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Resourceful mum stays focused

Published on Friday, 23 Jul 2010

It should be no surprise that Brenda Wilson's career to date has followed a successful trajectory. She is, after all, business leader for consultancy firm Mercer's human capital practice in Hong Kong, and has specialised in human resources, talent development and implementing workforce strategies since becoming interested in the subject when studying at California State University at Chico in the late 1980s.

"I changed my degree when they started to offer HR management along with organisational behaviour and communications," she says. "I thought `wow, that sounds so appealing and interesting', and my parents also said it was a good choice for me because it suits my disposition."

Wilson describes herself as a goal-oriented, focused person who prefers not to leave things to chance. She also has an inquisitive mind, particularly about people and cultures, and has found a real fascination in understanding what makes organisations tick and identifying ways to improve individual performance and general workforce productivity.

"HR covers an enormous spectrum, but most people don't see the impact an effective HR strategy can have," she says. "We deal a lot with change. It could be transitional, with small groups of people, or transformational, meaning it is organisation-wide. We design solutions and implement strategies for how to hire, grow, develop, mentor and retain staff."

Her first chance to put theory into practice came with Transamerica Insurance Group, which became TIG Holdings, in Los Angeles. The role focused on the training and development needs of more than 5,000 employees. "I loved it," Wilson says. "For a new graduate, it was fairly large job and it was very creative. I was helping others by giving them the knowledge, education and support to be better in their roles."

A corporate takeover led to a transfer to Dallas. But, prompted by her boss, Wilson saw the sense in broadening her own horizons. She signed on for an MBA at the Cass Business School in London in 1997, paving the way for later moves from the corporate world into consulting, and from the United States to Asia.

"I had always wanted to travel and had a hunger for understanding the world," she says. "Also, if you have to earn a living, you may as well do it somewhere interesting."

So, after a spell in a general HR role with PricewaterhouseCoopers, she opted to work for Mercer, first in Washington, then in London, where she met her banker husband. She has been in Hong Kong for the last five years.

The immediate challenge was to learn the art of consultancy - diagnosing problems, selling ideas and handling multiple problems simultaneously. But the range of skills and experience acquired made it possible to "transcend borders".

"Up to last year, I was 150 per cent dedicated to my profession, but this is changing," Wilson says. "I'm a new mum with a daughter born last October, so it is the family that comes first. I'll be working from home more and doing reduced hours, but I don't see the career slowing down. I can be successful as a mum and a consultant."

On her marks  

  • First visited Hong Kong as a college heptathlete to compete in an athletics event
  • Believes you are never too old to get great advice from your parents
  • Has seen the advantage of having a portable profession



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