How I Got Here: James Watts

How I Got Here: James Watts



*NORTHAMPTON, MA / ACCESSWIRE / April 25, 2024 / *Yum! Brands
In the #HowIGotHere series, you'll read about the career paths of some of the world-renowned leaders at Yum! Brands. Learn more about James Watts, Global Chief People & ESG Officer at Pizza Hut in this installment.


· *The Windsor Boys' School*
Windsor, Berkshire, United Kingdom (1991- 1996)
· *Buckinghamshire New University*
Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom (1993 - 1997)

*If we were to interview your teachers, what would they say about you?*

I was loud, over-active and always thinking about being on the football pitch. I did well without trying but could have done better if I really applied myself.

*What did you want to be when you grew up?*

It was a close call between a football player and an author of fantasy novels, as I was (and still am) a bizarre combination of athlete and fantasy/science fiction nerd.


*First Job: *I was a ride operator at a theme park called Thorpe Park in West London where I grew up. I'm hugely grateful for my time there, learning lessons in leadership that I still lean on today such as leading a team, people skills, dealing with difficult situations, coaching and emotional intelligence. I also gained an appreciation for people who work in front-line roles and that has stayed with me my entire career.

· *Merlin Entertainment (previously ‘The Tussauds Group'), London, United Kingdom*
1998 - 1999: Operations Supervisor, Thorpe Park
1999 - 2000: Learning & Development Advisor, Thorpe Park & Chessington World of Adventures
2000 - 2002: Human Resource Manager, Madame Tussauds London
· *The Walt Disney Company, London, *United Kingdom
2002 - 2003: Learning & Development Manager, Disney Store Europe
2003 - 2004: Human Resources Manager, Disney Consumer Products
· *Pizza Hut, London, United Kingdom*
2004 - 2007: Senior Manager, Organizational Development
· *KFC, London, United Kingdom*
2007 - 2008: Director, Operations Human Resources
· *Yum! Brands, Plano, Texas, United States*
2008 - 2011: Senior Director, Global Talent Management & Development
· *KFC, London, United Kingdom*
2012 - 2015: Chief People Officer
· *Pizza Hut, Plano, Texas, United States*
2015 - 2021: Chief People Officer, Pizza Hut International
2021 to Present: Global Chief People & ESG Officer

*Do you believe in work/life balance?*

I believe in finding a way to blend the things that are most important to you to make yourself most effective. I've learned over the years that I need four slices to my personal "pizza of life:" - 1) my family 2) my career 3) my hobbies 4) the ability to give back. If I have the right blend of them all, I'm going to be at my best and most impactful. I don't always get the balance right, and that's fine for a period of time, but I need to be intentional about protecting the time I need to do all four over the course of a year if I'm going to be fulfilled and effective.

*What moments, or who, in your life influenced the way you work?*

*The Tussauds Group*

I am grateful for the opportunity to advance from a ride operator at an amusement park to an office job with the parent company. The company paid for me to go back to university and study human resources after I didn't follow a traditional route into higher education. I learned lessons in leadership like dealing with difficult situations and emotional intelligence.

*Cultural Blend*

My dad is from north London. My mum was one of eight siblings from the Caribbean Island of St. Vincent in The Grenadines who immigrated and married people from all over the world, so my childhood was a wonderful blend of different cultures, food and perspectives. My wife is Indian, and my 14-year-old daughter was born in the U.S. and happily identifies as "Br-Ameri-Indian." This and spending the last 15 years in global roles, travelling to more than 45 countries, has taught me that immigration, blended families, inclusion and freedom of identity are wonderful things that make our lives richer, that our differences should be celebrated and that we're more similar than we are different.


This book by Hector Garcia discusses the Japanese secret to a long and happy life, and I've applied its principles to how I balance my career and my home.

*What do people think you do versus what you actually do?*

My family has no real idea of what I do regardless of how many times I try to explain it, but they think it has something to do with hiring people.

*What is the best piece of advice that you've been given?*

When I took on my first role on a Leadership Team as the Chief People Officer of KFC, on my first day in 2012, my new boss, Martin Shuker, the General Manager, gave me some great advice that has stuck with me to this day. Recognizing straight away that I was an over-enthusiastic mix of anxiety and imposter syndrome he simply said to me ‘don't worry about trying to be the leader you think the company wants you to be, just be yourself - because that's all I want you to be'. It was just what I needed to hear at just the right moment.

*What makes you happy?*

Hearing my daughter sing.

Seeing my wife smile.

Hearing from restaurant general managers how they've changed the lives of their teams, working with my colleagues to help Pizza Hut win.

Doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

*How do you do it?*

Run towards the biggest challenges as that's where you'll make the biggest difference and learn the most. Be humble enough to ask for help and learn from those around you. If you're the best in the room, then you're in the wrong room.

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*Contact Info:*
Spokesperson: Yum! Brands

*SOURCE: *Yum! Brands
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