We would like to wish the very best of luck to our personal trainer, Laura Hewitt, who is representing England in her Commonwealth Games debut on the Gold Coast this week! Her previous achievements include being twice awarded British Champion 2017 and 2016.
We took the opportunity to speak to Laura about how she got to this point and also how she sees weightlifting as one of the most beneficial ways to train for everyone; to fit into any work/life balance. Read her interview below:
How did you start to get involved with weight-lifting?
I got talent spotted through the National Governing Body British Weightlifting. They were spotting athletes from other sports that potentially had a natural talent for weightlifting. I applied for the programme which was called the ”Golden Chance Programme”?; about 200 girls were looked at through a variety of tests and the top 8 with the most potential were selected - I was one of them.
What other sports have you been involved in and what made you choose weight-lifting as a specialism?
I was a gymnast from the age of 4-18 and then did CrossFit for a short while which introduced weightlifting into my life. I enjoyed and it and was in the transition of making more of a commitment to the weightlifting before the talent programme.
How often do you train?
I train 5 times a week. Sessions vary from an hour and a half to two and half hours.
You’re heading to the Gold Coast to represent England soon at The Commonwealth Games in April! What extra preparation/training have you been involved in for the event?
So, up until October last year, I had only taken part in national championships but never an international championship. In October I got selected for my debut for Team Great Britain at the European under 23’s in Albania. I came 4th overall and had a 6/6 competition, personal bests on everything.
In November I got selected again to get more international experience and went to the World Championships in California Anaheim. It was amazing to see such big names.
How does it feel to have been selected to represent your country?
It sounds really corny, but it really is an honour. I love my country and I am massively patriotic so to be able to wear my country’s jersey is just a dream come true.
What do you think are the benefits of exercise to work/life balance?
As well as being an elite athlete, I work as a personal trainer. So, I promote an active lifestyle through that. Weight training is one of the most beneficial ways to train for everyone. Some people don’t realise that elite athletes who take part in endurance events still have to do weightlifting alongside their discipline, because of the crossover benefits. I work with not just athletes but really normal people, GPs, doctors, managers, business owners, mums; people who just really want to improve their lifestyles and fitness. At RWF (Real World Fitness) it’s not just me, but all of us, who teach all of these people to weight train.
Do you have any stories to share regarding the positive impact training has made on the lives of any of your clients?
I have had people start with me that struggled to sit down on the floor and play with their children comfortably who couldn’t squat a bar. Now they’re squatting over 70 kilos, are 5 kilos lighter and go to the gym 3 times a week. And most importantly they’re healthier and happier.
How would you recommend people schedule training around work hours?
Everyone is different. What I do say is that lots of people say they ”don’t have time” when in reality they just don’t want to make time. As humans, we all make time for things we see as a priority or want, you just have to be disciplined and want something enough. Do you think I want to train everyday? I can tell you - no. Some days I wake up, I’m sore, I’m tired, I don’t want to. But it is my discipline that carries me through.
If someone hasn’t trained in a gym before, how would you advise they get involved?
Everyone has to start somewhere. Even if you start with body weight exercises because you’re not strong enough to do any more, that is absolutely fine. Don’t be embarrassed about it. Start with basics. Weight train 100%, but check you have the correct technique. Lots of people don’t think to work on their flexibility to help form. It’s all about developing the basics for the long-term benefits.
What do you enjoy most about training others?
I love people. I love my job. I love watching people grow and get stronger and see results. I love weight training. I love what it can do to the body. And I enjoy seeing others work hard and see the benefits.
Gold, Silver or Bronze? What colour medal are you bringing back from the Commonwealth Games?
Ultimately, I’m always a Gold girl, any athletes will probably say the same, but this is my first Commonwealth Games so I’m not going to lie - a medal of any colour would be an absolutely amazing achievement. I will have been doing weightlifting 3 years this April.
At EMEA Recruitment we understand the importance of networking. Having a strong network is essential in today’s world of quickly evolving work environments. Whether you are seeking a new opportunity, keeping up-to-date with market trends or looking for an opportunity to socialise with like-minded individuals - having a strong network is a vital asset and can be greatly beneficial.
The Benefits of Attending Networking Events
Attending specialised networking events can help you make more impactful connections, and they can be a great opportunity to share career experiences, industry insights and market trends within your chosen profession.
Leverage Your Relationships with Like-Minded People
Dorie Clark, Author and Top 50 Thinker, joined us on an EMEA Recruitment podcast. She offered tips and advice on how to network effectively, emphasizing how using the correct event management techniques can help you leverage your relationships with like-minded people.
Additonally, most of our podcast guests are open to connect with individuals who are looking to expand their networks and discuss trending business topics, such as transformation, digitalisation and business culture.
