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.

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Cedric Hyde - Regional CFO - Merck Serono

What are your thoughts on the upcoming Ecopop Referendum?

Regardless of the outcome, for Switzerland it is potentially a message to the outside world which is not good for our global image. If you look at it together with the February 9th 2014 vote there is just the slight concern that our neighbouring countries will not be happy with the messages that are conveyed.

The competitiveness of the Swiss economy is based on a set of framework conditions, which include a highly skilled and multicultural workforce. Irrespective of the results of the votes, the simple fact that the Swiss people are arguing over this kind of subject matters is most likely not perceived as an appealing signal when it comes to attracting talents to Switzerland.

What is the Merck position on Corporate Social Responsiblity (CSR)?

At group level we have a report on all of our CSR activity - it is available here:

http://reports.merckgroup.com/2013/cr-report/servicepages/welcome.html

It is a substantial investment, but we are keen on it, therefore it is something we are very pro-active about. Let me provide two examples relating to diversity:

In 2013, 25% of the management positions at Merck were held by women,
which means that we reached our strategic goal of raising this percentage up to 25% to 30%. And we intend to further increase this ratio by 2016. Fiscal 2013 was the first time that a woman was appointed as head of a Merck Group division.
 
Since we are an international global player, one of our fundamental principles is to recruit employees from the countries in which we operate and offer them career development opportunities. Currently, people from 114 nations work at Merck.
 
If you could go back in time and give some career advice to your younger, graduate self, what would it be?
 

Take the opportunity to master two or three languages. Communication and therefore language are very important. Internationally, English generally prevails. However, in Europe for finance professionals, and also for scientists and other professionals with a cross-border scope of activities, it is a genuine advantage to master other languages.. Although English remains the main language in today’s business environment, if I was 25 now, I would probably try to learn Chinese.

What has been your best, or worst, interview experience?

My worst hiring experience was really quite fascinating. The candidate tried to force himself into the position by virtue of key personality elements he simply did not have. I was interviewing for a finance position with precise needs in terms of management style. The candidate was clearly very motivated for the job, and seemed to be trying to convince himself, probably before, and certainly during the interview, that he could do this job while  the required management style was quite obviously not fitting with what I could perceive  as the candidate’s personality and aspirations. I really think this was the worst thing to do – the candidate  was, consciously or not, tricking himself. If I had hired him it would have been terrible for him! In this case, the whole interview was like a Greek Tragedy. You could see the negative outcome that was underway, but you could not do anything to prevent it.

The best experience from my side, as an interviewee, eventually derived from a situation where I was completely unprepared. I had gone for an interview at a company, and as I was being shown out, we bumped into one of the interviewer's colleagues, and he asked me, off the cuff, if I was prepared to interview for a different position with him. So I said yes. It was to his credit that this was a good interview. He was able to describe accurately and in simple terms the requirements of the position to me, which I had no prior understanding of (since I was not prepared). It was an appealing but overall honest introduction. This led me to have an open mind about it. I ended up having a good interview, and eventually we agreed that I would take the second position. I credit the second interviewer with his ability to select the right candidate, and present the role to someone who wasn't even expecting it. An interesting point here is that my unpreparedness meant I was more open-minded - I had not formed any opinions during my preparation.

What advice would you give to someone who is one day looking to move into a leadership role (Senior Finance Manager/CFO Level)?

This question reminds me of a discussion I once had with a fairly senior manager, about why one manager would perform better than another. We kept coming back to one quality - HONESTY. Always tell the truth. Consider how you deliver the message, but make sure everybody gets it. Structure your message, do your homework properly (different people will react differently to different messages), so you can pinpoint those who may need extra clarification. This simple character trait will enable you to concentrate on positive actions, as opposed to having to be in defensive mode all the time. To be a leader, you need to be trusted. Humility in the good times is also a good trait.

Who would you say the most important figure in business is, and why?

