Nicholas Roberts: The Journey to HR

Nicholas Roberts possessed strong desires to pursue quite a few career options, before he eventually settled on becoming a human resources and business advisory management consultant specialist.

Today, he is one of the few men in a predominantly female-oriented field. He is also the president of the Human Resources Management Association of Barbados (HRMAB), and at 32, is the youngest male to hold that position within this organisation.

Growing up, Nicholas who, attended Wesley Hall Primary and Wesley Hall Junior schools prior to securing a place at The St Michael’s School, cherished thoughts of becoming a veterinarian. He also felt strongly about becoming a nutritionist and a chef. In fact, after graduating from the St Michael School, he attended the Lodge School, where he completed one year of sixth form studies. He then enrolled at the Barbados Community College (BCC) Hospitality Institute and Hotel PomMarine (now renamed the Jean and Norma Holder Hospitality Institute and Hotel PomMarine) where he completed an associate degree in culinary arts.

Hospitality industry

At the end of those studies in 2010, he worked in the hospitality industry for two years as a commis chef and wait staffer, before entering the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill Campus to study political science. Advised by a tutor to focus on other studies after one year, as his grades were “not the best,” Nicholas chose human resources management, and graduated in 2015, with upper second class honours.

Interestingly to note, is that studying human resources was never a part of Nicholas’ “things to study.”

“Human resources was never on my radar. One of my tutors had told me that I was poor in political science, and he suggested that I complete an undergraduate in hospitality studies, then go on to The Bahamas to complete the degree programme there. That was not what I wanted to do. To be honest, I did not know what I wanted to do. I was at a crossroads in my young life, as I needed to determine what I wanted to achieve academically and obviously professionally. So, I read up on all of the degree programmes being offered at all of the UWI campuses. Human resources management simply seemed quite interesting. Years prior, at PomMarine I had completed studies in human resources, fine arts, and political science, as part of my associate degree. As a result, I was exposed to HR. I simply decided to complete the human resources programme at UWI, based on information which I saw on-line and my minute prior knowledge of the field.

“What also sparked my interest was that human resources was not a field that many men were involved in.”

A week after graduating from the UWI, Nicholas was accepted as an intern with the ANSA McAL Group.

He described his internship as, “a great learning and foundational experience”.

“It set the basis of what I wanted to do careerwise. I can say I had a fruitful human resource experience at ANSA McAL,” he informed.

He next joined the business advisory team at Ernst & Young (EY), as an associate. It was there his career pivoted.

He worked in EY’s management consultancy arm offering advisory services to corporate entities.

“It was a more wide-ranging aspect of human resources, and business management. It involved looking at people and building organisational processes to see where improvements could be

made to various departments inside the business.”

After three years, it was time for him to yet again, move on.

“The exposure at EY laid the basis for my entire career,” he quipped.

Nicholas next lent his expertise at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as human capital senior associate in what he said was “hardcore human resources.”

From there, Nicholas took up the post of human resources manager within the Massy Group in 2021. He spent nine months with this conglomerate as the Massy Group entered a period of downsizing. He noted this was “an interesting experience filled with necessary life lessons”.

Another business to benefit from Nicholas’ human resources skills was Lewis Consulting Inc., a boutique consulting firm and after 18 months there, Nicholas joined the Coralisle Group (CG) – a Bermudan-based insurance company and is stationed in Barbados as this company’s regional human resources manager with responsibility for its HR operations in Barbados, Guyana, and Dominica.

Full circle

For Nicholas, life has come full circle.

His association with the HRMAB began in 2015, when he entered the human resources arena. Since then, he has held various offices within HRMAB, including that of chairman of its membership and activities committee, vice president, and now president of the 350-plus membership organisation.

From where he sits as president, Nicholas has a good view of the organisation’s challenges.

The major challenge for human resource practitioners is that of continuing to show the value of the profession. Many businesses continue to see HR professionals as paper pushers or persons there to do “the dirty work”, not valuing that all HR practitioners should be strategic advisors and business partners to the businesses.

“For me, HR practitioners are “peopleexperience architects.” By that I mean, we are here to create an experience for persons in the respective businesses that we serve. By extension, people will only meet the needs of that business if there is a level of job satisfaction and engagement from staff.

“I have been thoroughly enjoying my journey in human resources. It has been a labour of love, with its share of challenges.”

He respects those who helped him along the way – the various managers, and his family.

“It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the sacrifices of being raised in a single-parent household by my mother, Joycelyn, who ably raised me with the support of my now deceased grandmother, Norma.”

Whilst still quite young, and achieving quite a bit, this HR specialist believes he is just getting started, as there is more he would like to accomplish both personally and professionally. (CH)

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