Utilizing LinkedIn to Grow Your Network
With platforms such as LinkedIn available to use, we would recommend updating your profile to help you stand out from the crowd and build a network. Further advice on how to optimise your LinkedIn profile is widely available. All of our consultants at EMEA have a LinkedIn profile and the platform allows us to grow our business and create mutually beneficial relationships.
EMEA Recruitment Networking Events
EMEA Recruitment look forward to hosting a wide range of networking events in the future. These will take place in both the Netherlands and Switzerland. If you would like any further information on how to attend our events, please contact our Marketing Manager, Rose Jinks. Alternatively, you can follow our company LinkedIn page for upcoming announcements.
Managing Director of EMEA Recruitment, Richard Bailey, reports a positive start to the year for EMEA Recruitment as the number of placements made in January 2018 has more than doubled those made in January 2017.
He stated, ”We are delighted with the successful start to the year which is reflective of the hard work and commitment from our dedicated consultants and the consultative approach they have to both clients and candidates.
2017 saw a 33% increase in the headcount of internal staff at EMEA Recruitment across our Netherlands Finance team, Swiss Procurement team and Swiss HR team and this has certainly been a key contributory factor to our ongoing growth. January 2018 has shown a 68% growth on the same month last year, which is a great indicator to us of an extremely exciting year ahead!”
He went on to say, ”Our growth, has come from a combination of both repeat business with key clients and new business with companies with which we have formed recent relationships. The repeat business is a wonderful confirmation to me as Managing Director that we are providing a quality service which our clients appreciate. Every client and candidate we work with receives feedback questionnaires which are all reviewed by myself. It’s important to continue to learn from our successes and failures to improve our service offering.”
Much of the new business we have acquired is through recommendations, which is by far our preferred way to increase our profile!”
Richard also discussed the current administrative focus for the business: ”EMEA Recruitment are currently working towards implementing all necessary changes to be fully compliant with GDPR guidelines in advance of May 2018. Further communication to both clients and candidates of EMEA Recruitment will happen into 2018. As ‘Confidentiality’ is a core EMEA Value, we intend to become fully compliant as soon as possible.
In addition to ‘Confidentiality’ our core values** are ‘Committed’, ‘Specialists’ and ‘Consultative’. We proactively work to these values, providing ongoing training for our consultants to ensure they are fully up-to-date with market trends and effective recruitment processes. This enables them to provide the best support and advice to our contacts across Switzerland and the Netherlands.”
With both countries leading the way as most globalised nations worldwide in recent reports, and also the ongoing expansion of international business in the Netherlands, these core areas of our business look set to soar over the coming months. Meanwhile, we also continue to work on exclusive and retained assignments elsewhere globally on behalf of our key clients.
Looking forward, finding talented professionals will continue to challenge businesses. Our service to find the best talent is essential for our client’s growth and prosperity. We expect to have a good 2018; we want to grow and offer more services to our clients.
Growth only starts if we continue to build upon the strong team of consultants we have. Finding more good recruiters with values similar to our own is essential for growth, but also challenging, training and rewarding our own staff in a better way (than any of our competition) is even more important for our continued success.
**Since 2018, our core values have changed to reflect a new era of EMEA Recruitment. To read about our new values and how we utilise a people-first approach, please visit our About Us page.
On 12th February 2020, EMEA Recruitment, MERCER and Strategic Dimensions came together at the picturesque Mercer office in London to deliver the 'Empower with Diverse Talent' event, spreading awareness of SheMatters’ mission of diversity and inclusion. To the left, EMEA Recruitment’s Sophie Kelly and Keeley Cunningham respectively, are pictured with She Matters CEO, Christina Moreno and MERCER’s global leader Karen Kacherdoorian.
She Matters is a social enterprise recruitment agency with the mission to change the lives of professional female refugees, in particular engineering, architecture, business services and IT professionals, by placing them in employment. At the event, Christina Moreno explained how many candidates are refugees from war-torn and challenged countries, who are now in the Netherlands looking for meaningful employment. She Matters takes them through a 12 week ‘Lotus Flower’ programme, in which candidates receive career guidance, mentorship and are helped to adapt to working in the Dutch workplace.
The primary purpose of the event was to discuss She Matters’ plans to launch in the UK later this year, and how leading organisations can get involved with the initiative. We’d like to place on record our thanks to Karen Kacherdoorian and MERCER for hosting the event in London and we look forward with excitement to telling you more about our event in Amsterdam soon.
To see more of our events, click here
To find out more about She Matters, visit their website.
