Ryan Connor – Inspirational Bio

Ryan is the People Development Manager in Devenish Group, a company in the agri-food and technology sector.

What does a typical day look like for you?

My role is about providing a service to the rest of the business – providing knowledge, guidance and support, and creating development initiatives that align the strategic priorities of the business and departmental needs with the needs of individuals.

I’m fortunate that my role allows me to engage with all employees at all levels and in all age groups across our group of companies, and I really get to know the range of talented individuals that I have as colleagues.

The range of tasks and opportunities that I work on varies from day-to-day, so one day I could be working with members of the strategy board on an Executive Development Programme and the next I could be having coaching discussions with our Graduates or discussing NVQs and Apprenticeships with our Mill and Distribution Centre staff.

You could say my role, along with the rest of our team in HR, is to support the business to have the right people, in the right role, with the right knowledge and skills, engaged, rewarded and challenged in the right way.

What career journey have you been on to get where you are now?

At 19 I started working full-time in a supermarket while I studied Retail Management part-time at Coleraine University. I liked the idea of working full-time and earning money while studying and still living at home instead of going away.

At 23 I realised that a life in retail management wasn’t for me and I completed the Premiere Graduate Management programme and went on a placement for 3 months to a new Learndirect training centre.

They invited me back for a second placement, with the promise of a full-time job at the end, and within a year I became the centre manager. This started a genuine passion for learning and development, both of others and for myself, and I decided to develop myself as much as I could, and seek as many new opportunities and experiences as I could to become a People Development Professional.

Now 41, I’ve worked in the UK, Europe and also much further afield for companies including Devenish, Coca-Cola and PwC. I’ve managed global facing teams, worked on major transformational change projects and created learning and development programmes that will have touched thousands of people (hopefully in a positive way!). Its been an amazing experience to date and hopefully there’s much more to come.

What excites you about your industry?

Working for an agri-tech business, we are using cutting edge science and research and development that not only creates value for our customers but is also having a major impact on human health.

It’s amazing to see and work with highly skilled talent in many disciplines, from animal and plant sciences to farm land management, developing and marketing new technologies and products to customers. Customers are then increasingly embracing these new technologies, such as precision agriculture, to drive efficiency, maximise yields, protect the environment and increase profitability.

Within Devenish alone our strategy links to some of the globe’s megatrends and we are actively working on a range of initiatives around: feeding a growing population, food safety & security, healthy & nutritious food, reduction of antibiotic use in animal feed, and sustainable agriculture.

As the technology and science continues to improve, the range and types of careers within the industry will naturally change and become more diverse and in demand and as a People Development Professional it’s such an exciting time.

What advice would you give to your 13 year old self?

I failed my 11+ but secondary school went OK. There are big decisions to be made about what GCSEs to do, but your biggest complaint is that you can’t sit beside your best friends anymore. Playing football will seem like a priority over everything, and at 16 your GCSE results won’t go quite to plan either, but you’ll get English, Maths, ICT and French.

When you’re in your 20s you’ll finally realise your inner drive and ambition, and you’ll take any qualification, development opportunity or better job that comes your way – show everyone what you’re made of! There’ll be set backs and disappointments, and you’ll manage people twice your age and they won’t respect you (at first), but you’ll win them over. Learn to use your voice and share your opinions and ideas. It won’t come easily or naturally, but trust yourself. You’ll learn to be comfortable about feeling uncomfortable, and that will grow into a confidence you probably never imagined you’d have.

Always remember to treat others well, and take on advice from others but always trust your gut and try to have no regrets. Enjoy your life and career, your parents will tell you how proud they are and you’ll say ‘not bad for a boy who failed his 11+’.

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