Executive Interviews

Our Executive Interviews feature top leaders from across the disciplines that we specialise in, sharing their career advice and experience with candidates seeking success in those sectors.


Marco Cobianchi - Head Global Procurement (CPO) at Schindler Group

Marco Cobianchi is the Head Global Procurement (CPO) at Schindler Group, Switzerland. He has been with the business for almost 20 years - he was previously Head Global Controlling Supply Chain and CEO at Schindler Electronics. Marco started his career at Bticino in 1996, before joining Mikron.

Before moving to Procurement, you were working in Finance. How would you describe the relationship between Finance and Procurement?

Finance and Procurement need to work closely, as Procurement significantly impact the financials of a company. It is not only a matter of alignment on targets and results, but - most importantly - to achieve transparency and alignment on the impact and timing of Procurement initiatives to the company results.

Working in Finance in the past helped me in building the bridge with the Finance Manager community, get their trust (for example, in the reported savings) and ensure quick alignments.

But, Procurement is much more than savings or payment term optimization; it’s all about supplier relationship management, how to settle and develop relations with our suppliers to enable achievement of company objectives in a sustainable way.  

Procurement in Schindler has recently gone through a huge organizational change. How would you summarize it?

In the past 18 months, we completely reorganized Procurement in Schindler, building a global organization with full responsibility of entire group spend across entities and geography.

We redefined the Procurement operating model, ensuring a strong global category management approach and, at the same time, fulfilling specific regional needs and implementing a Procurement center of excellence to drive best practice sharing, process standardization and harmonization, and provide Procurement analytics.

What do you foresee as your biggest challenges in 2023?

After two years of huge material inflation, in 2023, Procurement is requested to regain cost competitiveness, leveraging the declining trend of raw material prices, mastering the energy price risk and labor inflation above average in almost all markets.

In addition, the supply disruptions driven by the pandemic highlighted the importance of a resilient supply base; a reassess of the supplier risk mapping and implementation of a proper business continuity management is a must.

Sustainability is an absolute priority for Schindler, and Procurement is a key enabler to achieve our net zero emissions target by 2040.

How does Schindler work to retain high-potential employees?

Schindler designed the Schindler Career Development Program (SCDP) to provide challenging and purposeful opportunities for high-potential and high-performing talent that has an international mindset.

After joining the program, the person will be engaged in an international assignment, will take a leadership role, and experience a field operational role. These experiences will fully prepare the talent to assume a senior leadership position and shape our future organization.

How do you approach talent development?

As part of the global Procurement reorganization project, we built up a Procurement academy with development programs tailored for each role profile. This ensures harmony and continuously elevates the competencies and skills of the Procurement community, and develops our talent both on leadership and Procurement competencies.

Furthermore, we regularly review the succession pipeline for our key leadership roles to identify opportunities for our talent early and leverage training plans to ensure their readiness for the role.

What would you say is the most memorable moment in your career?

This year, I’ll celebrate my 20th anniversary at Schindler. During these years, I had the opportunity to change different roles.

Two of those were the most important moments in my career. The first was in January 2012, when I was promoted to Managing Director of the Schindler plant in Locarno; it was my dream job since my years at university.

The second was in June 2022, when I was promoted to Head Global Procurement. It was not in my plan; I started as Project Director of the global Procurement reorganization, and I ended up leading the new organization.

What are your tips on achieving work-life balance?

Today, it is almost impossible to completely disconnect from work; our mobile devices keep us connected. Also, working from home during the pandemic didn’t help to separate working time from free time.

My passions are my way to disconnect from my work, to free up my mind and regain energy. I never give up in dedicating time to my hobbies; to play sports in the evening and during weekends, and dedicate time and energy to my family.

Thank you to Marco for speaking to Sasha Gill, Consultant in our Procurement & Supply Chain recruitment division in Switzerland.

Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment.

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Jens Kruger - Supply Chain Leader

Jens Krüger is a Zurich-based Supply Chain leader covering the EMEA market. He started his career in Germany in Logistics and moved to Switzerland in 2005 to work for large Logistics service providers, such as Kuehne + Nagel and DHL, before joining the manufacturing/retailing industry with companies like Estée Lauder and Migros.

As a Supply Chain leader, what are your key challenges when it comes to transforming Supply Chain Management organizations?

According to my experience, the challenges around Supply Chain transformations can be clustered into the human factor and technological limitations. These two aspects are linked by their common challenge: how to estimate the potential success and, later, to measure the success of a Supply Chain transformation.

Supply Chain Management is still a relatively young discipline and has constantly evolved over the last 25 years. Hence, systems and technology are not always up to par with the requirements of businesses and their Supply Chain functions.

Scattered systems - sometimes only linked by manual processes - can still be found in larger companies. This limits the ability to analyse meaningful performance indicators, let alone execute a system-supported process simulation.

When talking about the human factor, there is sometimes a sentiment that people’s dislike of change is the biggest challenge; but I don’t think this is the case, as I have rarely come across people who are resistant to change by nature.