On Sunday, the world celebrated International Women’s Day 2020. IWD not only celebrates the achievements of women across the world and the progress being made in terms of improving equality and women’s rights, but also acknowledges the work that still needs to be done for men and women to be completely equal. EMEA Recruitment strive to be at the forefront of this battle for equality, and in our third and final article relating to this year’s IWD, we will summarise the many events and activities EMEA Recruitment have carried out during the past 12 months to support the movement for true equality between men and women.
In May 2019, EMEA, partnered with Heineken and PAiE (Professional Accountants in Europe), hosted the ‘Equality and inclusion in Finance’ on the top floor of the Heineken Experience building in Amsterdam. At the event, CFO of Heineken and Member of the Executive Board, Laurence Debroux, delivered an engaging presentation around the approach and steps that Heineken are taking towards equality and her own experiences of climbing to success in finance. Furthermore, we heard from Susannah Rodgers MBE, British Paralympic swimmer, who is also Young Global Leader with the World Economic Forum. Susie gave us an insight into the determination of an athlete and the transferable performance tools that she finds useful.
Finally, Shana Laurie de Hernandez, Partner and Retail & Consumer Leader for PwC Europe, told us about the Equal Salary certification which is now offered and PwC’s approach to pay fairness. Shana then also lead a group discussion, encouraging attendees to discuss amongst themselves the key attributes are that an inclusive leader should have. Elements such as openness, flexibility, recognition and transparency were discussed as being key.
In September, we joined EF Education First to deliver the 'Equality in Business - Best Practice in Diversity & Inclusion’ event in Zurich, attended by contacts from our network of mid to senior management professionals across Finance, BI & Data, HR, Procurement, Supply Chain and Operations. At this event, we saw talks from Liz Johnson, the British Paralympian gold medalist, Head of Global Diversity & Inclusion at ABB, Alkistis Petropaki, General Manager of Advance, Gender Equality in Business and Marc Secretan, Partner and Inclusion and Diversity Leader at PwC Switzerland.
The large number of attendees was representative of the level of interest in equality and diversity as a topic and discussion, both during the event and throughout networking afterwards, was thought-provoking and heart-felt. We believe that all attendees were able to take something away from this event, from both from the breadth of presentation content and the personal interactions with one another.
”You don't need to find your voice, you already have it, you need to learn to trust it”
In late November, EMEA Recruitment and Stryker Women’s Network hosted the ‘Empowerment through Diversity & Inclusion’ event at Stryker’s European offices in Amsterdam. At this event, we witnessed some wonderfully inspiring speeches from Shana Laurie de Hernandez, Robert Abbott, Melissa Muirhead and Liz Tunley, followed by an opportunity to network and have further discussion afterwards.
Additionally, introductions were delivered by Stefanie Hillen and our co-founder Paul Toms, who outlined the great intentions which people who are passionate about equality and diversity have, but also encouraged people to take action now to truly make a change. In other words, good intentions can not change anything if nobody acts upon them.
Our Final and most recent event to be covered in this article is the She Matters ‘Empower with Diverse Talent’ event. This event was the focus of our IWD related article on Thursday, which can be read here, but we’ll provide a summary below.
She Matters is a social enterprise recruitment agency with the mission to change the lives of professional female refugees, in particular engineering, architecture, business services and IT professionals, by placing them in employment. The main purpose of this event was to discuss She Matters’ launch in the UK later this year, and how organisations can get involved in this initiative.
At the event, co-hosted by EMEA, Mercer and Strategic Dimensions in London, She Matters’ inspirational CEO, Christina Moreno explained how many of their candidates are refugees from war-torn and challenged countries, who are now in the Netherlands looking for meaningful employment and She Matters takes them through an educational mentorship programme which helps them to adapt to working in the Dutch workplace. We look forward with great excitement to continue our support for this important organisation, and we shall be hosting another event with She Matters later this year in Amsterdam.
The last 12 months have been fantastic for EMEA Recruitment; our work with some of the most reputable organisations in the world to hold events such as those outlined above, all with the aim of improving equality and making the workplace a more just and equal place for everyone has been something we are extremely proud of. Moving forward, we’d like to reiterate our commitment to improving equality and we can’t wait to share with you the details of our upcoming events over the next 12 months.
To keep up to date with our upcoming events, visit our events page here.
Want to read more? Read our previous two International Women’s Day articles, including ‘She Matters in Focus’, and our Roundtable discussion between our Managing Director, Richard Bailey, Anna Moizo, Georgia Wright and Emma Feneley, in which they discuss their thoughts and experiences with regards to attitudes towards women in the workplace.
From everyone at EMEA Recruitment, we hope you had a very happy International Women’s Day, and we hope to see you at one of our events soon!
On June 15th 2023, Keely Straw and Cameron Davies held EMEA Recruitment's first Talent Acquisition Roundtable in Switzerland. Keely shares insights into the event below...