In my own professional life, Mr Ernesto Bertarelli was the most important business leader who has had the most influence on the way I think and the way I act in a business environment. When I had the privilege of being part of his organization, his leadership was very impressive, and it is quite visible citing his work with the America’s Cup. His leadership style at the Serono Group, especially in times of difficulty, was quite frankly amazing. Mr Bertarelli has mastered two  skills that are generally hard to combine in one single manager. He had the boardroom strategic communication mastered, as well as the media communication, but he was also very operations focused with strong interpersonal skills. He would literally walk the floor on a regular basis, discussing issues and opportunities, asking for ideas for improvement from anyone (one of his skills was creating minimal disruption in the organization with these ” missions”?). Mr Bertarelli would then somehow use this  information in order to feed the boardroom discussions and decisions. He made this operational closeness part of the culture at Serono, and everybody became pretty comfortable with it by the end.

 
*Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the Interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment.*
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Marlies Tognella-Abbrederis - Director Human Resources - Bisnode D&B Schweiz AG

What do you love about Switzerland and why?

I have been living in Switzerland for 25 years now and I love the professional/working culture and the flat hierarchies that tend to come with many companies now. In addition, there is no great distance between employer and employees now – which creates an excellent working atmosphere. I work in Zurich, and even though the country us small it is really beautiful with a range of different cultures and languages.

What advice would you offer to someone moving to Switzerland?

The times were very different when I moved to Switzerland (particularly in terms of work permits) – it is now much easier to relocate and start to live your life. I would advise any newcomer to dive into the culture and try to speak the local language at least (whether it be French or German). Don’t expect it to be the same as your home country. For me, at the beginning it was more formal in the work surroundings and the behaviour/approach. During the 25 years I have been in the country attitudes and behaviour have changed for the better, in that it is now more informal and relaxed.

What are your growth plans?

Bisnode’s growth plans are mainly focused around bringing new countries on-board – particularly in the Southern hemisphere. We are now fairly satisfied with our levels of operation in the current countries we operate in.

What challenges await your business and how do you hope to overcome them?

One particular issue we now face is that a significant amount of information we tend to get paid to provide is readily available on the internet and social media. Technology and the internet has been responsible for many positive changes worldwide and in Switzerland, but for Bisnode this has meant we have to find new business fields.

What excites you about working for Bisnode?

It is never ending change within Bisnode. The organisation has changed and grown over the years – we were originally American but are now Swedish, working with global partners in franchising connections. In addition, the culture is such that I can work autonomously in my role which is important. Every employee has this freedom, within reason. There is also an ‘Open-door Policy’ - every person can go to the CEO to discuss issues. It is this positive working culture that sells the company to potential new employees.

If you could go back and give your younger (graduate) self some career advice, what would it be?

If I had the choice, I would go abroad earlier in my life to an English, French or Spanish speaking country. I studied languages but would do something more focused around Economics as I feel it would have assisted more by providing a basic understanding to business. Another language is also important but Economical knowledge is always good as a basis and is a good starting point. 

Being a sparring partner is a pre requisite for an HR Division - what do you feel makes an effective sparring partner?

You have to know what the other departments are doing and give proactive advice. You make this possible by being in constant contact with other leaders, understanding what they are doing and what their needs are. But this alone does not make a good sparring partner, you also have to provide proactive solutions and make yourself available to others.

What makes you relaxed from working in such a pressured role?

 

Within work I feel I am in the right place, I love my work and the industry we are in. We have good partners in our senior management team and we know each other very well. This makes me relax within work.

Outside of work I feel it is important to have other areas where you can go to relax or have some recreation (sports, other hobbies). For me, it is painting, reading, sports (jogging, swimming and biking) – I try to do some exercise at lunch time, evenings and weekends.

What are your personal motivators?

I am motivated by the impact I have, and in my current role I feel I can influence things and help others. I also love to learn and continue my progression. I get great pride when I something going in the right direction that I have influenced.

When did you decide to explore a career in HR and why?

I tried a lot of other things before going into HR. I actually started with languages as I wanted to be a teacher, then moved into Finance and Sales. I noticed that I was not 100% satisfied with either and I knew I wanted to do further training and was choosing between marketing and HR as these were two things that interested me. My manager at the time told me to go into HR and do some training – this is when I did the Personalfachfrau. Generally, I took opportunities as they came along.

How did you plan out your career development path?

I did not really plan my career path – looking back on my career I feel I could have planned more, but I am happy by my decision to take chances as they came up.

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

Motivation from working in a good company and industry. Thinking specifically within my role, I am incredibly proud when I see the results of engagement surveys, and the end result. It is also extremely rewarding to receive personal feedback from an applicant, employee or leader.

If you could change one thing in your career what would it be?

There were times where I had the feeling that the job I was in was not going to be the one I would do for the rest of my career. When I had this feeling I wish I would have changed sooner and tried other things.

What recruitment challenges do you face?

IT positions are often quite challenging to fill as we are a part of a special industry with a small market. We often have to give training to new employees as they come from other industries to give them the necessary knowledge on the industry and to ensure we can retain talent afterwards. We don’t necessarily have the highest salaries (in comparison to banking for example). The culture of freedom and autonomy plays a big role in retaining talent though.

What attributes do you look for when choosing a recruitment partner?

The most important factor for me is that any partner deals with what we are looking for efficiently and does not provide candidates that don’t fulfil the requirements. It is also equally important that the partner is interested in what they are looking for and is asking the right questions of her so they know

How would you advise a jobseeker to approach the current market?

Ensure you invest time into researching and achieving qualifications relevant to the job you are looking for. Also, be persistent, try several channels, use social media, the internet, job adverts and get in personal contact by phone with companies. Just call and be persistent. It can be tough but the rewards will soon come.

What advice would you give to future aspiring leaders, and why?

Any aspiring leader should think why they personally want it and make those reasons clear to themselves. Once this is clear, it is important to have training in this direction for being a leader, to have the tools you need.

Who is your most inspirational person in business and why?

My current manager has been really inspirational. He has been with the company for over 25 years - starting at the bottom and working to the top. His personality and will to go further got him to where he is today. He is very inspirational and a great leader and person.

If you could choose an Artistic/Musical/Sporting career, who would it be and why?

If anything, I would choose a sporting career (e.g. an endurance runner) – when I do sports I feel happy and relaxed, and full of energy. This rewards me with new energy to do other things (like work).

Do you have any hidden talents?

I really enjoy painting pictures. But overall, I get a long with everybody – I love to meet new people, and I think this helps in my role.

 

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

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Patrik Fueeg - VP HR Supply Chain - Carlsberg

What do you love about Switzerland and why?

CH is my Home country, I was born here. Of course I like the stability, the security but also the beautiful landscape.

What advice would you offer to someone moving to Switzerland?

CH has a lot to offer in terms of job opportunities but also in terms of Work/Life Balance to people coming from abroad.

As someone who has had a number of years’ experience within the Swiss market-place, how have you found the Swiss market & working environment has changed over these years?

It has become a lot more international. People may think this is mainly a big financial centre – but in fact we have so many international companies present which give it quite an international working environment. This is coupled with a very local strong Swiss culture – and that combination I find really attractive.

What does your organisation currently do to contribute towards the corporate social responsibility?

Carlsberg as an organisation is running a lot of initiatives to reduce CO2. In the brewing business some of the main areas where we can make a difference are water. We are world leaders in minimising water consumption per litre of beer produced. In packaging we use thinner and renewable material, and then managing the transport and distribution the best way. Our majority shareholder is the ” Carlsberg Foundation”? which is the biggest donator to science, culture, music and art in Denmark in history. So we are indeed ensuring that we give back to society and the environment.

We see that Carlsberg seems to be going against the market trend and continues to grow. Can you identify how your organisation stands out from the market and your competitors?

What are your growth plans?

