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Emily Spaul Wins Our Outstanding Student Award 2020

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“I thoroughly recommend Acacia Learning – the quality of the classes, tutors, and variety of people you will meet makes it all worth signing up for! The flexibility that comes with the learning schedule is also great if something unexpected comes up and you need to make changes to your plans or postpone a course here or there.

It is important when studying a qualification like a CIPD to have quality discussions with other people. I cannot imagine doing an online course alone although I guess that suits some people.”

What kind of business do you work for and what do you do? 

I currently am in a generalist role for a large blue-chip multinational and diversified entertainment company in London.

How did you get into HR? 

I was working as a specialist b2b recruiter and one of my clients at the time was recruiting for a HR Assistant. I applied for the job, got it, and moved to London to explore my first role in HR. The move was great for both me and the company I joined because I was able to bring my skills and experience of recruitment in a niche industry to the table whilst gaining hands-on experience in operational HR and, to some degree, employee relations.

What do you enjoy most about your job and being in HR? 

I love having quality conversations with employees about their experiences and seeing where I can help make improvements or work with other teams to improve the employee experience. I enjoy the variety that comes with working with all stakeholders across different departments, getting to grips with the challenges that they may face, and learning about how they contribute to the business at a commercial level.

I take pride in being a trusted confidant to employees, showing real care and empathy in conversations that might be uncomfortable for some. Most of all, I am a big advocate of fairness, equal opportunities and self-accountability and my role as a HR professional provides the perfect position to champion these principles at the workplace.

Why did you choose to study your current qualification? 

I pursued the level 5 qualification to develop my knowledge and understanding of HR and ultimately to help me grow as a professional in the field. With 2 years of HR under my belt at the time, now just over 3, it felt like the right time to study at a CIPD Associate level. The company I worked for at the time fully supported me and sponsored me which I am still grateful for.

Why did you choose to study with us? 

I called around a few different CIPD providers and found that the course Acacia Learning had to offer was a lot more suited to my needs. The courses also have a lot of flexibility and options to either study in evenings, at weekends or during the week. While it was not the cheapest option, it is the best value for money.

I studied part-time alongside a full-time job, mostly opting for evening classes so that I had the weekends to focus on the research and assignments.

What did you enjoy most about the course and studying? 

Meeting other people in HR who worked for other types of organisations in the public, private and third sectors. It was fascinating to see how HR fits a different purpose in every organisation and that essentially, we all face the same challenges and share the same values despite how differently we may operate.

I also enjoyed learning how to write executive summaries, business reports and learning how to put together effective business cases.

The quality of the tutors is very good overall, and I would recommend Acacia Learning to anyone else who wants to do a CIPD qualification in the future!

Did you have a favourite module?

My favourite module overall was Business Issues and the Contexts of HR (5CHR) which is one of the core modules. It was the second module that I took, and it was taught in person before the covid-19 lockdown restrictions came about. I liked the focus on contemporary issues for businesses and HR and enjoyed learning a bit about strategic human resource management (SHRM) and globalisation.

The assignment for this module helped me to reflect on change management experiences I had been involved in and enhanced my understanding of the bigger picture.
This module also encourages you to learn and put useful business tools (i.e balanced scorecard) into practice which is invaluable for understanding your business.


Have you had to overcome any work/life challenges whilst studying? 

The main challenge was having to adjust to the restrictions in place due the covid-19 pandemic. I, like many others, had to carry out work and my CIPD studies within the confines of the same room for several months without much time for rest. Once the lockdown started, all modules had to be carried out online which took away a lot of the conversations you would normally get to have when meeting other HR professionals in class. Missing out on this part of my experience was a shame but there was not much that could be done to change the course of events.

I also started a new job at the same time as starting my course which was challenging at times but overall has been thoroughly rewarding.

How has the course benefited your career/life? 

I think that taking the course has helped me to get my most recent job because it showed that I am committed to HR and willing to develop myself. I also feel more confident in putting together an evidence-based report or sharing recommendations based on HR data.

Taking the course has helped me learn where to find the best and most reliable resources of information. Whenever I come across a topical webinar, podcast or bit of research, I like to flag it to colleagues who may benefit from learning about it.

How have you applied your learning at work? 

l have leveraged the things I have learned from the CIPD course with the guidance and expert knowledge from my colleagues in HR to create value in different ways within my organisation.

I have learned mainly that every situation in our profession is different and any approach should be taken with care, consideration and in consultation with others who may be able to help you see things from a different perspective. It’s not always easy to apply academic or theoretical concepts in your everyday work, especially in a job like HR – so having a good manager/leader who can help guide you and develop your learning is incredibly important when it comes to successfully applying the things you have learned.

Overall, has gaining your CIPD helped you develop as an HR professional? 

Absolutely – it has helped me and fulfilled the things I wanted to develop on personally and the company I work for will also benefit from my CIPD membership and knowledge from my qualification in general.

I respect the fact that some very talented HR professionals I know and have worked with don’t have CIPD qualifications so I think the main thing I would say is that is if you do qualify it doesn’t elevate your status in any way or make you a ‘better’ HR professional.

Do you have any plans for future study? 

I will probably take a break from studying and focus on developing my career with my organisation in the next few years. Maybe in a few years’ time I can look at a post-graduate level 7 CIPD qualification.

Outstanding Student of the year winner 2020!

Emily won our Outstanding Student of the year award in November 2020. Listen to Emily’s award speech!

Here are a few of the wonderful nominations we received from Emily’s colleagues at work, friends, and family too. Congratulations Emily!

“She is an outstanding student and colleague. As a member of the CIPD I have worked closely with HR professionals in various industries. I have always felt that the key to being a great HR Professional is not the knowledge or qualifications. Anyone can do a course and if you work hard enough you will pass, but HR is more than that it’s the skills you have, the quality of your character. Emily Spaul represents all the best qualities of HR she is genuine and considerate of people. But also smart and business savvy. It is hard to maintain this balance, but Emily does it effortlessly. She was born to work in this field. I always knew she would do well as a CIPD student not only thriving in her studies but harnessing her ever growing skills everyday at work. I look forward to seeing her develop in her career. I know she will grow to do great things.”


“Emily has been planning to take the CIPD level 5 HR course for a couple of years. Last year it became a reality, and she started the course. Dedicated from the start, she did not want to simply pass each course, but worked hard to excel in every single module. Emily is one of the lucky ones to have found her dream company, and now she is truly committed to develop her skillset and knowledge to accelerate her career and become an unparalleled HR professional at her company. She really deserves to win the Outstanding Student Award.”


“Emily has worked very hard to achieve great results in everything she studied, regardless of the hardships she had to endure. She’s always been kind, understanding and very caring, an unselfish person. She would go out of her way to help others, no matter how busy she may be with work and learning, she would still find time to share her knowledge and skills generously, in order to help others achieve their goals. If you are looking for an exemplary student then look no further, Emily makes all teachers proud!”

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