If we leave aside that a lack of knowledge could be the reason for the resistance, I think it is critical how the need for change is being explained and what data is available to support that argument.

Supply Chain professionals are mostly down to earth; presenting them with a new concept, which is purely based on a fluffy vision, without supporting data, might simply not satisfy them and ensure their honest buy-in. Hence, time needs to be invested for building a compelling business case and an alignment on assumptions to deal with data gaps. This will also help with achieving stakeholder alignment or receiving funds for such initiatives.

Thus, starting off a transformation journey with an honest assessment of the company’s Supply Chain capabilities - despite incomplete data - and getting to an understanding that the company can and will benefit from an elevation of the Supply Chain capabilities is perhaps the biggest challenge of the journey.

How can leaders create diverse teams?

Many things have already been said about creating diverse teams. However, the motivation that working in a diverse team can create a competitive advantage is not so often talked about. Therefore, diversity is sometimes perceived as a soft HR topic, and not as something that can create economic benefits for the company and for individuals. We live in a complex world and, even if no one likes to admit it, we often look for solutions inside our own box.

Within a diverse team, different backgrounds, mindsets and experiences can be brought to the table, and better solutions can be found. For example, Supply Chain Management has typically international, if not global, touchpoints. Having team members with roots in different areas of the world allows better interaction with business partners around the globe, and factors in the particularities of other regions when designing solutions.

Having diverse teams can certainly create challenges. These challenges need to be addressed through careful management and a set of rules. One of the most prominent challenges is that misunderstandings are more likely occurring within a diverse team. Hence, I keep encouraging my teams to prevent misunderstandings by asking questions.

Diversity shall not create insecurity; constantly thinking about avoiding mistakes will hamper interaction and kill creativity. At the same time, we should strengthen everyone’s self-esteem so that an unfortunate miscommunication blunder does not mean the end of the world.

I think, if we created a relaxed atmosphere that allows mistakes in interactions and talked more often about the benefits of diversity, it would be easier to sell the concept, and people would adopt that idea more rapidly.

Is Switzerland a good place to live and why?

Switzerland is certainly a good place to live, and my personal history is strong evidence for that. When I moved to Switzerland, it was originally intended to be just a stopover for two years. After living in Switzerland now for 15 years and acquiring Swiss citizenship, I can without doubt call Switzerland my home.

Switzerland is located in the heart of Europe and has a diverse culture, due to the country’s history. This diversity is enriched by people who come from all over the world to work and live in Switzerland.

On top of that, the beautiful nature, plenty of cultural events and civil liberties, the extremely well-functioning administration and infrastructure makes life here pleasant.

As a collective, what have you learnt from your previous managers? What good methods have you taken from them and, adversely, what negative approaches do you ensure you avoid?

I’m privileged that I have had several exceptional managers in my professional career so far.
One of the commonalities of all these great leaders has been that they all gave me challenges that were way outside my comfort zone at the respective stage of my career. They explained what needs to be achieved and fostered my self-confidence, so that I could succeed. Investing into employees’ skills was also high on their agenda. Confidence and the right skillset should go hand in hand, or - as one of those leaders used to say - “confidence without competence leads to disaster”.

It needs to be stressed that all of that was done with a clear business target in mind and not to facilitate personal fulfilment. All these leaders set ambitious goals; good was rarely good enough. They all showed a high commitment to their targets and were prepared to lead the team through stormy weather themselves.

I can’t think of any particularly negative leadership approach, but I would say that it would require you to keep the two elements mentioned above in balance. Strongly prioritizing one over the other is either not producing the results the company needs or is burning out their employees.

I had mentioned before that I appreciated it when leaders stepped out of their comfort zone for me. Unfortunately, I have experienced what I would call the imbalance of loyalty. This is when bosses were requesting loyalty, but being loyal to their team only as long as there was smooth sailing.

I think that this is one of the true leadership tests - to stay on course and keep agreements intact, even if outside conditions have changed. Having said that, I appreciate we live in a rapidly changing world and that it can sometimes become impossible to live up to these principles. Being transparent about the situation, acknowledging their own failure and looking jointly for ways to remediate it is a form of loyalty that a leader owes the team.

What does the future hold for Supply Chain and Operations?

Sustainability and social responsibility are already high on the agenda and will continue to be so. I believe that actions to accelerate reaching net zero carbon emissions and achieving other ESG targets will go in parallel to Supply Chain Management, facilitating new business models around the circular economy.

As mentioned earlier in our conversation, Supply Chain and Operations still need to catch up when it comes to applying technology. I expect that AI (artificial intelligence) and IoT (internet of things) will together allow amazing solutions that are just starting to be discussed today. Technological advancements will also allow better process integration and collaboration along the linear and, soon, circular value chains.

This will improve Supply Chain’s ability to give the business a competitive edge by satisfying the customer’s specific demands at lower cost in an agile and responsive way.

Thank you to Jens for speaking to Neil Cope, Associate Director in our Procurement & Supply Chain recruitment division in Switzerland.

Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment.