The focus was to bring together senior Talent and Recruitment professionals to discuss relevant topics. We had identified that there aren’t many events focused on Talent and Recruitment specifically from a networking perspective.
The event topic was Breaking Barriers: Unveiling Unconscious Bias in Talent Acquisition. In partnership with Swiss Marketplace Group, Oerlikon, we were joined by Talent and Recruitment professionals from companies such as Syngenta, ABB, Takeda, Lonza, Glencore and Julius Baer, to name a few.
The roundtable began with an engaging introduction from Tshidi Khunou at Swiss Marketplace Group and Madlaina Brogt at Lonza, both emphasising the importance of recognising and challenging our unconscious biases, particularly in the context of Talent Acquisition. Their insights set the stage for subsequent discussions and debates - how can we influence hiring managers?
Throughout the event, participants had the opportunity to reflect on their own companies’ biases and gain a deeper understanding of how these biases can influence decision making within the recruitment and selection processes.
We explored a range of topics, including application processes, interview structures, Diversity & Inclusion efforts, influencing hiring managers and ATS/HRIS systems. This brought us nicely onto the topic of AI and how that will impact selection processes moving forwards.
The structure of the event allowed us to have a true discussion, with respectful debates and questions; we truly delved deeper into practical strategies and best practises for unconscious bias within Talent Acquisition.
One highlight of the roundtable was assessing applications and selection processes and the role that plays with unconscious bias, whether it be language capabilities, industry experience, age, or gender. There were some interesting concepts on how to utilise automation scoring techniques for candidates’ applications, which are then forwarded to the designated recruiter to follow up with a screening interview. It was a very interesting process, which provoked a debate on whether that would improve unconscious bias or have a negative impact.
The event concluded with a collective agreement that we could discuss unconscious bias for a lot longer, and that we may need another event to continue the topic. Following feedback from the attendees and local market, we will be focusing our next event on AI - positives, negatives, and whether we should embrace AI within our recruitment processes.
The next Talent Acquisition Roundtable will be held in October. If you are interested in attending, please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
The EMEA Recruitment podcast welcomes guests from across our network and beyond to share their career journeys, advice, and inspirational stories.
We were delighted to welcome Terhi Nori, Global Lead for Project Workstream at ABB, onto the EMEA Recruitment podcast. “We create our own journey and our own story… it’s just a
To celebrate World Menopause Day, we were honoured to welcome back Sally Higham, Director – Head of Talent Attraction at Lonza and Executive Menopause Coach, to the EMEA Recruitment podcast.
We were honoured to welcome Susanne Rothstein, Vice President Finance Hydro Building Systems at Norsk Hydro, onto the EMEA Recruitment podcast. “When I have the opportunity to help young wome
Sébastien Scharl is the Human Resources Director at Conextivity Group (Fischer Connectors and Wearin’) in Switzerland. He started his career in Law, while being a First Lieutenant in the Swiss Armed Forces. Sébastien’s first HR role was as an interim CHRO in the company back in 2021.
What has been your career highlight to date?
I would say the fact of coming from a totally different activity; I was in Law, representing clients in courts of justice. Having the privilege to be asked to replace an HR Director position was a highlight, because it meant that, even if you do not yet have the right skills, the Group trusted me to keep running the business.
After 18 months in that position, the Group proposed the function to me, along with training. This recognition of my involvement for the Group was a highlight, to feel the trust of the Fischer family, and a real honour, when you know that trust is one of the founding values of family-run companies like ours.
I know that you were a company commander in the military at quite an early age. Do you think that experience plays a part in how you approach HR and life in general today, particularly focusing on the CHRO level?
Yes. Switzerland offers you the possibility to have that responsibility, because the country’s system is designed to empower young and motivated people.
I would raise three different elements to answer your question.
Firstly, the military structure, as a corporate company, is an organisation composed of people. Therefore, you need to understand how people behave, what their tasks and their worries are - that’s essential. Even if you are a commander, before making a decision, you really need to understand the reality of your people.
HR also plays a strategic role in understanding people, their roles and responsibilities, and what concerns them. This step back is needed to decide with a pragmatic approach – for me, that’s the first step.
The second element is to be consistent – meaning, doing what you said you’d do. This is very important, so that people can rely on your word. As a young commander or a young lead, your people need to rely on what you state, and you should commit to what you set as a goal, purpose, or action.
The third one would be exemplarity. Of course, when you do what you said you’d do, you need to follow that for others and be an example. This is of course at the heart of any management practice.
You studied Law at university and passed the bar in 2018. How have you found moving from legal counsel to HR to becoming the leader you are today?
It was an interesting transition, because one popular belief is that HR is Legal and that it's easy to switch from one to the other.
That isn’t totally wrong, because there is a legal aspect to HR. But the legal aspects are only a small part of it. Limiting HR activity to the law would be inaccurate.
Legal studies are not the usual route taken by HR professionals. Certainly, studying Law makes you understand the globality of HR compliance quicker, but definitely not the rest: recruitment, people development, compensation and benefits, succession planning, HR strategy, partnership to the business, etc.
For me, moving from Legal to HR in an industrial group was a great experience, because my Legal activity was quite local. Entering into a global business was for me a tremendous change.
Also, by going into HR in Conextivity Group, I’ve been given managerial responsibilities and the opportunity to work with a wide range of people, which I am grateful for. I also experienced that during my military career, and I wanted to repeat this happy experience in a professional environment.
Tell me about Conextivity. The technology group comprises two business activities, Fischer Connectors and Wearin’: What do they do? Who are they? And what growth have you seen over the years?
Conextivity has its roots in Fischer Connectors, a family-owned business founded in 1954. Our nearly 70-year success story began with our founder, an expert in vacuum technology, who invented the world’s first high-quality sealed and hermetic connectors.
Conextivity is the name of the holding company created in 2021 to comprise Fischer Connectors and Wearin’, a start-up created in 2019 to provide IoT (internet of things) solutions that enhance the safety and efficiency of field intervention personnel, such as firefighters, first responders, and lone workers.
So, with the third generation of the family at the helm of the group – Jonathan Brossard as CEO since 2016 and Sabrina Brossard, the granddaughter of the founder, as President of the Board of Directors since 2023 – we envision the future of connectivity with high-performance solutions at the crossroads of micromechanics, electronics, embedded software, cloud and AI.
This new dynamic is proving a success, and growth is the order of the day. Over the last seven years, we have doubled both our revenue and our workforce – today, nearly 700 professionals globally. This speaks volumes about the Human Resources challenges we face, both in terms of attracting and retaining talent with various business expertise.
We’ll come to this specific HR challenge later. You mentioned family in there – what's it like to work for a family-run organisation?
I would say trust, sustainability, and longevity would be the three words that describe working for a family business.
It also means we can personify the family to the organisation. You have access to the family, to the CEO and the Board of Directors, and you can talk very easily to the big decision-makers. That’s not common in big multi-nationals. In our organisation, everyone can reach the CEO and the President at the canteen or during coffee breaks to propose something. Entrepreneurship lies at the centre of our culture.
Can you describe the culture and the values?
Being a community of talented, motivated, and entrepreneurial-orientated people is part of our DNA. We are entrepreneurs in an entrepreneurial company that is family owned. That is key, because our people have the possibility to grow and take responsibility.
For example, this means that if you want to take on more responsibility and you have the skills, the Group develops you, bets on you, and supports you to reach success or to grow. It is essential for us to first promote our people in the company, especially those who have proven their worth over time. The average length of service, which is good in our company, is by the way a revealing indicator of this.
The culture and values here are related to what we’ve been doing for such a long time, with the quality that has made us well-known among the worldwide engineering community. As a full-service provider of connectivity solutions for demanding environments, we cover the entire value chain of connectivity, and that’s where our real values, innovation, and entrepreneurship lie – and our profound sense of responsibility, too. Everybody in our company knows what and who we work for – and is very proud about it.
Our products are both innovative and ultra reliable. That is why they are used in such a variety of rugged applications, in high-reliability organisations and ecosystems, such as hospitals and nuclear power plants, and in high-risk environments, such as military battlefields and crisis zones.
How do you attract people to work for Conextivity and what challenges do you face?
This is an interesting question, because – in the B2B (business to business) market – attracting talented people is harder than in the B2C (business to consumer) market. Firstly, we need to be very clear in making our activity perimeter known. At first sight, it’s not very appealing when you say you’re working in the connectors industry, but when you think about it, connectors are everywhere – and they are critical to make our hyperconnected world and our everyday life work.
So, if you manage to show to your targeted audience of talent how wide the variety of our customer applications and operating environments is, how fascinating the technologies we harness to design and manufacture our products are, and how essential the type of connectivity we deliver is, then you have their attention to explain what kind of purpose they will find in joining us.
We also attract and retain talent by setting an example of promoting people, developing responsibility, and showing the professional evolution of those who contribute to our business. For example, we recently nominated two motivated and talented colleagues for the positions of Finance Director and Marketing & Sales Operations Director. This promotion motivates all of our colleagues and the world outside our company, who can see how we enable our talent to move up the ladder of management responsibility.
Another way to attract talent is simply to demonstrate the dynamic growth that our Group has been experiencing for several years. One of our recruiters' key selling points is that working for us means being part of a successful entrepreneurial adventure, and that we're a family-owned business whose aim is precisely to perpetuate this success.
Who is the most inspiring person in the business world for you?
The most inspiring people doing business would be Michelin star kitchen chefs, because they are first and foremost taste entrepreneurs. They reach excellence and become the best in an activity that humanity shares. Having this capacity to achieve the same level of excellence and inspire their brigade every day is an example for me.
Even more inspiring, the vast majority of chefs have started out by washing the dishes and worked hard for many years before becoming Michelin star chefs – what an exemplary success story!
Are you a good cook in the kitchen?
I love to cook, and I hope my guests enjoy my food. To date, I haven't yet received a negative review on TripAdvisor, but I suspect my guests are being far too polite.
Thank you to Sébastien for speaking to Keely Straw, who manages our Human Resources recruitment team in Switzerland.
Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment.
With 32 years, 11 national and international employers, and 17 roles under his belt to date, Tom Garssen has enjoyed a richly diverse Finance career – one he continues to build on as Netherlands CFO for global market research brand, Ipsos.
We caught up with Tom in Amsterdam to reflect on the pivotal personalities and decisions that have shaped his journey, from the leaders that made an impact on him to the time he took an overnight promotion halfway across the world.
What strategies do you use for developing innovative, diverse teams?
In this tight job market, you have to be creative. The most important thing is getting multi-disciplinary, multi-gender people from different cultural backgrounds – not only focusing on candidates with an economic qualification, but also looking at those from non-Finance fields, such as Psychology or Engineering.
It’s important to get people thinking in different directions. If you only employ individuals from a Finance background, they tend to focus on risks and costs – and that’s not necessarily the best way to encourage innovation or thinking outside the box.
The difficulty is that a lot of the compliance and reporting work is very repetitive, especially in the corporate world, so it can be difficult to find people from a non-Finance background who are truly attracted to that, whether that’s because it’s out of their comfort zone or simply because they see it as a bit boring.
When I’m looking for Finance Controller roles, in particular, I’ll keep an eye out for people who might not have the ideal financial background, but who I think have a broader understanding of the business as a whole. I’ll also look out for talent in those important soft skills – people who’ll be able to make calls, write emails, and chase payments or receipts in a way that reflects well on our brand.
In my experience, if a person is motivated, willing, and analytical, they’ll always be able to learn. And, ultimately, they’ll be more successful too.
Think back to the best manager you’ve ever worked for. What was it you liked about their management style?
Going right back to the late ‘90s when I started at Douwe Egberts, I worked for the CFO of the coffee and tea division. He was so open-minded. Despite having a huge workload with 60 countries to manage, he genuinely wanted to take the time to educate me about the business, how to make financial predictions and, importantly, he allowed me to make my own mistakes.
You learn so much from those kinds of experiences. Even though I was relatively young at the time, he put a lot of trust in me to do things my way and gave me a great balance of coaching and genuine autonomy. It was through him, his teaching, and his belief, that I eventually became a CFO.
What’s the secret to building a strong network?
Number one: you have to be unbiased and meet with people not just from the financial world, but from a huge range of backgrounds. It’s important to be open-minded and humble, too. Not everyone’s going to be interested in your stories – sometimes it’s more useful to stand back and listen to others.
Being socially active in your personal life can be hugely valuable, too – you never know who you’ll meet and where those connections will take you.
What’s the most surprising thing that’s happened in your career?
There have been a few surprises. The most memorable was, again, when I was at Douwe Egberts. They’d acquired a company over in Sao Paulo, so I’d been working on the M&A calculations.
It was late on a Friday afternoon when I got a call from the CFO I mentioned earlier. He said: “Tom, I really want to ask you something. On Monday, I want you to go to Sao Paulo and become the Finance Manager there.” I’d be working alongside their CFO, he told me, and reporting into the Dutch MD.
It probably goes without saying that I needed a minute to think about it – his question came totally out of the blue, a complete surprise. I’d have to get myself a plane ticket and fly out Sunday night – the last thing I’d envisaged as I made my weekend plans earlier that day!
In the end, I said yes, bought my plane ticket, and what started out as a few weeks turned into three months, and three months became a year working in Brazil. The company we acquired had bought a market-leading coffee operation from a large corporation out there, but there was no Finance department, so I had to plan and set up a Budgeting department, then hire and train someone from the local area to take over my role.
It was a huge challenge for me, a great learning experience, and ultimately earned me my first CFO role. Thankfully, my girlfriend at the time (now wife) was very understanding.
How would you define the role of the CFO?
I don’t use the term business partner, rather business coach. You’re a financial sounding board as much as a scorekeeper; you have to be innovative, strategic, and open to new ideas for growth, not always thinking about risk.
