Career stories: Bob Athwal, Skyscanner

Jan 19, 2022 | Careers, Sector & policy

Bob Athwal is senior talent manager at Skyscanner, get inspired by reading his career story.

I am fortunate to have worked across the industry as a vendor, a university senior leader and as an employer of early careers talent in three very differing sectors.

My development and the ability to have such impact within organisations have been fantastic and I have worked with amazing colleagues along the way.

I love the fact that so many students and graduates that I have helped are leading and flourishing in their own right. The best bit of early careers is watching them grow, develop, and lead themselves and others.

A career by chance

I didn’t set out to work in early careers. Like many happenstances, it was never planned. It just happened!

I was good with selling, being target driven and influencing and negotiating with people at all levels. In addition, I had a vague interest in HR and the rest is history.

I have worked for some incredible brands and learnt at all the organisations where I have applied my craft including some of the painful ones.

During my career there have been a number of people that have mentored and shaped me. A number of the old AGR board colleagues as well as one of my bosses Claire Thompson at RWE npower. She was absolutely amazing. I was and still am always curious to learn from others.

My network has been the key to my success. Whenever I have needed my network, they have shown up for me and the ISE has helped to make that possible. Build your networks, ensure that they are diverse and you will be successful. This business is all about relationships.

The best decision that I made in my career was going to the University of Leicester to lead careers there. The worst decision was allowing myself to be told that you can’t progress as a high potential employee (HiPo) unless you become a generalist and work in HR. This led to the worst two years of my life along with working in another organisation full of bad leaders.

Keeping engaged

I have a passion to help students and graduates and love the people across the industry, not just employers but those in higher education too along with the partners to our industry. This is what has kept me engaged in this area. Our industry has so many good people with the right intentions that it’s amazing to watch.

The downside is that we have allowed ‘the early careers process’ to become more transactional than transformational. We must address that, and there lies the opportunity.

When I think about what makes people successful in this industry, I think that you need to have ambition and the ability to dream and ask why something is not possible?

Really effective people are able to break it down problems, solve them and achieve what needs to be done. You should also think about your strengths and thinking about how you can use that best. Finally, hard work is everything, nothing is easy, but it is the challenge that helps us to learn and grow and be better.

For other people in this industry I would say, do the right thing! Learn about the lifecycle of our industry and be a leader in thought and action. Know the operations and do it well but also help your organisation to move forward.

We all need to be thinking about the social and racial justice aspects as part of our practice in early careers. Ultimately this will mean that we make better hiring decisions.

Finally, continue to develop yourself and the people around you and ensure that you don’t just become a cog in the process.

This is an excerpt from ISE’s Complete Guide to Student Recruitment and Development. Read more insight and know how from ISE’s Guide

Book onto an ISE course to boost your professional development

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