, you can get away with a little bit more in the corporate world.”

  • “We’re creating a culture within the business that we are selling…we can all sell a dream, but we have to make sure that the dream is a reality.”

  • “It really struck me that people mattered...it was a people focused business so I could see that there would be a huge opportunity to really make a difference there.”

  • “What people in HR aren’t that great at is that we are so busy doing that we don’t stop to reflect what we’ve achieved…having a change in role enabled me to see that I made a difference.”

  • “Learning from what you’ve got in front of you and the role you’re doing now and not being too fixated on the role ahead of you.”

About Sarah Draper

Sarah Draper is an established HR Director with experience in the financial industry and professional services sector. She joined Rider Levett Bucknall, an independent construction, property and management consultancy, providing advice focused on the cost, quality and sustainability of the built environment, in 2020.

In her current role as Partner of RLB in the UK and Head of People and Culture, Sarah is responsible for the people strategy and delivery of a best in class approach to people and culture within the UK.

Her achievements have been demonstrated through industry awards and successful delivery of projects in a transformational environment working with senior management on a UK and global basis to deliver organisational and cultural change, contributing to strategic missions and decision making.

Leaders with Ambition is hosted by Nicky Acuna Ocana, Managing Director of Ambition UK.

If you're a Leader with Ambition from a professional services firm and would like to feature as a guest in a future podcast, please email:marketing@ambition.co.uk.

​Listen to more episodes of the Leaders with Ambition podcast here