There are a lot of great traditions around beer, which we need to keep. But there are also a lot of new things coming up. There are pockets of growth to be found in all markets. There is an interesting trend around craft beer. There is a lot of interest in new products like non-alcoholics, ciders, more healthy products. Our innovation department is quite busy reacting to the changes in the markets in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and especially in the high growth markets in Asia.

What excites you about working for Carlsberg?

There is entrepreneurial spirit in this company that I like very much. There is a lot of history, heritage, tradition, emotions, pride, sense of importance of quality connected to our brands and the whole brewing tradition, and the product. That makes it truly a great beer company to work for. You have your heart with you in this job.

If you could go back and give your younger (graduate) self some career advice, what would it be?

I am now working in an office with 33 nationalities present, I did not imagine this 30 years ago. So my advice would be to open your mind towards input from other countries and cultures. The world is bigger than you think, and becoming connected faster than you think. So being open to trends and changes from outside will help you in your career - and also make your life more interesting.

Being a sparring partner is a pre requisite for an HR/Finance Division- what do you feel makes an effective sparring partner?

First of all you have to understand the need of the business. An HR Division can drive and manage change together with the Line Managers to a large extent. HR people should first of all support the business initiatives, and of course challenge their colleagues along the way about ways of working etc.

If you had not made a career in HR, what would you have preferred doing?

I did not have a plan for my career when I went to school. I made the choices and chose the different paths along the way depending on what was most interesting at the point in time. Luckily this has taken me to some very interesting places in my work life where I have had the opportunity to learn and grow.

What makes you relaxed from working in such a pressured role?

Relaxed I would say is the wrong word. It is more about having a great team that makes you confident to manage most of the upcoming challenges.

What are your personal motivators?

The success of the company and the satisfaction of the employees are probably my biggest motivators. To see how a company and its employees are developing, I guess this is one of the biggest successes working in a senior leader role in HR.

When did you decide to explore a career in this area and why?

How did you plan out your career development path?

HR went through a huge transformation over the last 30 years. Personally I believe that if you really want to move something in HR, you have to stay a certain period in the role. In my case, I was always offered a new challenge after several years, so it was not a very active career planning from my side. As long as I can learn and the job is challenging I am more than happy in my career.

How important was it for you to develop relationships outside of your department for career development?

When you stay isolated in HR and do not go for active relationships outside your department you cannot be an effective HR Leader. You have to understand the need of the Business, so I believe it is extremely important to develop relationship outside your department.

What do you love the most about your current role?

To work in a global role with all the different cultures I love very much. But it is also the fact of the huge transformation that Carlsberg is currently is going through, that I love very much.

What recruitment challenges do you face?

Carlsberg is an attractive international company with a well-known global brand and a good reputation. But it is always a challenge to find the best candidates. It is about the quality of the people, their willingness to deliver strong results, and not give up the first time they run into a bit of headwind.

What attributes do you look for when choosing a recruitment partner?

It is about professional work, reliability and trust in the partner who is conducting the recruitment process for me. It has to be somebody who understands the need of Carlsberg when recruiting in people.

What advice would you give to future aspiring leaders, and why?

Be authentic. Do not just think about how to develop your own personal career, but think about how you support the development of your company. If you do that, I am convinced that you will also grow your career. Be brave. Be ready to make decisions and point the direction – rather than focusing on covering your backside.

Describe yourself in 3 words

Ambitious, balanced and experienced

If you could choose an Artistic/Musical/Sporting career, who would it be and why?

Probably a musical career, as I love music overall and I also enjoy playing the guitar and piano.

Do you have any hidden talents?

Probably Music

 

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

 

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Sarah Stary - Head of HR Europe & Africa - Trina Solar

What excites you about working for Trina Solar?

When I joined Trina, we were a fairly small team of only 10 people spread across Europe, and only 6 in Zurich.