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Mandy Morgan - Chief Financial Officer at Seenons

Mandy Morgan is the Chief Financial Officer for Seenons in Amsterdam, a scale-up business on a mission for a waste-free world. Originally from South Africa, Mandy started her career as an Audit Manager at KPMG, before working at several businesses across South Africa and also setting up her own company.

What excites you about working for Seenons?

It's a company that is disrupting an established industry, and it's also a company on a mission.

Whenever you've got a good story, a mission-driven company, it adds a whole different dimension to the level of excitement when it comes to work, because you're not only striving for profitability - yet profitability is very important.

You're also trying to change the world and changing it into a better place for future generations. That's what excites me, and, because of that, it attracts people who are excited about what they're doing.

That's what makes Seenons special. We're about 83 employees now, and it is a company almost bubbling with enthusiasm in terms of changing the world for the better.

How would you describe the company culture at Seenons and how that compares to some of your previous employments?

Large, established companies always have great, solid structures; they have great training programmes, they've got a good network, they've got all those sorts of things, so there's huge value in that.

But I think that Seenons is excitement wrapped up in a bubble. We have a people-first philosophy, where we place high importance on people and their happiness within the organisation.

We have a very dynamic, young culture. I’m not saying that all staff are young, but I think it's the vibe that you feel within the organisation in terms of, we move quickly, we make a difference, and we do it as a team - there's no I in Seenons.

What are the challenges that await your business and how do you hope to overcome them? As a scale-up, there must be some interesting challenges.

Absolutely. In this economic climate, I think every business is under more pressure than they previously would be. I think investment and valuations have dropped significantly over the last six to 12 months.

Having said that, I think they are regaining some ground, and it’s fundamental that we are able to raise capital in order to grow, but we are doing well in that area.

Also, finding good people and keeping them is high on our agenda in terms of growth. I think your company is only as good as the people that you employ, and the passion that they have to make a difference and execute on the dream. That is generally what a scale-up is.

Also, in order to be successful, we need to automate as much as possible and make it scalable. Seenons is going through the stage where we've gone from start-up to now scale-up, and that drive for automation is essential, but is not an easy step.

What are three to five key drivers to success in Seenons that you see the most?

We look at our cash burn rate very closely, because that determines how long we've got with whatever funds we've raised. That goes without saying.

One we look at a lot is revenue per FTE is used in CV screening.

You need to get enough on your CV to make sure that you have enough to get to the interview. Then, I think it's the interview stage where you sell yourself.

I don't have the time to wade through pages and pages of CVs. So, I think something that's short, concise, catches my eye, has a few highlights shows me that the person has structure - and I'm talking from a Finance perspective – that, to me, is good.

Then, the interview - it's showing passion, enthusiasm, willingness to learn and ownership. This is because, often, people don't want to own their growth or own the process, but are happy to go for the ride; that makes a big difference in the people that I look for.

What advice would you give someone starting their career in Finance and Accounting?

You need to be adaptable to change, because the role of the Finance professional is going to change significantly.

Where we used to be responsible for crunching numbers, in the very near future, that's going to be taken over by technology. So, being adaptable to change and to be able to think out-of-the-box, to learn and understand and interpret things differentiates you from a tool.

If you can ask enough questions and you can challenge yourself to grow your knowledge continuously - along with being able to reason and explain processes - then I think the role of the financial is secured.

If you just rely on your ability to crunch numbers, then I think you your career prospects may become quite limited.

How is the growing focus on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) changing the function and how does it relate to your role?

Very nicely, because we are a mission-driven company from a social and environmental perspective. We are seeing it a lot more in investment rounds; it has become a big focus from investors, as well.

From that perspective, it's great that we already tick a lot of those boxes and we are a people-focused company that values diversity. Ethics and trust are fundamental when it comes to your governance component, as well.

You can break trust in a second, but it takes years to build it up. I think a focus on that is good for the global economy, regardless. If every business focused on their governance and ethics, became a trusted organisation, I think the world would be a better place. To me, all three of those are a win.

Who's the most inspiring person in business for you and why?

I think the CEO of Tutuka Software (now Paymentology), Rowan Brewer.

He inspires me, because I worked for the company for quite a long time, and he was always emphatic about ensuring that it was for the best of the company and for the right reasons.

He was the one who promoted the Changing Lives programme within the company, because he believed his success needed to be shared with all those around him.

He believed he was successful because he had opportunities that a lot of other people didn't, so his focus on that was incredible. He's made an incredibly huge success of his company, but he was always approachable, friendly and caring.

He always thought about problems differently, and he always made sure that he did things for the right reason - I think that's an inspiration. If anyone was to compare me or put me in a similar category to Rowan, I would feel hugely honoured, because he really is an inspiration.

Thank you to Mandy for speaking to Georgia Wright, Associate Director in our Finance & Accountancy recruitment team in the Netherlands.

Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment

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Jan-Paul Drost - Head of Commercial FP&A at AkzoNobel

Jan-Paul Drost is the Head of Commercial FP&A at AkzoNobel in Amsterdam. He has worked in the business in various roles for over 20 years and achieved his Certified Management Accountant qualification from Institute of Management Accountants.

What excites you about working for AkzoNobel?

What really excites me is it’s a very diverse and evolving company. With diversity, I mean the people who work there, the different cultures and the different backgrounds, etc.; it creates an enormous sense of a melting pot - in a positive way. But I also mean it as a business and a company itself.

The company has evolved from a holding structure company with multiple industries into a paints and coatings company. But, even within that painting and coatings company, we have all kinds of different business types. We have retail business, wholesalers, B2B business, ecommerce business, so it’s not one thing.

You work with different cultures from all over the world and you learn things from all these people. One moment, you’re busy with a business case and retail, the next moment you’re talking about something on a B2B level, which makes it very interesting. It’s never a dull moment in that sense.

I’ve been here for over 20 years and I’m even surprised myself on how long it’s been. I’ve always received the opportunities to grow and develop myself in a role, and I’ve always said: “I’m not married to AkzoNobel, I’m married to my wife, very happily.”  

I have talked with outside parties on different options, but then - in the same period - AkzoNobel came up with a better opportunity within the company and then I went for that.

So, the diversity, the constant transitioning, and the chances the company has given me to grow and develop myself.

What would you say is the most rewarding part of your current role?

I think there are two elements. One is helping the business with improvements, with strategy and to really get the most out of it, from the role as a financial, but also as FP&A.

I really believe that FP&A should be a supporting function, which adds value, and also makes reports and supporting documents, which help the business come to the right conclusions; we should not just make PowerPoint analysis for management.

The second thing, which I think is almost even more rewarding, is developing people. You’re only as good as your whole team, and I feel enormously proud when I see people I’ve worked with over the years - who have been in my team, or who I’ve coached as a mentor to grow in their roles - make the next steps in their career and develop into mature financials. I think that is sometimes even more rewarding than supporting the business in growing.

What would you say are the current recruitment challenges that you face, if any?

Like all of us, we always struggle to find and to keep the right level of skilled staff. I am a firm believer of internal recruitment and I also believe that, especially for internal recruitment, the way you are and the way you operate as a manager is very important.

For me, that’s the principle of trust to engage and empower your team. I’m not the type of manager who will, for example, follow up on progress on a project on a daily basis. However, if there’s a problem or someone gets stuck on something, I do expect the person not to wait with rage until the next project meeting, but to come forward openly.

So far, especially in my current role, I have been relatively lucky that, when I have had vacancies, some candidates stepped forward to say: “I really want to join your team.” The way you are as a manager plays a very important role for internal recruitment.

In terms of external recruitment, we struggle with all the same things as everyone else. A job advert just about explains, as clear as possible, what the job is, how interesting it is and what the chances are to develop yourself within AkzoNobel - and then you are hoping to encounter the right person.

You’ve had a nice variety of roles during your career at AkzoNobel. How do you look back at this?

20 years is a long time. My original background is in both Legal and Finance, and I’ve been lucky enough to work in many different fields of the Finance function. I really believe that makes you an all-round financial, who can add value to the business.

I started in Internal Audit. That was a very solid basis of learning the basic processes throughout the company. If you look back at all the projects I’ve done over the years, that has really helped me as a manager, and helped me in the field of motivating and influencing people. But, also, doing multiple things at the same time and ensuring that you have good time management.

As an Accounting Manager, I really learnt the details of the financial systems, especially going through multiple European implementations. As Finance Director for different businesses, I enjoyed working with the business to create and execute the right strategy. I believe that, as a Finance Director, you cannot just do your job behind your desk; you need to also know your customers and your suppliers.

My Legal background also helped me with working on contracts and discussing disputes. Also, the Integrated Business Planning trainings I did have, over the years, allowed me to actively link Finance to the Supply function.

Now, I’m a firm believer that we, as Finance professionals and FP&A especially special - as I’ve already said - should do more than just analyse and make nice PowerPoints; it’s vital that FP&A really understands the business. The reports we make should be useful, not only for the Finance community, but for all managers in the communities.

Also, advice should be based on the full knowledge base, and aligned and discussed with the business Finance Directors; it should not be in a separate silo based purely on spreadsheets. It’s a combination of those things, which help to evolve you as a manager.

What would you say is the secret to building a strong network?

It sounds very stupid, but it’s simple: talk with people, be nice, be open, be welcoming and helpful to others. It’s all about people relations.

A good network has similarities to a friendship. You could say there are business friends; it’s almost like business friendship and business friends.

How will digital transformation change the role of Finance, in your opinion?

I am a firm believer in the big advantages of the use of digital information. Digitalisation will allow us to make faster, more in-depth analysis. We currently see that already with the use of Power BI and SAP Analytical Cloud for things like margin management.

It allows us to go deeper, and it could do more detailed analysis on the customer and product levels. It does highlight, however, the importance of correct master data. I still believe that the human element in these analyses still needs to play a very important role.

Digitalisation and AI (artificial intelligence) can absolutely help in preparing and taking away lots of work, but - in the end - there are always other factors that need to be taken into account to make the picture complete - and the financial still comes into play to leave the final added value.

I really believe in digitalisation; it makes this function much more powerful, and we can help the business with even more information - but I don’t see it as a replacement of the financials in the organisation.

Why would you say the Netherlands is a good place to live and why?

I think having had the chance to live in different countries, I can honestly say that the Netherlands is a great place to live. First of all, general quality of life. The social system is well organised, and, on the people side, people are generally open for newcomers. And the level of English in the Netherlands is, of course, very high.

Often, in the office, the Dutch speak or write in English amongst themselves - because they’re just used to talking English the whole day in meetings - without noticing they were talking English to each other, so that makes it a very easy place for someone outside to join and get started.

What is the best compliment that you’ve ever received?

Apart from what we discussed on people wanting to join your team, a compliment I got not that long ago, which really stuck in my mind, was from an HR Director, who said to me: “Jan-Paul, you are the type of Finance Director most Sales people fear, because you know their customers and their business just as well as they do.” I found that very nice, because it fits into my belief that, as a Finance Director of a business, you do need to understand the business you’re running.

As I said before, you can’t be a Finance Director just off a spreadsheet, so that compliment actually confirmed to me that I did that job in the way I believe it should be done.

Thank you to Jan-Paul for speaking to our Finance & Accountancy recruitment team in the Netherlands, led by Hannah Mallia and David Harper.

Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment

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Marta Munk de Alba - Director Talent Acquisition EMEA at Netflix

Marta Munk de Alba is the Director Talent Acquisition EMEA at Netflix in Amsterdam. She started her Human Resources career in Spain, where she joined Booking.com in 2011. Marta has been with Netflix in the Netherlands since 2016.

What excites you about working for Netflix?

When I started at Netflix almost seven years ago, I wasn't really sure what Netflix was. If I'm honest, the reason I got excited about this company and this brand is because a former boss of mine shared a Harvard Business Review article with me, called How Netflix Reinvented HR. She didn't know that, by sharing that with me, I would resign!

I have been in recruitment all my life, from a big head-hunting firm to NGO work, and then big tech at Booking.com. I’ve seen a lot of different approaches to talent and, when I came across the unconventional approach Netflix had, I felt I wanted to work for a company that operates like that and to see - of course - if the claims were true.

I was very sceptical about the way they spoke about how they treated people and how they approached the freedom and responsibility they gave people. So, when I started talking to people during the interview process, I started to realize those values seemed to be true. I always say that I joined Netflix and I continue to work at Netflix because of the culture.

It's not perfect; I don't want to sound like we’ve found the holy grail of business scalability, because it's not. It's very unique and very unconventional. HR and recruitment are very strategic functions in the business, and we think about our culture as a toolkit for excellence.

We give people freedom, so they do a good job. We give them a large amount of responsibility, so they can make a big impact. We put people over processes, because we don't want to delay decisions. We don't have KPIs, but we rely on radical candour or feedback.

Our content executives would kill me if they heard me saying this, but - to me – the actual product is secondary. I love the content, I love the reality shows, the films, the international component of it all, but - for me - what goes first is the way Netflix has allowed me to work.

What do you see as the biggest challenges for a) your business, and b) your own role, over the next 12 months?

When we're talking about business challenges, I like to see it as an opportunity. I'm the type of person that sees the glass half-full and gets excited when I need to solve very difficult problems.

To think about the future, you need to look at the past. We come from being a very successful business. We were number one in the streaming industry, number one to expand internationally, number one to create local content in each country and speak to audiences in their own languages. We have had a very positive trajectory; it has been hypergrowth, success and discovery.

I think it's not only specific to Netflix, but currently in the world there are macroeconomic factors and social factors influencing the trajectory of companies and industries. There are external factors that we cannot control, but also industry factors, like competition and keeping up with great content, are creating a new reality for Netflix.

We are in a reality where there is more competition, where we need to continue thinking about what shows are going to excite our members.

I've been here for almost seven years. If I think about the next seven years, it's very exciting to be in a company that needs to not necessarily reinvent themselves, but to make sure we keep up with that growth and success. That will mean revisiting some of our habits and some of our practices that we took for granted until now.

An example of this is the working from home flexibility. That flexibility affects Netflix a lot, because we are a creative environment; we come up with ideas that, in most cases, come from the interaction of people. So, what does this remote work or working from home concept mean for Netflix?

I think the next couple of years are going to be very exciting, because they are going to force us to solve different challenges that we didn't have in the past and, from a recruiting standpoint, I find it very exciting.

How does your company work to retain high potential employees?

We are lucky that the brand itself attracts great talent. People know, when they join Netflix, they're going to be doing great work, either on the tech side - because they're going to be developing the number one platform in the world - and on the creative side - as they're going to have freedom to create their product. So, I think the work itself is the main factor that keeps people at Netflix.

The fact that freedom is one of our values; we give people a lot of freedom in the way they should do their work and make decisions. The work, plus how we let them do that work, is the best retention plan.

Then, of course, there are other factors, like competitive compensation. I don’t think we should shy away from speaking about that, as well as the development opportunities in growing in an international company - I’m a good example of that.

More recently, we have started to be a little bit more intentional in how we think about development at Netflix. We shouldn't expect everything to happen organically or for people to be happy in their jobs forever. So, we are investing a lot more in making sure we equip our leaders and our people managers to be able to have growth conversations with their employees.

How can a job seeker stand out in the current market?

That's a great question - and we could spend two hours talking about that - but one of the things I value the most when I assess candidates at any level, and also when I interact with colleagues, is authenticity.

Authenticity comes with honesty, which comes with being loyal to your principles and values, and making sure you feel passionate about the job you are pursuing.

I would say that's one element that I always look for when hiring for a business or hiring for my own team. I try to be authentic as much as I can, because that brings me a lot of joy when working.

What risks have you taken throughout your career and how did they help you get to the level you are at?

For me, if there's no risk, there's no success. I'm not saying everybody should be taking risks all the time, but I'm someone that leans into this. I think risk-taking is important, and I’ve learned the most from failures.

When you’re drawn to working in innovative environments, like Booking.com or Netflix, who are at the forefront of their industry, you have to get used to leaning into risks, and - for me - it's very rewarding and represents a lot of learning.

It’s not just this, however, that has contributed to the success in my career; I've had some great leaders and great teams that have allowed me to be successful, so it’s not just an individual effort.

What would have been your second career choice and why?

In my early career, I had to make a choice between going into organizational psychology or clinical psychology. So, I would have probably gone the clinical route, had I not chosen my current career. I really like learning about human behaviour and understanding human minds.

One day, I hope to go back to university and study Architecture, because I really like interior architecture - not necessarily decoration - but the building process. I hope I have the chance to do that, and I have a second life when it comes to work.

Who is the most inspiring person in business for you and why?

I have a very inspiring mother. She has tenacity and authenticity, and is someone very loyal to her principles. When it comes to business, I've had several leaders who I admire for the way they've led me and others.

If I go back to Heidrick & Struggles, for example, I worked with two principals, and they exposed me to clients and to the business, which expedited my understanding of organisations. This was something unusual for such a young associate to have the opportunity to do. Principals in executive recruitment firms don't often do this, and I learned that you can do things differently and then, when you trust that team member, you should invest in them like that.

When I was at Booking.com, I worked with a lot of amazing executives, like Andrea D´Ámico in Italy and Angel LIull in Spain. I looked up to them, because they were able to manage very big multi-disciplinary teams, while remaining very human and approachable to those teams.

I then had a boss, Jaap, who taught me how great it is to be a hands-off manager. Jaap was a boss that didn't monitor what I did; we didn't have one-on-ones, but, if I picked up the phone and I said I needed help, he reacted immediately.

At Netflix, I have had the best bosses anyone could ask for: Alix Jacobson and Valerie Tola - they are both incredible. My relationship with them is based on trust and authenticity, and the idea of being completely transparent, and they have become my rocks.

I go to them not only to report back on the work, but I use them as my sparring partner and sounding board; they are people I can be vulnerable with. It's a judgment-free relationship, which I appreciate greatly, because I think we as individuals judge ourselves a lot and I’ve certainly had imposter syndrome at many points in my Netflix career.

It was obviously more intense in my early days at Netflix, but it's something that comes and goes, and I think just by saying it out loud, it subsides a little.

In our minds, we all have a little judge telling us we're not doing this right. I have the judge in my head all the time. I've learned how to live with this little person, and I think we all have it - especially when we have demanding environments.

It taught me that relationships that are based on trust can include a lot of challenging and heated conversations where we provide feedback to each other in a very candid way; I think that brings people together, because you know the trust is there and is shared with good intent.

What are your tips on achieving work-life balance?

It's been a journey. When you're 23, you don't even think about it. However, when you're 41 - like I am now - I'm more confident in prioritising myself.

How people achieve balance is a very personal thing. For me, I think of it as work-life integration. When you’re recruiting for a business, unexpected things happen. If you work for an American company, you might need to be available in the afternoons or evenings, and - at Booking.com - I had to travel 75% of my time, so the idea of work-life balance was just impossible.

But, what I do aim for - and this is where I put myself first - I make sure my expectations are very clear and it’s in the integration. I am a high performer and I give 120% to the company, but I also expect flexibility in return. However, I'm talking from a position where I've been here for a long time - I have a leadership position, I have my credibility, and I don't think you can go into a new job and expect this immediately. I think, once you’ve proven yourself, you are in your right to set the boundaries that work for you, as long as the work is done. You earn the freedom once you have delivered great work.

I used to travel a lot at Booking.com and, when I joined Netflix, I said what's healthy for me is that I take a holiday every quarter, and that short, frequent breaks allow me to be healthy and give that 100% to the company.

I think, with time, you get to know yourself a little bit, you get to understand what works and what doesn't work; a nine-to-five schedule might not be the right thing for everyone. For me, my days normally start a little later; I have a dog and like to go for a walk, and then my day ends at eight or nine PM, because that allows me to connect more with my US peers.