On the other hand, you have to be quite strict. It’s up to you to ensure that new ideas are robust enough to add value to the company and, ultimately, to make money. That’s always a challenge, because ideas usually start out quite vague. The skill is being able to make everything more concrete and coach team members to think outside the box, so you can innovate strategically.
Who owns sustainability in the business and how do you involve employees in your vision?
Sustainability is something we take very seriously at Ipsos. We have a board member dedicated to Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG), and she’s supported by an executive committee.
We also have local representatives who are responsible for rolling out ESG in the 20 biggest countries. ESG forms part of the strategy for every one of our service lines, too, and we’ll produce regular reports to ensure we’re continually measuring up against our ambitious sustainability goals.
What is it that makes the Netherlands such a great place to live?
Well, we can agree it’s not the climate! I think it has to be the fact that you can truly be yourself – no matter what your gender identity, sexual orientation, etc., it’s a very free, open-minded, and friendly place to live.
We’re also pretty well organised. And, even though the Netherlands is a small country, we’ve always traded internationally, so it’s a really diverse and inclusive place. Everyone is made to feel welcome – from the cities to the smaller neighbourhoods – and that’s a huge advantage to everyone.
Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment.
Danielle Rainha is the Global CHRO/Board Member at SHV Energy in the Netherlands. She started her Human Resources career at GSK, before moving to BG Group. Danielle joined SHV Energy in 2014 as part of Supergasbras Energia Ltda in Brazil, before moving to the Netherlands in 2022.
I’d love to start by learning more about your career and personal story.
I have been working in Human Resources for more than 20 years and started my career at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). I was hired as an intern, and I spent 13 years there. I would say GSK was the place I built my technical, professional background.
After that, I went to BG Group, now acquired by Shell. I worked there for four years, and I was an HR Business Partner for countries in South America.
Then, I went to a national, family-owned company with over 10,000 employees, and my mission there was to support the company with the IPO. It was an amazing experience to prepare the company and support the improvements of the processes that should be in place.
After that, I joined SHV Energy, where I have been working for almost ten years. I started my journey with the company in 2014 as an HR Director at Supergasbras Energia Ltda. After two to three years, I was invited to go to Makro Atacadista as a CHRO in South America.
Then, a year-and-a-half ago, the company invited me to come to the Netherlands to become the global CHRO for SHV Energy. So, my professional journey has always been in HR. I think HR is something that touches my heart. I truly believe our journey is not about products and services; it’s about people and love. I believe that this passion is something that is a very important energy and fuel to make the company successful.
Personally, I was born in Brazil. My father’s family is from Portugal, and my mother is Brazilian. I have had the experience of working very closely with countries in South America, such as Columbia, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela. I am really proud to have had the opportunity to work with these countries. Now, in a global position, I am very proud that I am learning a lot about the new countries that I am looking after. I can say that I have the job of my dreams: work with people, contribute to their happiness and satisfaction, and relate to different cultures - it is really amazing.
Talking a bit about my purpose in life, and what I was born for, it is about growth and giving or giving and growth. As much as I give, as much as I grow. And as much as I share, as much as I grow – that is my belief. I believe and understand that, worldwide, must be the wave generating and developing growth and passion. Every place I go, I have that with me – give and grow. That is my inner belief.
I was born in Rio de Janeiro. My father was a teacher, and my mother was a secretary. If you were to ask me if I thought I would be in the position I am today, the answer would be no, never. But, for me, it is very important to take opportunities that life can offer to me, and also to bring people together and make them grow with me.
Education was very powerful in my house. Values such as respect, collaboration, and sharing were taught by my parents at home and are still with me today, and still guiding my beliefs, the way that I am, the way I connect with people, and the way I believe I can impact the organisations I work with.
Tell me about the move to the Netherlands. How was that transition?
It has been amazing, but I must confess that, when I received the offer, I was a bit shocked, because I was afraid. I told them it was my dream; it was something that I wanted to happen in my life to live abroad to work in global company. I didn’t have a dream to be the CHRO, but I did have a dream to have a professional experience abroad, so - when the offer came - I was positively surprised.
I have a high motivation to learn, and it is important to me, and I try to spread this belief in every place that I go, with my children (sons), and also to the people that I work with. To be in a senior position in an international company, it was also about representation, Diversity & Inclusion - I am a woman, Brazilian, and a single mother, so people like me can see that they can also grow. That is very powerful.
As I mentioned, I came to the Netherlands with two kids. My youngest was eight years old when we landed and my eldest was 14 years old, so it was a very interesting and powerful experience.
We landed here a year-and-a-half ago, at the end of the pandemic, so it was lockdown. My assignment was going to be in one city, but that changed, and I chose the house I would live in via WhatsApp! I just had to go for it.
