The Big Interview with Matt York

The HR Heads Career Profiling Series | We speak with HR specialists within our network to find out what 'a typical day in the office' looks like, what they consider their greatest career success to be, what advice they'd give their 20 year old self and we also explore some of their favourite things. This edition features Matt York, HR Director at Snell Advanced Media, part of Grass Valley.



What does your typical day in the office look like?

I’m normally in the office by 07:00 but later every other morning when I try to go for a run. People are such varied individuals and every challenge they face is different, so you never know what situations may arise daily. You can have a plan for the day that goes completely out the window if somebody comes in with an issue or team problem. Right now, my days are spent dealing with the integration of Snell Advanced Media and Grass Valley. I’m currently heading up the integration from a people perspective; so lots of cultural considerations as well as embracing new processes, tools and systems – and a lot of time on integration calls.

 What aspects of your role do you both love, and find frustrating?

For me, I love seeing improvement and the value that HR can bring to the employees, to managers and ultimately to the business. If you can make managers and employers lives more productive and easier, therefore increasing levels of engagement and success, you can definitely see the contribution that HR makes to the bottom line – to the profitability of the business. That’s what I really love; that commercial element of how people make a business more profitable, more successful and more sustainable.

On the flipside, the frustration (and I can be one of HR’s biggest critics!) is that in bigger companies HR can sometimes talk to itself too much. Big corporate functions with subject matter experts such as rewards, performance and so on – they will create initiatives in their space but perhaps without putting them through any kind of test or introduction. In our HR team, if we have an idea, or an initiative, or new policy that we want to introduce, the test is has to pass is: Does it help Sales sell more? Does it help R&D develop more product? Does it help manufacturing build more product? Does it make our managers lives easier and our employees more effective? If the answer isn’t ‘yes’ to all of these questions, then there needs to be some other good reason as to why are we doing it.


Can you tell us about your proudest career moments?

In truth, it’s probably still my time with Tandberg Television. Partly because I look at that through rose tinted spectacles; as my first outing as a Head of HR it’s always going to be precious. But also because, as a senior member of the management team, we grew that business from a 200 million dollar market capitalisation and sold it for 1.4 billion dollars – very significant value creation! And frankly, it was probably the most engaged workforce I’ve had the privilege of working with.

However, I’ve actually surprised myself with how sentimental and proud I am of what I’ve achieved albeit in a much shorter timeframe in SAM. We were dealt a very different hand, with an extremely challenging set of circumstances for this business, and yet we have successfully managed to transition the business to Grass Valley – which is a very good outcome for both our PE Investor and our employees. And, like with Tandberg Television – I‘ve had the honour of working with some really strong and phenomenally talented Engineers and employees.


The control room at the Grass Valley site in Newbury


What lies ahead for you over the next 12 months?

Integration, integration, integration! The foreseeable future will see me continuing to oversee the integration of Snell Advanced Media and Grass Valley. We’re still at the point of putting longer term plans together!

If you could give advice to your 20 years old self, what would it be?

Three B’s: be brave, be bold and be bolshy! Bravery is massively undervalued in organisations. It’s great if you have the conviction to take a risk, or to be open and not fearful of the consequences. As you get older, you memory bank more experiences and you learn to trust your instincts, so naturally you’re more comfortable taking a risk. When you’re in your 20’s it’s obviously much harder to do because you don’t have that experience to draw on – but I think being braver and bolder and standing up for what you believe is the right thing, in any kind of business situation, is a really good attribute to have.

Is there anything you’re passionate about championing within HR?

Mainly performance and engagement and how that translates to overall company results. We all spend a long time at work, and it’s much better to be successful and enjoy it. It’s rarely fun working in an organisation that isn’t successful – so it’s really important to drive performance, and ultimately drive engagement so that the business is successful.

A great expression that Ericsson used when I worked there was ‘what brought us here, won’t keep us here’, and that really resonates with me – we all have to keep innovating and taking risks. Some stuff we’ll get wrong, but if we don’t try we’ll just be one of those mediocre / average businesses – and one day the market will change, and we’ll realise it too late.


Matt took us on a tour of Grass Valley, including the site’s screening room / cinema!


Get to know Matt York

I’m a complete boat nut! I’ve built two kit boats in my back garden and I’ve been on BBC local radio talking about sailing. I sailed across the Atlantic when I was 20 years old, it took us 6 weeks. We went from France to Spain to the Canaries, and the actual crossing from there to Barbados took 17 days. Back then there was no GPS or satellite phones let alone internet! We left the Canaries and lost sight of land within 4 hours and didn’t see a thing, bar the odd whale or dolphin until we got to Barbados -no other vessels or anything! It was the strangest, yet the most peaceful feeling. I always meant to do it again and I haven’t yet – but I will!

Matt’s three essential skills to be successful in HR

1. Authenticity
2. Empathy
3. Humility

If you’d like to be involved in ‘The Big Interview’ series, please reach out to us
– we’d love to hear from you!
T: 01962 432001 | E: