Meet the judges
The judging panel, whose members also make up the North East Work & Talent Advisory Board (NEWT), is a group of professionals working within a range of sectors with a shared interest in ensuring the North East builds and maintains its profile as a great place to live and work and has the talent pipeline it needs to thrive.
Elouise Leonard-Cross – Co-Chair of the North East Work & Talent Advisory Board
Dr Elouise Leonard-Cross is an Occupational Psychologist and Head of People
Strategy & Experience for Northumbrian Water Limited. A ‘curious collaborator’, with
a squiggly career, Elouise thrives on asking and exploring the questions to help
organisations be happy, healthy and productive places to work. A Chartered Fellow
of the CIPD, she is passionate about the role that People Professionals play in
making organisations human and creating the conditions for innovation and growth.
An Ambassador for the North East as a brilliant place to live, learn and work, she
Chaired the North East CIPD Branch for 10 years, is Chair of the North East
Common Purpose Advisory Group, Trustee Board Member for Beamish Museum,
holds NED roles and is an Enterprise Advisor for the North East of England LEP.
Sarah Carnegie - Co-Chair of the North East Work & Talent Advisory Board
Sarah Carnegie is a Senior Lecturer in human resource management and Strategic
Lead for Employability and Enterprise at Newcastle University Business School.
Before joining the University Sarah held a variety of consultancy roles, which
included working with organisations in some very interesting locations, such as
Bermuda, UAE, Romania and Ukraine to improve their employee engagement
strategies. In her role at the University, Sarah’s research interests are focused on
exploring student learning practices, work integrated and experiential learning and
graduate employability, particularly championing the North East as a great place for
students to start their careers, to encourage talent retention in our region. Sarah is a
Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and a Chartered Fellow of the
Claire Atkins - Board Member
Claire is currently the Head of HR Business Partnering & Transformation at Grainger Plc, having joined them in August last year. Previously, she was Head of People Services at Sintons LLP and previous to that HR Director at Muckle LLP, after spending most of her career at the John Lewis Partnership where she was in a variety of HR roles for 26 years.
Claire is a Chartered Fellow member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and is passionate about her career in HR. She has previously taken on volunteering roles as a member of the local CIPD Committee, School Governor, Career Ready (UK) and as a board member of a local charity, JET (North East).
Married to Rob, they have a son, Cameron. Claire enjoys socialising with friends and family, holidaying in Greece and by complete contrast, relaxing in the Yorkshire Dales, going to music concerts, and admits to being a shopaholic!
Garry Besford - Board Member
As Organisation Capability Lead for Acas, Garry is responsible for all leadership and management
development activity across the organisation as well as the apprenticeship programmes. His career
in HR has spanned different sectors and he has also delivered the CIPD professional qualifications for
several training providers over the past eleven years.
More recently he has been involved in the development and launch of the new Acas learning
management system as well as project managed the leadership programme for senior leaders.
He has a keen interest in leadership and management development, coaching and change
management. He is accredited in both Insights Discovery and Change Style Indicator, tools he uses
within the broader learning offer at Acas.
Susan Fulton - Board Member
Susan has had a varied career firstly in the private sector working in operational
roles from Branch Manager with Nationwide Building Society to leading contact
centres with BT. Whilst at BT Susan moved into HR and Development heading up
their customer accounts and customer service learning for all UK contact centres.
Moving to T Mobile and then Barclaycard Susan led their UK learning and
development functions and also worked for both organisations across Europe
leading culture, skills development, performance and systems projects. At Home
Group Susan is the Director of People and Corporate Services and has led culture
change, significant programmes on attraction, and retention, skills and talent
management and an approach that meets the needs of a very diverse national
workforce. Leading and enabling such change has led to Home Group being IiP
Platinum, 5th in the UK in Great Place to Work for large organisations and 5th in the
UK for where women want to work and 10th for Wellbeing. Susan is passionate
about the North East and the talent we have.
Cate Kalson - Board Member
Cate is chief people officer at Opencast, an independent technology consultancy proudly headquartered in Newcastle upon Tyne. Cate has had a squiggly career, starting out as a biomedical research scientist before getting into the tech industry working as a data analyst, a product manager and now as a people executive. Cate is busy leading the rapid scale up of Opencast whilst building on the great culture that has been established over the past 10 years. Cate is passionate about the power of people and technology to transform organisations, and brings this passion to her roles as a non-executive director with Dynamo North East and the Alnwick Garden Trust. Cate has two young sons that keep her busy outside of work, and loves playing tennis.
Nicola Leyden - Board Member
Nicola Leyden is Director of HR at Muckle LLP. She has over 15 years’ experience
in HR, with a particular focus on employee engagement and brain-savvy HR.
Nicola leads Muckle LLP’s people strategy and, through innovative people practices,
has recently supported the successful and distinctive law firm to achieve Investors in
People Platinum status, placing them 2nd in the world rankings of legal activities
Prior to Muckle, Nicola headed up the Global HR function at Partnerize and led the
award-winning HR team at NCFE.
Lynn Perry - Board Member
Lynn Perry, Chief People Officer at END., accountable for developing and delivering the strategic
people plan, supporting business growth and creating a great place to work for everyone focusing on
the people experience through the entire employee life cycle. Lynn is a Fellow of the CIPD, an
Executive Coach and holds a Certificate in Neuroleadership.
Lynn has over 25 years HR experience working in the utilities, service, manufacturing and retail
sectors as a strategic HR leader supporting leadership teams to deliver real business outcomes. She
has led complex business transformational change programmes around cultural and behaviour
change, reward and recognition, leadership development and employee engagement. Lynn is
passionate about learning and supporting people to reach their potential.
Andy Preacher - Board Member
With a senior HR career spanning nearly 20 years within the retail, financial services
and media sectors, Andy has taken his experience of culture change, organisational
psychology and creative collaboration to change direction - recently entering the
world of communication and public relations as the Director of Corporate Affairs and
Public Relations EAR for Aioi Nissay Dowa Europe (AND-E).
As a firm believer in the power of people and storytelling, Andy’s motivation is to
inspire pride, purpose and belonging by building connections that are a catalyst for
progress, and to search out the best ways to help AND-E leave the world a better
A passionate advocate for change and growth, he is also a CIPD Mentor, Executive
Coach, Chartered Fellow of the CIPD and keenly involved as a Trustee for the North
East based charity, Coping With Cancer.
Li Xue - Board Member
Li Xue is the Chief Executive Officer at TDR Training Ltd. Li Xue has an extensive
experience in Human Resource Management and Finance control. Her insights
include accounting, employee relations, information systems, performance
management, teamwork and collaboration, technology development, project and
asset management, financial planning and budgeting, and cash flow management.
She has been responsible for company strategic development projects, restructuring,
senior leadership development plans, and overall business delivery in both
management and board roles.