Newly promoted after securing his CIPD Level 5 Diploma in just 13 months, Will Sylvester explains how being qualified supports his career

Will Sylvester swapped life in the skies as cabin crew with British Airways for an HR role in a Private Equity firm in London two years ago.  Now newly promoted to an HR Associate after securing his Level 5 Diploma in just 13 months with Watson Martin, he explains how being CIPD qualified is supporting his career.

I joined the private equity firm Coller Capital in July 2019 as an HR Recruitment Assistant and was promoted to HR Associate in January 2021 just as I was finishing my CIPD Level 5 Diploma.  Prior to that I was at British Airways where I was cabin crew for a number of years before gaining a secondment to Head Office in more of an HR role. Once this came to an end, I knew HR was the career for me and I was ready to take the step away from flying.  I looked elsewhere for opportunities and I came across my current firm and haven’t looked back since.

I am one of a team of six in London and we also work closely with HR colleagues in New York and Hong Kong. We are approaching 240 staff now and so my role as an HR Associate is very busy and varied. I am involved in lots of interviews; I own the onboarding process for London and Hong Kong as well as working on a range of other adhoc projects around the business. There are plans this year for me to take over the payroll of London and Hong Kong offices and I will have more involvement in pensions and benefits.

You might wonder how being cabin crew for BA could possibly relate to a private equity firm but strangely there are some similarities particularly around customer service and delivering sensitive messages. My experience of being up in the air has really helped in terms of reading people and building a rapport.

Gaining my promotion

The firm has always recognised the importance of CIPD qualifications and achieving the Level 5 Diploma in HR definitely helped me gain promotion.  Moving up to be an HR Associate was a recognition of my efforts as well as the new knowledge gained, and my work has stepped up a level as a result.  As there wasn’t much else to do during lockdown, I decided to fly through my diploma as quickly as possible and achieved it within 13 months instead of the 18 months allocated. Once I had finished the qualification I had so much more of a knowledge base and a broader understanding of HR issues. It gives you that validation and allows you to understand other viewpoints. I am so glad I decided to study for the Diploma. It has increased my confidence enormously.

Choosing my study route

I chose Watson Martin after doing some research online to look at various qualification providers. I booked a call and the adviser I spoke to discussed lots of options and was really informative which helped me make my decision. I chose classroom-based learning although because of the pandemic I only attended one face-to-face workshop before everything had to move online. However, I was lucky that I met a couple of others at this workshop who stuck with me throughout the course, and we have kept in touch ever since.  The transition to online learning was very smooth. You could see that Watson Martin had adapted the structure and course content to make it more suited to online delivery. I really looked forward to the workshops.

I would 100% recommend Watson Martin to others as I had such a positive learning experience. Not only are there lots of resources on the VLE to learn from but I felt so supported by my personal adviser Sam Furlano.  I was very nervous at the start of the course as I didn’t go to university and I hadn’t written an essay for about eight years! I had so many questions, but Sam was always reassuring and helpful, she would always make time for me, checking in to see how I was getting on and arranging a call to discuss my next assignment. It’s really important for anyone doing their CIPD to build a relationship with their adviser and I had great support from Sam throughout my programme.

Studying for a qualification whilst working makes for a busy time particularly as in my industry we work quite long hours.  I found setting my alarm for 7:00 and doing an hour and a half of studying before logging on for work was a good structure for me.

Looking to the future

Having the CIPD qualification has helped my career progression and has improved my work, skills and knowledge.  Looking to the future, I would ideally like to keep moving up the ranks and would love to be Head of HR somewhere one day!”

Sam Furlano Quote