Seetal Bhatti – British Gas, Female Graduate Programme Alumni

I joined the Centrica Graduate Programme in 2005, having secured a BSc in Economics, and during this time it became clear to me that my interests and skills centred on the behaviour and performance of people and teams so I chose to follow a career in HR. After the graduate scheme, I joined British Gas Services as a HR manager where I developed deep HR operational skills through exposure to high volumes of case management and regular interaction with the trade union. When British Gas merged its businesses in 2009, I was offered the opportunity to work with the Commercial team which involved partnering 7 senior directors. This allowed me to build on my commercial and senior stakeholder management skills.

Further re-organisation of the business led me to support the Service and Repair business as Interim Head of HR (pending appointment of an HR Director) during a period of intense change, low engagement and a Senior Leadership Team in flux. It was in this role that I developed high resilience, strong team leadership skills and the ability to work at a pace across a breadth of priorities. Following the appointment of the HRD to S&R, I moved into Learning and Development and Talent as I had an interest in the specialism and this experience has proven invaluable since moving back into generalist HR. My current role is Head of HR for Central Heating Installations (CHI) and it is clear to me that my future career path will continue in generalist HR business partnering as I believe I am at my best when I have the opportunity to work across a range of HR disciplines with a high degree of commercial focus.

I have been very well supported in my career at Centrica and found that almost all of my moves were recommended to me rather than having to personally pursue opportunities. Personal strengths which I believe have aided my career progression have been demonstrating initiative, strong relationship management, commerciality, the ability to challenge the status quo with innovative solutions and emotional intelligence.

One barrier to my development was the limited support for a lateral move into a HR specialism at my level of seniority. I was keen to do this to create greater depth in my skill set and knowledge and I was confident I could take on such a role with the right mentors in place. My line manager and the business unit were supportive, but I found limited support from the specialism to support such a move at that level, preferring experienced hires. I have also seen this happen to others in the business once they reach senior roles as leaders are less willing to take risks at this level in the organisation. I believe this is a talent challenge for the business as people with high potential can often rise through an organisation at pace in their early career but this naturally means their skills and experiences may not be as broad. By encouraging and supporting people to take lateral moves these gaps can be closed and help to create better, more rounded senior leaders further down the line, but to do this we need to encourage senior leaders to take greater calculated risks in lateral moves.

Looking forward, I am keen to consolidate learnings in my current role and broaden my external network to bring more innovative solutions back to the organisation. I would consider an MBA or similar type of programme to help me to achieve future career success.

2005 – 2007 – General Management Graduate (4×6 month placements)

  • BGB Finance – Margin and Revenue analyst
  • BGB Corporate – Team Leader
  • BGS Operations – Service Delivery
  • Corporate Centre – Shared Service HR Process Manager

Substantive positions since 2007

  • Sep 07 – Mar ’09       HRM Service and Repair
  • Mar ’09 – Sep ‘10      HRBP, BG Commercial
  • Sep ‘10 – Mar ’11       Interim Head of HR, S&R
  • Mar ’11 – May ‘ 13     Head of L&D, BGS
  • May 13’ to present     Head of HR, CHI