For others, this might mean they'd rather start early on and have free afternoons, or have a big break in the middle of the day to work out. I think it's about asking yourself what makes you feel good, what's healthy, what allows you to take care of the rest of your responsibilities, and then making sure that you’re up front with your boss or manager about your needs.

There are small tips and tricks where you can find out what works best for you. I have colleagues that introduce themselves over email with a short bio explaining what works for them, like meeting-free Fridays or work-from-home Mondays.

Setting boundaries is not always easy, especially when you need to set boundaries upwards, but reminding ourselves all the time that we have the option to set boundaries is important.

Finally, asking for help is very important. We all tend to forget that no matter how senior you are, there are moments in work and life where you need to say, "Hey, I just can't do this, can you help me?"

Thank you to Marta for speaking to Katie Insley, Associate Director in our HR recruitment team in the Netherlands.

Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment

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Kalle Kormi - Controller - Western Europe at KFC

Kalle Kormi is the Controller – Western Europe at KFC in Lausanne, Switzerland. He previously spent over eight years at Alcon and more than six years with O-I.

How do you build a high performing Finance team from scratch?

It all starts with recruitment and recruiting the relevant people with the right competency. I want to recruit talent and, of course, a variety of talent. I also like to recruit a diverse team, so people who are at the beginning of their career, people who have ten years’ experience, more senior people - having the right mix of talent is very important.

First, I really focus on how to create the environment for a team to be successful and high performing. It starts with creating a safe space - a psychological safety that everybody in the team feels safe. You can take risks without being afraid of the consequences. If you succeed, or even if you feel insecure or even embarrassed, it’s a safe place for everybody; you can say silly things and you ask silly questions and are not afraid of the reaction or the consequences. It’s very important for me that I create a safe place for my team, because I think when you feel safe that’s when you can try to drive the performance.

The second point I normally focus on is dependability in the team. What that means is trusting my team, colleagues and teammates that they all deliver what they promise. For example, if I say, “I haven’t done that report, but I will get that report done tomorrow,” My team should trust that I deliver tomorrow. Also, finding out if every team member can trust all their team. What is very critical for me is dependability.

Next, the structural clarity. Knowing if everybody understands what the goals are, why we do what we do as a team. Also, the clarity of roles and responsibilites and the understanding of each other’s roles, along with if they need further clarification.

Team vision and where we want to be as a team, now, in the next three months, next year. Ultimately, if I look at what makes a high performing team, I need to know how to keep the team motivated. Knowing why this work is personally important to me. I mean, we all work to get paid, but going beyond that and what makes the work meaningful to me. Believing in the work I do, knowing if I am making a difference, what my role is and the bigger picture, why my work matters and what’s important.

What we do is very important for the crew, because ultimately it all goes to our external reporting, which is then shared with the investors in Wall Street. The work that matters and the bigger picture – those are the key factors.

Also, building a safe space, to give the team clarity, what’s the team vision, why we do it, can we count on each other, why the job is important, why does it matter to me - and it starts with recruiting the right people.

How do your outdoor activities help you decompress in your personal time?

I run three times a week and then I do hikes or skiing in winter. If I have a sport that gives me the chance to really focus on the activity itself, for example, if I’m skiing and I really need to focus and concentrate, or I am climbing the mountains, I forget everything related to work. I will just focus on the activity at hand.

It is very important for me that when I do activity outside of work, like a ski day, it really gives me a chance to forget work and give me the good, clear boundary between work and life.

How is KFC reducing bias in the hiring process?

First, I think it is very important for all of us - managers, people hiring - that we actively do training on understanding our bias. We all have both conscious and unconscious bias. There’s lots of online courses I’ve taken on LinkedIn, for example, which we give access to all our employees on how to train, understand, and recognise both your conscious and unconscious bias.

The first interview we do is usually with a camera off, so we don’t have influence based on the person’s looks.

Also, what is very nice is we normally have a number of stakeholders involved, so for any recruitment process, we have three or four people working on the role, and at least three people interviewing. We can then compare notes, so it’s not only my own bias, we always have a consensus.

I personally believe that everybody seems to be much more interesting when I meet them, compared to what the CV could maybe indicate. It’s also nice that, when I have interviewed people, there are usually silent competencies that I might only discover when I talk to people, which they might not highlight in their CVs.

For example, there might be CVs that I will just look at to see if they have relevant work experience or what their level of education is, and I could miss a lot of high potential people. Other times, when I do the interview, I discover they might have a silent competency based on their hobbies, or even just the way they interact and explain things, that they didn’t think were originally relevant for the role.

Of course, it’s a time constraint - I can’t interview every single person who sends a CV. I need to do some pre-selection, but sometimes I’m okay if the person doesn’t meet all the criteria. Nowadays, if I look at the requirements for the job, hardly ever will I meet a person who will meet every single requirement we put on the job ad tax ruling.

