An Appointment with… Helen Symonds

23rd Nov

Helen, could you please tell us a little about your background?
I have been involved in hospitality, sales and events since I embarked on my working career. Starting in sales support, sales research and event management at the Gleneagles Hotel, Scotland, I was lucky enough to work on some amazing events, such as the Scottish PGA & the G8 Summit and to learn from some amazingly talented people.
Moving into regional sales roles, covering territories across the Midlands, the North East and Yorkshire, I learnt account management, training with IHG (InterContinental Hotel Group) on account plans, total account management and solution-based selling, ahead of moving into sales leadership. One of my scariest moments was a two-minute sales elevator pitch live on stage at a black tie dinner for 800 guests at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London, when I was a finalist at the National Sales Awards.
Moving back to Yorkshire (Hull being home for me) I took the role of director of sales and marketing with DoubleTree by Hilton Hull, 12 months prior to the hotel opening. My job included commercial activation, developing systems, recruiting, training and coaching the team. Then I moved up to Hilton Corporate head office, taking on a role looking after a vertical market, managing accounts across the UK and producing business into Hilton hotels globally.
Most recently, and predominantly due to the unprecedented challenges of this year, my career has taken an unexpected twist in its path and brought about a fantastic new opportunity to transfer my skills to a completely different industry.
In October, I joined Pure Renewables, to lead its sales and marketing. And now I’m learning more about the world of renewable energy every day!
Wow, that is a change – do you miss hospitality and events?
Yes, of course, without a doubt. It’s so sad seeing what is happening to the industry this year with so many amazingly talented people being furloughed and losing jobs. And so many fabulous events on hold, hotels empty, and people missing out on social interaction and entertainment. I truly believe the industry will make a comeback, with a new norm in future travel and events.
Some days, it’s scary stuff, the realisation I’ve joined a whole new world. I’ve had to adjust, adapt, and become an innovator to survive. In a world where change is inevitable, it is so important we all keep a positive mindset, and keep evolving.
How did you go about considering and approaching new industries?
It was tough. At first, I could not see myself working outside hospitality. Looking back, having spring/summer at home on furlough, home-schooling and being full-time with my husband and three children, I had a lot of time to reflect, and rebalance work and family life priorities. By August, I had started reconnecting with professional local relationships, people were really very responsive and supportive, everyone was open to meeting up virtually or socially distanced as the pubs and cafes started reopening. I met with a few local recruitment agencies, and received some great advice on enhancing my CV. It needed to change; the more I reflected back on the roles I’d held, and reviewed these against new role profiles and opportunities, the more I understood the transferable skills I held, and how these could work in new industries.
My skills are in commercial business development, project management, sales leadership and marketing. I love an action plan, developing new systems and processes, engaging teams through training and coaching, influencing customers’ decision-making, and ultimately delivering growth in revenue.
I requested references and collated a testimonials document with quotes from previous managers, clients, and people who had worked for me. It really helped. I made a few 60-second videos, completed numerous pre-interview questionnaires and wrote plenty of cover letters, as well as expanding my CV – it felt like a full-time job most days!
Why did you choose renewables?
I firmly believe this is an industry that can help all industries in the recovery from this global pandemic. There is a growing demand to start projects in commercial and domestic markets using renewable energy with environmentally friendly solutions.
We can’t ignore the impact we are having on the environment. There is so much for us all to learn in a short space of time to respond to climate change, and make the world a better place through the reduction of carbon emissions.
At Pure Renewables we’re working with customers from many different sectors… commercial offices, farms, newbuild homes, dentists, churches, golf courses and social housing to name a few. There are bespoke solutions to offer homeowners, landlords and business owners, with so many environmental and cost-saving benefits, not to mention the government funding support options. This opens up renewables to a huge range of customers to help them make the change to renewable technologies.
The renewables network is vast. There are many great partner opportunities with suppliers, architects and developers all working with similar green objectives.
When I reflect on my previous roles, and my career path, what has been consistently important to me is to have a role that has purpose, where I can make an impact and enhance people’s lives. In my new role, I can be involved in community-based renewable energy projects creating cleaner, greener work and living solutions that help across a variety of sectors.
It feels right, and I’m looking forward to a change for the better.

Chris Whitelock, owner and managing director of Pure Renewables, says of Helen’s appointment: “The business has been growing quickly over the past three to four years and to support that growth we are being very intentional in developing a strong management structure. Helen’s appointment into the role of sales and marketing manager is a key selection and she fits perfectly into this position. Her experience in managing and delivering effective sales processes is exactly what the business needs to be able to respond to the rapidly expanding renewables market. Furthermore, Helen’s background in big-brand development will help to place Pure Renewables firmly in the renewables marketplace. As such, we look forward to Pure Renewables playing a significant and influential part in the UK’s quest to tackle climate change.”
Pure Renewables is a pioneering team of renewable heating professionals providing commercial and domestic renewable energy solutions across the UK, from air, water and ground-source heat pumps to solar and MVHR as well as under-floor heating. For more information, visit purerenewables.co.uk

BusinessWorks Hull and East Yorkshire spring 2021

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