Claire Drynan

Claire, who is in her late 30’s, is a Transformation Partner in Group HR, focusing on Phoenix Group’s approach to flexible working.

Here Claire shares her story on how she has transformed her career over several years, including the period after the birth of her daughter.

During this time Claire has been able to bring her many years of experience and key skills together to progress through the ranks at Phoenix, moving from her initial role as an administrator to her present position on a key programme of work within the HR area by taking an active role to managing her career.

Claire is also Co-Chair of the Phoenix colleague network Mind Matters, which helps raise awareness and promote positive mental health to help break the stigma surrounding these issues.

“My role is responsible for looking at hybrid and flexible working strategies across Phoenix Group and exploring how we can improve our ambitions as an employer of choice for colleagues and potential colleagues.

“I’ve been performing this role since August 2022 and it’s completely different to the roles I’ve done before. Firstly, I have never worked in HR before, or the group functions, and it is great to be aligned to such a fundamental program on a topic I am so passionate about.

“All my previous roles have been working in Customer Operations for Standard Life which is part of Phoenix Group. I joined Standard Life in 2007 following a year out from University where I studied an Honours degree in Ocean Science and Technology whilst holding down a part-time job in Sainsburys.

I started working as an administrator in the Retail Drawdown area with the intention of only staying for a year or two until I figured out the career I would like to pursue.

Little did I know that I would be here fifteen years on. Having worked in various departments and now this new role, whilst it’s in a completely different team, it totally fits with what I enjoy and what I am good at, so has been a great move in helping me bring my skills together.

I’ve never been one for standing still and like to learn new things and work on different projects, so I have always tended to put my hand up and get involved in anything that I can and sign up to training sessions/workshops that I think would benefit me. This has given me the opportunity to gain experience across different areas and has included working on process improvement projects, training new starts and delivering new initiatives into the Open Business.

Following the birth of my daughter and taking time off for maternity leave I really evaluated what I wanted from work. That led to me exploring ways of having more flexibility regarding my work/life balance and I started to look for a role that would help me achieve this.

I made the decision to change the direction of my career by the middle of my maternity leave, and got information from various colleagues and friends to help me scope out options. I investigated internal vacancies and three months before I was due to return , I found one that accommodated all my skills and passion. I applied and started as a Knowledge Management Consultant working three days a week when I returned from maternity leave. It was daunting initially changing the direction of my career and into a brand new specialist role I knew nothing about but all my skills and strengths aligned and I am so glad that I took the plunge.

“Despite the variety of roles that I’ve had at Phoenix I’ve found the consistent theme in my career has been about improving colleague and customer experiences, something I have only spotted with hindsight.

I have learnt to look out for ‘what do I need to get out of this opportunity for me to enjoy my job’. I have been really struck by a comment that was made in a training session I attended that said “A job is not like a marriage. Whilst you have to be committed to it, it doesn’t have to be long-term.” It actually helped me feel empowered to look for other opportunities when I have wanted to make a change and to really consider what strengths and skills I can apply to a role rather than focus on job titles.

I would urge colleagues to go out and talk to people, to create opportunities to meet new people and be interested in what opportunities are out there. Being aligned as co-chair of the Mind Matters Network over three years ago, really gave me the push I needed to get out of my usual ‘comfort zone’.

“It has provided a lot of opportunity for development and given me the confidence to speak up in front of my peers, engage with a variety of stakeholders and to be open with senior leaders across the business.

It really helps to have the passion in your roles to drive you forward. No-one believes that naturally I am an introvert. When I tell my husband about a day at work, he can’t believe it when I say I have presented or facilitated an event, run a training session or networked with various colleagues. I have learnt to create a different dynamic for me at work, one where I can get myself out there and get to where I want to go.

“Last year I signed up for an apprenticeship in Level 5 Coaching and I only found out about it by talking to colleagues at Phoenix who as an employer is really keen to help everyone develop and progress no matter their age or background.

While there are many people who have helped me in different ways throughout my career, for me the most important reflection is that my development is in my hands, it’s down to me, and that to be successful I need to take control of it.