Switzerland has signed a tax rule with OECD, so we can’t compete with just lower tax rates, but I think most companies don’t come here just to benefit from a low taxation; we come here because Switzerland is very innovative and a competitive place for companies, and I think that will continue to develop more. Access to the talent pool is also very key - that is why companies tend to locate here.

What risks have you taken throughout your career and how did they help you to get to the level you’re at?

I have been mobile from a very early age in my career before having a family – it has definitely helped me a lot that I was able to be mobile and I took a risk. The first risk was in 1997, when I decided to go to study in the UK instead of Finland. That already opened my exposure to working and studying in a different language environment, which is more international.

I spent six years in the UK, before moving back to Finland in 2003, where I managed to stay for only two years. I joined an American multi-national and then they started a big integration process buying a French company, and they asked me if I’d like to move to Paris in 2005, and I said yes.

After four months in Paris, they set up a European Headquarters in Lausanne, and I came here. I was mobile first as a one-year project worker, and then they offered me an expat contract for three years, and I was mobile.

Sometimes, it’s not only looking at the vertical move - take horizontal moves in your career just to broaden your skills, plus your experience. I have taken horizontal moves; I am not always looking to go higher or get a promotion. Sometimes, horizontal moves have really helped me in the long-term more. I think that’s my advice for young people, and also, don’t always think you need to get a promotion or move up.

Also, I took a one-year sabbatical leave in 2011, and it definitely helped to realise what I want to do and where I want to go. If ever people have a chance to take sabbatical leave before they start their families and having children, I strongly recommend.

For me, it had no real impact on my CV, either. After I came back to Switzerland after sabbatical leave, it took me three months to find a new job. I don’t think people should be worried about having a career gap on the CV. If ever you want to have a little pause and think what you want to do, a sabbatical leave is a great opportunity for that.

What’s the secret to building a strong network?

You need to be frank and curious. Have a genuine interest in other people. People can easily tell if you just do it for self-promotion. Its just like, what’s in it for me? At some point, I stopped - it’s a very fine line.

There’s a lot of networking opportunities in Switzerland. I think I’m very picky and selective, like when do I want to go, what events, and is it a self-serving purpose. For the network I build, I think it’s important for people that they know that they can trust me. I generally care for people; I really want to be generally interested in people.

Never burn any bridges and, when you leave the company, always do it in a friendly way, because you never know what will come around. It has helped me; I stayed friends with the colleagues I had, they move around Switzerland, and we share career opportunities.

Be authentic. You need to be social; you need to show interest in other people. And also, the network doesn’t happen overnight. I’ve been here 17 years, so it’s come to over ten years that I have known the people, different consultants, different audit firms, different bargains I had.

If I look at the network that I have now, which is quite extensive, it didn’t come in one year - it takes some time. You can’t rush that. It’s the people you work with in different projects - the contractors, the consultancy you have used - you know if they are good, you want to work with them again.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?

Professionally, I was told by my peers and even my ex-boss that I am a role model, and praised for how I care for and how I stand up for my team. I don’t want to be overprotective of my team, but I do stand up for my people.

Outside of work, I’ve been told that I have a great, but very twisted, sense of humour, and I guess that’s the six years in the UK. I love sarcasm – the British sense of humour is very dear and near to me. Ultimately, the best compliment I could say is hearing my daughters saying that I’m the best dad.

Particularly, since COVID-19, how have you seen your approach to Finance evolve?

I think the hybrid, flexible work models have become relatively normal. For myself, before COVID, I used to go to the office four days a week and have one home office day. During COVID, I worked for almost two years from home with my teams here in Switzerland, but also in Denmark, Germany and Italy, and we found an acute way of working.

We did quarter close, we did year-end close, we did audits, everything remotely. Now COVID is over, so I see sometimes we do need to have physical people at work, especially when building a completely new team of people. You need to spend some time with each other before you can get us on Facetime, and onboarding new people is easier.

That being said, I’m very flexible. I believe we can deliver very strong Finance reporting, Accounting whether you work three days, two days at home - I don’t really care. People are learning to appreciate this flexibility, and also flexible working hours.

If you don’t have a customer-facing role, I don’t really care if you just work from eight to six. If you prefer to work four hours during the day, take a few hours off to be with your family, and come back online after nine o’ clock, if that’s what suits you, I’m fine.

I think this is what more and more people are expecting from employers, as well. It’s better that you have a hybrid model, so that you can work remotely if you wanted to with flexible hours. We rely much more on things like Microsoft Teams and Zoom.

I used to travel a lot, as I had teams in Denmark, Germany and Italy. Now, I travel less. I try to make that travel more impactful when I go, but there’s less need to meet in person, which is also good, because sometimes it can be a hassle – for example, going to a country for a half-a-day meeting.

COVID gave us a chance to also question a lot of the habits we used to have and what really is necessary; I really like that, as we can work in a hybrid model - that’s at least the picture since COVID, and I hope this will stay.

Talented people know the deadlines. How they get there? I leave it up to them. I believe if I meet my people once or twice a week, it is enough.

Thank you to Kalle for speaking to John Bower, Director in our Finance & Accountancy recruitment team in Switzerland.

Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment

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