Career Inspiration Video Series: Callum Irvine, Vice President of Global Safety and Security for IHG


Career Inspiration Video Series: Callum Irvine, Vice President of Global Safety and Security for IHG

Posted on 13 May 2024

In this instalment of our Careers Inspiration series, we speak with Callum Irvine, Vice President of Global Safety and Security for IHG.

In this video, we discuss what attracted Callum to work in health and safety, and why he would recommend it as a great career choice, specifically in the leisure and hospitality industry. Callum also provides his top tips for someone starting out in their career, his thoughts on the skills needed for a modern health and safety professional, and what the biggest changes have been in the industry during his career.

My name's Callum Irvine. I'm the Vice President of Global Safety and Security for IHG. We are a global hotel business. We've got 6,000 hotels across a hundred different countries with several hundred thousand colleagues that work for us.

What attracted you to work in health and safety?

So, what attracted me to work in health and safety was that it seemed like quite a technically orientated subject and that suits my technical mindset. I come from a family of engineers, although I'm not an engineer, but also the entry point into the career seemed really interesting, where you could go and undertake a number of postgraduate qualifications rather than needing a full degree to get your foot on the ladder.

 Why would you recommend health and safety as a great career choice?

 I think health and safety makes a great career choice because it exposes you to lots of critical experiences that are applicable to a wide range of roles. So, your critical thinking, principles of proportionality, the ability to influence people without necessarily controlling things directly. I really think you get the opportunity to sharpen all of those skills, and whether you stay in safety or move laterally, they're all going to come in handy.

Why the leisure and hospitality industry?

So, I think leisure and hospitality is really exciting as a sector to work in because every day's really different. We don't have the same kind of disciplined high repetition activities that you see in say, manufacturing or consumer goods. The challenges our colleagues face day in, day out are wildly different, and that means what they need from a safety and security perspective can be wildly different as well. And then on top of that, that sheer variety that keeps you on your toes. We're a growing sector as well, and it is always fun to be in that kind of environment where we're constantly signing new hotels or constantly involved in acquisitive activity in an organic growth.

What tips would you give anyone starting their career in health and safety?

 I think for someone starting their career in health and safety, two things come to mind for me, which would be don't feel like you need to have all of the answers. And that might be being humble when you're talking to other people around the business and taking an interest in their work. Or similarly, when you're engaging with other professionals, don't let ego take over and stop you from asking the important questions that are going to help you learn and develop. Second thing for me is being open to squiggly career movements throughout your journey within the profession as well. So, it's not necessarily always going to be linear or make sense in terms of where you go. Just remain open to growth opportunities, even if that's sideways from time to time.

During your career, what would you say have been the biggest changes in your industry?

 I think one of the biggest changes or what feels one of the biggest changes for me is the diversity of professionals we've got within health and safety. And specifically, I'm thinking about age diversity. I remember when I was starting in safety, it felt like you needed to have spent 10 or 20 years on the tools and then you could move from an operations role into a safety role once you understood how the work was being done. Whereas these days, you know, whenever we're hiring for my team for example, I'm really pleased to see a really broad range of candidates including age diversity, you get to the point where I think it's marvellous that we have things like apprenticeships now in safety, a great way for people to get into the role.

What skills do you think the modern health and safety professional needs today?

So, I think for a modern safety professional, two things that feel really important to me, one would be a really solid understanding of enterprise level software systems and their capabilities. I think as time progresses, we'll see fewer and fewer niche software tools in the safety space and an increased integration in terms of how we can make use of enterprise software to deliver safety needs. And the second area for me, which feels somewhat linked to that is a closer integration with enterprise risk and how the business manages risk at large rather than just safety or operational risk, effectively. I think all risk is about making choices and, you know, businesses making big choices about risk all the time, of which safety is one. And it makes sense for me that the modern safety professional is more and more aligning themselves to that train of thought.


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