My career story: Claire Brockington
As a proud global sponsor of this year’s Dive In Festival, and in support of the annual theme of #InclusionImpact, we spoke to a number of our people around the network to find out about their individual career journeys, the challenges they have faced, the advice they would give to their younger self and what diversity and inclusion means to them.
At Kennedys we have a distinctive culture that makes us a successful firm where people enjoy coming to work. With over 2,000 people across 38 offices globally, our culture is a source of strength and differentiates us from our competitors. And, according to Senior Partner Nick Thomas, “as a diverse and global firm we need to ensure that everyone, whoever or wherever they are in the firm, shares and embraces our values”.
In the latest instalment of our career stories we spoke to Claire Brockington, an HR Manager based in our Singapore office:
“Growing up I always wanted to be a secretary and, as the years progressed, that grew into being a legal secretary,” says Claire, reflecting on the influence her grandmother, in particular, had on her initial career aspirations. “My nan was a secretary and she would tell me stories of the jobs she had as a secretary in London and it always sounded so glamorous and fun. She used to have one of the old fashioned manual typewriters that would need the paper wound into it. I remember it was black and the keys would make such a loud sound when pressed - as did the ‘ping’ of the manual return lever!
“I would sit and play with that typewriter every time I visited my grandparents. As I grew up, my parents bought me an electronic typewriter which I would use for my school work.”
Claire’s first full time job came in 1995 at the age of 18, when she joined Kennedys as a Post Room Assistant at our former office on Chiswell Street in London. Under the guidance of a former colleague, Claire learned the basics of how the firm worked.
“I was predominately mentored by a man called Bob Stewart. He was amazing, he only worked mornings and was over retirement age, but he looked after me and guided me. He was patient, kind and considerate. I remember him fondly and thank him for what he taught me. After 18 months I was promoted to Float Legal Secretary. I was the only Float at that time and split my time between working in our old Chiswell Street and Mark Lane offices, and occasionally working out of our former Brentwood office.”
After two years working as a Float Legal Secretary, Claire assumed the role of Team Coordinator and began working for lawyers that were specialising in employment and personal injury law. It was a period that she remembers fondly, though it brought her to a crossroads in her career.
I’m not particularly academic, so studying has never come easily to me, but I persevered even when the results did not go my way. I am now MCIP qualified with the CIPD.
Claire Brockington, HR Manager
“I enjoyed working more closely with the lawyers. The camaraderie was brilliant and we all got along. I learnt a lot about court proceedings, the law and how a case file is run. Then, after about two years in the role, I found out that two of the lawyers I worked for were leaving which made me think about what I did next.”
This period of reflection for Claire and her own career happened to coincide with a vacancy for a HR Assistant at Kennedys, which she was encouraged to apply for by the HR Manager at the time. After a successful application, Claire has not looked back since.
“I started working in HR on 3 January 2000 and have not looked back. I honestly did not know what HR really consisted of, but I soon learnt! I have worked my way through the ranks, have managed individuals, teams of people, worked on projects (including several mergers), moved offices and countries, and now manage the HR function for the Singapore and Bangkok offices. In that time I have seen the firm grow from about 180 people in two offices (Chiswell Street and Brentwood), to over 2000 employees with offices across the world. It’s been a massive transformation and still a place I enjoy working at.”
While the transition between roles may appear seamless, there have been many personal and professional challenges that Claire has overcome to get to where she is today. Speaking openly about these difficulties, she also shares her advice for anybody facing similar challenges or is doubting their ability in reaching their potential.
“I studied for my HR qualification whilst working full time and I found that extremely challenging - juggling my social life with both work and my studies. In the end my social life went on hold whilst I studied. I’m not particularly academic, so studying has never come easily to me, but I persevered even when the results did not go my way. I picked myself up and kept going until I passed everything and I am now MCIP qualified with the CIPD.
“I have experienced some very tough personal times whilst working at Kennedys. I got divorced, moved countries and most recently lost both my grandfathers. But I am a firm believer of staying positive and working hard. If you demonstrate that you are a hard worker, enjoy what you do, are eager to learn, adaptable, committed and capable, those qualities will be recognised and you will go far.”
For someone that stepped out from what they knew to embark on a completely different career at Kennedys, Claire’s advice to her younger self is reflective of her own journey. She says: “Do not give up, you can achieve your goals. Think practically and be reasonable, whilst always remembering anything is possible. You never know where life is going to take you so be bold and take a chance.”
Claire’s experience of overseeing interviews shines through when offering her advice for anyone thinking of starting a career in the insurance industry or legal sector. She says: “Research the company. Remember interviews are a two-way street, they want to hear about your experiences and see what you are capable of but, at the same time, you want to assess if that is a company you could work for. So think about the work environment you want to be in and make that part of your evaluation process.”
Reflecting on her own career at Kennedys, which is nearing 25 years’ service, Claire feels there are two key factors behind her enjoyment of working for the firm. “Firstly, the work is diverse, challenging and thought-provoking which make it extremely interesting and rewarding. Above all though, it is the people. I have been very lucky with the colleagues I have worked with over the years and have always been able to share and discuss with them when work/life becomes overwhelming - they have helped enormously in sharing the load. If I did not like these two aspects of my job I would not have stayed as long as I have.”
When asked what diversity and inclusion means to her, Claire said: “Embracing everyone for who they are without judgement. We need a diverse and inclusive workforce to represent and recognise the diverse world in which we live. Without it, how can we represent our clients who are just as diverse as us?”
This year’s Dive In Festival, marks the second of a two-year campaign, Awareness into Action, with a focus on creating measurable impact. After three years of raising awareness of the business case for diversity and inclusion, the global movement now looks to harness the energy of previous years to help the insurance industry get fit for the future, highlighting the business case for diverse and inclusive workplaces and providing practical ideas and inspiration on how to bring about positive change.