My main challenge was to recruit the team that we are now which is close to 100 people. What excited me from the beginning as it still does after 5 years is that we have been able to attract a lot of talent outside of different countries. We have a very international team, In Switzerland we have created a very versatile and international team which is passionate about what they do. That for me is a personal achievement and an environment that I enjoy and that I thrive in, in addition, we are in daily contact with our colleagues at our HQ in China. Communication can sometimes be challenging but it has been a great learning curve. Our colleagues in China have travelled here and have learned about our culture in Europe, and we have travelled to China and learned how processes work over there. This I feel has been a real win win.

What advice would you offer to someone moving to Switzerland?

It depends on where they come from. To acquaint yourself with permit regulations is helpful and when you are coming from a country that is outside of the Schengen region, to read up on how difficult it can be to obtain a permit, as we sometimes have applications from candidates with US nationality for instance and it is very tricky for us to obtain a permit for them.

In general it is also important to read up on the cost of living, because some candidates we interview tend not to do that right away. This is very important for salary negotiations, in order for you to prepare yourself and understand what you can actually ask for, and what you will need to make a decent living. It is true that Switzerland tends to be more expensive than many other countries out there in Europe.

What recruitment challenges do you face?

This depends on the role, what we tend to struggle with is to recruit people who have an International mind-set and can deal with a very dynamic and sometimes volatile environment, and stay on board because it can be stressful. In that way I say we are perhaps unique, we are certainly not a standard Swiss company. Some people enjoy this type of environment. Identifying whether the candidate is a fit doing the interview process is essential.  Profiles that require certain language capability such as German, English and Spanish coupled with a technical background for example engineering are the types of roles we struggle with the most, the more languages that are required the more we struggle.

What advice would you give to future aspiring leaders, and why?

I would say that first of all it is important to have an idea of where you want to go in your career and envision it. Many things can go sideways and perhaps decide to pursue a different career later on, and none of that is right or wrong. But to have a plan or at least an idea of what you are doing and why you are doing it is important. At least this is what helped me; to have an idea of where I was going. It motivated me to work hard.

Also getting international exposure is important, this is key for anyone who aspires to be a leader, even a short stint perhaps in Asia or US can help. Any country that offers you international exposure, makes you broaden your horizon, this I feel is good even if you don’t see yourself living or working there long term, just that experience alone helps a lot. To be able to see and experience something new can help open your mind-set and is essential in developing.  For example at Trina, we transfer staff on temporary assignments to China for one month, which is great for the company and helps our staff in becoming more rounded.

Lastly Education is important even if you have completed your Bachelor and perhaps a Master’s degree in the area you are working in, consider an MBA, and consider training. This is something we promote; we have started sending staff to Business School and Executive trainings. Employees feel and see the company is investing in them, but also they go back to learning something new. When you have been in a career for some time, having to do that can be a challenge. Putting yourself in a new situation, speaking to different people not necessarily your colleagues, it is a good stimulus. Employees come back with fresh ideas and broadened mind-sets. I believe training promotes thinking outside of the box and to make me work. Next have an idea of where you are starting and this helped me to start ha

Who is your most inspirational person in business and why?

There are many, but one that is obviously much discussed as a great role model for Women is Marissa Mayer. What she has done in terms of having a family and being in charge of Yahoo is very impressive. I know there is some controversy surrounding her and it is legitimate to ask whether it is easier for her as she can finance a Nanny, where an ordinary working mother might not. I get the point but still I think it is so important for women in business to have a role model who they can relate to. To discuss accomplished business women; even in a controversial context, is a good thing, as they are out there and visible. I don’t necessary agree with everything Marissa has done, and she still has to prove herself, but woman like her make it easier for career woman with families to be accepted in what is still all too often a Man’s world.

Describe yourself in 3 words

Energetic, Curious, Goal orientated

 

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

 

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Marcel Hagmann - Fundraising / Marketing Director - Amnesty International

Marcel has been working in the NGO sector for 28 years and is the Fundraising/Marketing Director of Amnesty International. In his spare time Marcel enjoys mountain biking and skiing and ran in 7 marathons. He has also played Tennis at an International level. To relax he enjoys jazz and gourmet foods.

When did you decide to explore a career in this area and why?

I first studied Theology and worked within a church for 5 years providing advice to others. This led me to want to help  more people that are disadvantaged and I wanted to become more of a direct influence.

Most rewarding part of your role?

Seeing the success from a project within a local community through leadership. Also working with like-minded people within my development role, this is of course a very interesting scope of work.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement? (work and personal)

Work – In 2002 I was heading the "Jimmy Carter Work Project" and we managed to build 100 houses with seven thousand volunteers. We had 5 Presidents assisting us and a Jimmy Carter was there every morning from 7am lending a hand!

Personal – I think that's still to come!   

What would be your advice to someone aspiring to be where you are now?

Not to expect to take shortcuts, studying does help but immerse yourself within the people and learn from them. Courage is key and not to be led by those more opinionated be courageous and make your own decisions.   

What are your internal drivers and why?

I always think it's my understanding of justice and injustice, even from an early age I was more interested in becoming friends with the more multicultural kids!

Who is your most inspirational person in business and why?

I don't have one person in business but am always inspired when people think of innovate ideas and make things happen regardless of sector.

Why are you excited to be working for Amnesty International?

I have always been impressed with the Amnesty brand, Amnesty have great access to public figures which opens doors which motivates me. Because Amnesty work more on policy, advocacy and lobbying this has a bigger impact for change.  

What books / blogs are you currently reading?

I read articles from local communities on projects we're working with and LinkedIn is great for Fundraising updates and news. I prefer up to the minute information and interactive knowledge.

What challenges are awaitIing your business and how do you hope to overcome them?

Strategically we are trying to increase our global presence as power and problems are shifting worldwide all the time. Fundraising in Switzerland is saturated, it's always a challenge to retain supporters/donors and to ensure that we don't just gain their support for one cause but become lifelong members of Amnesty.

What has been your worst / best interview experience?

Best interview I've conducted was meeting a candidate who was so good, I offered them another role that was still in signoff stage, this candidate was excellent and we just couldn't pass up the opportunity of not having him on the team. It was a little risky but saved us time and money on the recruitment stage of that role.

 

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

 

 

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Martina Moritz - Poyry Switzerland - Head of HR, Alpine Region & Middle East

What do you love about Switzerland and why?

I love Switzerland, as it feels like it is the whole world in a miniature version. Within a small radius you can experience both sky scrapers and mountains. A huge variety which makes life very exciting and interesting. In addition, I like the structured and organised way of the Swiss and the efficiency, as well as the influence of so many nationalities and variances.

What advice would you offer to someone moving to Switzerland?

Learning German, but to also respect the Swiss Culture and Swiss languages, and to be open and curious about the culture and all its special nuances.

What excites you about working forPöyry Switzerland Ltd?

I am excited about the engagement of our employees for their projects, and how proud they are about their results, as these are highly tangible and long lasting results. They are contributing personally to the vital infrastructures across the world (e.g. Gotthard Base Tunnel).

I am proud of working forPöyry because of its focus on sustainable projects, providing infrastructure and energy to millions of people across Switzerland and the globe.

How did you plan out your career development path?

To be honest with you I had no plans for my career path, however when reflecting back I realise how important it was for me to be open to opportunities, even if I had never thought about going in certain directions. It was also important to trust my managers’ assessment of my personal capabilities and potential.

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

As the Head of HR for several countries, I have a pivotal influence in management decisions, which shape the way of working, and the culture of the company in the various countries. Having this impact is hugely rewarding as is the feedback in contributing to a better working environment.

What advice would you give to future aspiring leaders, and why?

Our companies need leaders with a high level of intellect and open heart, this means being perpetual, and curious about individuals with different personalities. My advice to future leaders would be to add to their studies, the ability to reflect and to communicate on a personal level with others.

 

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

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