Interview with Blink’s HR Manager

Looking after the family

Key to the success of any business is it’s ability to look after those who dedicate each day to delivering the company’s vision. Blink started with two people building a business plan around a kitchen table. Four years later, Blink employs 40 people with a vast array of skills, shift patterns, working locations, and family lives to consider.

Clare Silcock, Blink’s HR Manager, talks about the challenges of maintaining the family atmosphere in an ever-growing organisation.

What attracted you to Blink?

I loved the idea of working for a Company with an exciting product and which was right at the beginning of start-up phase- Plenty for an HR Manager to get stuck into. The enthusiasm of Cameron and Peter was infectious as soon as I met them and I felt very excited about working for 2 people who had a real belief in, and passion for the business.

How is Blink different to your previous HR job?

I was very lucky to have worked for another small private jet company prior to joining Blink, although this was more established and had more staff in place when I joined. Because Blink was in its infancy in December 2008 when I started, there has been a huge growth in staffing levels, almost doubling over the year. There has also been times when Blink have had to make changes to its plans to adjust to perhaps market conditions, and this means that as an employee you never get bored and it keeps you on your toes!

What is the most challenging part of being an HR Manager?

I guess the most challenging thing about my job is that you never quite know what might come up during the course of a day. However that also makes it interesting for me. I thrive on something out of the ordinary happening and when you’re dealing with people all of the time something usually does!

What can jobseekers do to increase their chances of getting an interview with Blink?

The first thing to do is to keep an eye on our website as we will always update this when we need to recruit staff. In all of our staff, from our pilots to our Ops team, to our Director of Engineering, we look for people who have a real understanding of what customer service is all about. Secondly, but just as important, they have to have a passion and belief in the Company. Enthusiasm is absolutely key.

Is Blink expanding?

The growth of the business during 2009 was tremendous. We almost doubled in size, due to both demand and the number of aircraft coming on line. We went from just two aeroplanes at the start of the year to seven by September. The growth this year has been slower – we have recruited a new Head of Finance and a Sales person and will continue to recruit for very specific roles. We anticipate that 2011 will again be a growth time as we plan to take delivery of more aircraft. It may be that we open more hubs outside of the UK which will be an interesting time again for the Company.

What does Blink look for in potential pilots?

As I’ve hinted before, customer service skills are paramount in our pilots as they look after our customers on their flights. We also like to meet pilots who have worked for other business jet operators as they are very familiar with working in a non-scheduled environment, where trips can come up or change made at the very last minute. Therefore flexibility is a must.

I’m a university student looking for a summer job, are there potential opportunities to gain work experience?

The summer months are certainly our busiest time of year so there are possibilities of working for Blink, particularly in the Flight Services Department. However these areas require a particular skill set to make the three months useful and certainly if people have got a pilot qualification, or are sales oriented they have more of a chance of being successful in obtaining a temporary role. As the Company grows further there may be more opportunities in other departments. Again we will advertise this on our website.

Is previous aviation experience a pre-requisite for working at Blink?

In some departments this is certainly true. However we do have a number of people who have come from other industries and therefore bring other skills with them. It is good to have a mix of experience within the Company.

Since Blink is a start-up, is HR more difficult than at an established Company?

It is certainly more unpredictable and therefore has different challenges. However I wouldn’t say it is any more difficult than working for an established Company.

How have the HR processes evolved as Blink has grown?

When I joined there were a few basic policies and procedures in place. As the Company has grown, we have obviously developed and formalised these. A Company Handbook is important for our employees as it sets the theme for their employment going forward and we now have this in place.

Since HR is like dealing with family issues at work and you have young children at home, do you ever get any free time to enjoy yourself?

My life at home is just as busy as my work life, but I am very lucky to be able to work part time. Blink is very flexible with me and I also try to work days convenient to the Company.
I have 3 children between the ages of 8 and 17 so most of my time is spent as a taxi service for all of their interests, and standing on the touchline of a football field or dance show cheering them on!

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