Interview | 10 Dec 2013

My Career: Tracy Smeathers

Posted in Freelancer, Motivation & inspiration, Freelancer's stories, Interview,

From HR to Communications, how freelancing has benefited my personal development. I started my career in HR for an employee owned chemical manufacturing organization before moving into the marketing and communications arena. Looking back it was a great place to start. It was a company that operated in a highly collaborative way.

It was very transparent which meant that very early on in my career, I saw first hand how a company operated, the challenges it faced, how and why it arrived at the decisions it did. I also saw the importance of engaging employees every step of the way. That has been very valuable lesson that I have used throughout my career.

My involvement in communications was right across the board from creating a new brand and strategic narrative to creating internal communications processes, PR and crisis management communications. Working in communications in an employee owned company was challenging. Everyone was effectively ‘owners’ of the business so they expected to be involved in what was going on in the company and to have their say - and were not shy in speaking up when they were not happy! Again this was great grounding for future years.

After taking a year out to travel I decided to move industry and widen my sector experience. That’s when I started to freelance, working for a number of blue chip companies across financial services, insurance and professional services. Those freelance roles ranged from supporting Heads of Banking Sectors to Heads of HR as a communications business partner. It was my first venture into the corporate world – a different world in many ways to that which I was used to. I had moved from being a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a big pond so to speak. Many of the challenges were similar but culture was very different and politics played a much larger part.

I eventually stayed with one of my freelance companies in professional services and moved with them to North America for three years. The company was going through a brand refresh and my role was to create and align the major global HR change programme communications with the new direction. This involved creating strategic narrative and associated marketing campaigns for internal audiences across the world.

Since returning to the UK I have worked both agency side and as a freelancer across many industries from retail to banking and distribution to financial services. It’s the variety that I really enjoy, being able to move from one sector to another, from one culture to another – in companies large and small. Working with the big boys allows me to pass on best practices to the smaller companies, and the smaller companies help me to ensure I keep my feet on the ground and can still operate in a hands-on way.

My wide sector experience and my HR, communications and marketing background has made me a flexible, well rounded individual who can fit into many different environments and execute on a number of fronts.