What leaders think
Posted on

The Hoggett Bowers 2 Minute Interview: Paula Bell

Hoggett Bowers 2 minute interview paula bell
Paula Bell, CFO/COO, Spirent Communications Plc & Non-Executive and Audit Chairman, Keller Group Plc

Paula is as an experienced FTSE 250 Plc board member, is CFO/COO for Spirent Communications Plc driving shareholder value in the technology space where 5G development is a key driver. Paula is also Non-Exec Director and Audit Chairman for Keller Group Plc, the world’s largest leading geotechnical specialist contractor.

What challenge did you tackle and overcome in your business this week?

Shipment continuity. We ship a lot of things around the world and our teams have worked around air and shipping challenges and country lockdowns and they’ve still managed to deliver on time, where our direct competitors have not managed to do the same. We ship into HK, France, India etc., so literally global shipments, the team have to move inventory to different locations for assembly and then ship onto customers. I’ve been so inspired by them as they’ve worked through whatever barrier has been put in front of them by looking at alternative shipping channels and keeping up to date with which aviation routes are still flying.

Which ongoing business challenge is occupying your thoughts this week/month?

We have a weekly risk management committee and the big discussion is the ongoing return to work. We have 95% of staff working from home, so only a skeleton crew in the business scheduling and shipping. We’re looking at ensuring staff have safe facilities to go back to and we need to understand what the future impact on facilities and IT will be downstream. Do we need less space, should we renew leases? Everything is about the ongoing return to work and a big question is how do we assess if employees are effective working from home?

Best thing about working from home/remotely?

I’ve got 2 boys aged 10 and 11 so seeing them more and I’ve become their official cricket instructor outside at lunchtime. Homeschooling is all via MS Teams and they follow the curriculum through the day, so I can hear 20 kids in each bedroom each day with the teacher. They’re becoming more self-sufficient as they work out how to get on different links and submit work online. It’s been great but it’ll still be better when they go back to school though!

Worst thing about working from home/remotely?

It’s what I call the ‘Zoom explosion’, it’s like “Zoomitis” has set in and everyone wants to do Zoom constantly back to back. On a personal level I miss catching up with people in-person, seeing the team and catching up with the team. Personally, I’m a big traveller, for business and pleasure, so adjusting to not connecting with people has been quite hard.

Best factual news source on Covid-19?

I don’t have one in particular; I tend to browse around, too many political angles puts me off. What I’ve found useful and have shared with my colleagues, is what some of the financial institutions have written, there have been some brilliant articles on COVID and its impact. I sit on two boards and between us we’ve been sharing these documents written by the financial institutions and get more information from those than the regular press.

Who or what has inspired you this week? (They don’t need to be famous)

Nothing on the celebrity front, we’ve had a lot of family members, who work on the front line for the NHS, who’ve had COVID, and so I admire those who’ve been really poorly, got better and gone back to work, I’m inspired by them.

Best programme/film you watched on TV/streaming this week?

I’m completely addicted to both Money Heist and Ozark, which I’m watching in parallel, and they’re linked as they’re both about stealing money, so as a CFO it’s quite good from a risk management perspective!

Are you doing more or less exercise than a typical week when you commute and if more, what?

More. I got my bike out after 18 months and we cycle for miles now with the kids, I live on the South Downs so there’s lots of great countryside around.

What are you consuming more of (that you should not be) now you are not in an office environment?

I’ve got completely addicted to Fever Tree Ginger Beer with loads of herbs from the garden. The difficult bit is staying out of the way of the kids, they seem to snack all day long, so I try and keep away from the kitchen and temptation. The kids are good bakers and are making the most amazing cakes, so there is a constant supply available and they’ve perfected the Mary Berry lemon drizzle cake recipe now, so that’s a new problem as it’s there every week.

Any words of wisdom?

Firstly, it’s a fabulous opportunity for reflecting on what matters, so don’t waste it. My second words of wisdom are, ensure variety and mix things up… I’ve started online art classes with friends, on Zoom with a glass of wine, and also started weekly cooking competitions with friends, again on Zoom on Saturday night. One of us hosts and sends the ingredient list, then reveals the recipe when we’re online so we’re all cooking the same dish, again with a glass of wine!