Robin Benn is a Manager with AskHR Solutions. He has worked with AskHR Solutions for more than 10 years, working with clients in the SME sector including working as an interim HR Manager in client accounts. We sat down with Robin recently to find out a little bit more about him…
Where are you from?
I am currently living in Ballinteer in Dublin.
Where did you study?
I studied Electronic Engineering at the Regional Technical Colleges in Carlow and Waterford – what is now known as the South East Technological University.
What was your first job?
My first job after college was working as a test engineer in Data Products, a US multinational that was based in Coolock and Santry in Dublin. Dataproducts was one of the original U.S. foreign direct investment multinationals that came to Ireland during the 1970s.
Can you tell us a little about your career journey to date?
In my early career I worked in U.S. multinationals such as Dataproducts, Storage Technology Corporation and Motorola as a test engineer. Motorola were very active in the commercial telecoms sector and my career developed with them into sales and marketing.
During the nineties myself and some colleagues spun out of the Motorola business and established our own data networking company called Topology Systems. Through hard work and together with some very talented colleagues, we enjoyed considerable success. We sold the business to an Irish telecoms company called Lake Communications and they, in turn, sold us on to Cable and Wireless, a long established international telecoms company. I continued to work there into the early noughties.
Following a period of working in a number of other telecoms and software companies, I was introduced to AskHR Solutions and have been working with them now for more than 10 years, initially helping them to promote a HR software package.
Can you tell us more about what AskHR Solutions does?
AskHR Solutions offers HR Support Services for clients, in particular SMEs. We can also provide employment agency services, including an outsourced payroll service, along with other HR services tailored to our clients’ specific needs.
What does your role with AskHR Solutions involve?
My HR career has developed with the support of the senior management team at AskHR Solutions. Following some further study in Technology University Dublin I gained my CIPD accreditations. I have been mainly working with a selection of clients in the SME sector and have also recently completed a five year interim HR Manager role in a Dublin based hospital.
I am also working with the senior management team on developing our HR service offerings for clients and this is a very exciting time for us in the ongoing development of the company.
What type of clients do you typically work with?
Currently I’m acting HR Manager for a number of nursing homes. In parallel I promote the development of our services to AskHR Solutions clients, old and new alike. We focus mainly on working with medium sized companies and most of our client companies would have teams of typically 50 employees.
What are the aspects of your job that you enjoy most?
Supporting managers through challenging employment relations (ER) issues is one area that I derive satisfaction from. I also find it very rewarding in working with clients to identify the pain points and HR needs within their organisations and then helping them to solve these challenges by bringing ideas and solutions and working closely with them.
Have you a career highlight that you are most proud of?
Developing and selling our own telecoms business, back in the day, would probably be a personal highlight. I’m also very proud of the way my HR career has developed, and in both phases of my career it has been rewarding to continue to help solve challenges with clients.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever heard?
There are many examples, but the one I enjoyed the most was “Find out what you like doing best, and then get someone to pay you for doing it.”
Who do you look up to for inspiration or leadership?
Back in the day it would have been Jack Welch – CEO of General Electric. Whilst styles of leadership may have evolved since he was at the helm of G.E., one thing he was passionate about was putting the right people in the right roles and he put a lot of personal effort and focus on this. He was also known for speaking candidly, which is a personal trait that I admire.
Do you have a favourite quote or motto?
I recently came across a Steve Jobs quote which is one I can relate to: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
What do you think are the biggest challenges employers face today in terms of HR?
The biggest basic challenge that I hear consistently and that client companies currently face is the recruitment and retention of staff in the current economic climate.
What is your proudest accomplishment to date, big or small?
The career change piece. I was doing a personal pivot, as circumstances changed and I think I got there. Maybe when I look back and reflect, I will be able to see how the “dots” have joined up!
If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to?
1978, it was a college year for me. It was a particular time I look back fondly on – there was a state of change in the country and within music and popular culture in particular. It was the evolution of the punk rock era. It was a fantastic time and at that age you’ve high expectations, no fears and high hopes for the future.
If you could share a meal with any 4 individuals, living or dead, who would they be?
Mohammed Ali, Seve Ballesteros, Nelson Mandela and John Hume. They all pushed the boundaries in the context of their own lives and they all had a huge impact on the world around them.
What’s one thing that can instantly make your day better?
A really good coffee!!
Where in the world would you most like to travel?