I landed in the Netherlands with my two boys and nine pieces of luggage, going to a house that I only saw via WhatsApp. I had to go with my gut feeling - following a bit of intuition is something that can be very powerful.
It was a successful choice; my house is very nice, the location is very good. My children love living here, the freedom, and the country. I can see they are growing very fast and that makes me very happy, and also updates my purpose and why I am here – it’s about me and my relatives, but also the example I can bring to the place that I am in.
As a mother, if your children are happy and settled, that gives you the comfort and the freedom to do your role, which I am sure is intense, but you feel a strong connection and purpose with.
What I try to teach to my kids and when I share my experience, is it’s not just having your values written down; you show values with your behaviour. We are not perfect, we are human beings, and sometimes we have a lot of contradictions inside ourselves. But, if we know ourselves and we have the commitment to be better person every day, why we are here, and why we are doing the things that we do, that is very powerful.
When I talk about values with my children, I try to give powerful examples to them. For example, after we landed in the Netherlands, two months later, I was driving a car and I hit the car behind me. I thought, “How am I going to deal with this, who am I going to call, I don’t know anything…” But the kids asked, “What will we do now?” and I said, “I’m going to park the car and then come back," because the car I hit was parked.
I said we would wait and then have a talk with the owner. I told them, “It’s important to be responsible for our own actions.” So, we stayed there together, waited for the owner, introduced myself, apologised for hitting her car, explained I was new in the city, and asked how we could resolve it together.
I was going to be responsible for everything, because I was the one responsible for the incident. The lady was surprised, because she knew I could have left. I believe in doing the right things and having the commitment to do the right thing, that’s why I am here, and it was a strong example to my children. I say to them, “Be honest and be responsible.”
I learned that from my parents. When I was seven years old, I went to the supermarket with my mother, and I stole a lollipop. I went home and showed it to my mother, saying, “Look, I stole it from the supermarket,” smiling as I said it. My mother came down to my level and looked into my eyes, and she explained to me that we couldn’t steal anything that didn’t belong to us, and we would go back to the supermarket, apologise to the manager, and pay for the lollipop.
So, I went back to the supermarket with her, apologised to the manager myself, and paid for it. It was a very strong example for me and a strong memory. I believe we learn not from explanation, but through the way we behave.
It would be great to hear about the values within SHV Energy and how they come alive. Could you tell us more about that?
At SHV Energy, we have a clear purpose: courage to care for generations to come. We have three elements in our purpose: performance, people, and planet. In most of the meetings that we have, we ask ourselves: did we think about the purpose, have in mind performance, people, and planet, and where we are related to this?
We are a family-owned company, so it’s the courage to care for generations to come, not only for the generations to come for the owners of the company, but the generations to come worldwide and how we can positively impact the world.
We have different kinds of businesses under the SHV umbrella. In SHV Energy, we are leading the energy transition, so how we will impact the world for generations to come. We have been working very closely with all the business units to make it come alive.
When we talk about values, they are very powerful. It’s about integrity, curiosity, passion, trust, and inclusivity. Our values are more than just words; it’s how we bring them alive.
Integrity is having a very strong compliance culture. We have channels, we have learnings, and a strong community we work very hard with to strengthen the compliance commitment and strengthen the values of integrity and trust.
Curiosity is about entrepreneurship. We are a company that believes we have to look at the unusual. We have to look ahead and see what no one else sees. It’s something that motivates us.
Inclusivity is about me, as a woman, a Brazilian, single mother in this role as a CHRO worldwide. It’s much stronger than what you put on the wall; it’s how you show it in an organisation. How you behave is more important than what you say, as I mentioned earlier. Culture is about how you hire people, promote people, etc.
Passion is to put love in everything we do. It’s not about products; it’s about people and love.
For me, it’s an honour and a pleasure to work for SHV. SHV is a company that really connects with my values. I feel respected and recognised. I have had huge opportunities to climb the career ladder in this company, starting from HR Director in Brazil to Global CHRO. I am a concrete example of how much the company invests in me and my career, and has given me opportunities to grow in the company. It’s a very special company; every day, I am sure I am in the right place, doing the right thing.
It’s quite a responsibility to work for a business that focuses so much on the next generation.
I think we work very hard to take care of our people and to make smart decisions that positively impact the work we are doing.
For example, in our head office, we have more than 30 nationalities. It is very international, with different mindsets and cultures. It is a rich place to be and learn. As leaders, we have to be able to look at ourselves and have a growth mindset – a mindset of improving ourselves.
In SHV, I have the opportunity to improve myself every day. In every meeting I participate in, all the interactions, it’s always a great opportunity to grow and learn.
You obviously have a very strong sense of belonging and connection with the business. How would you say you create that sense of belonging for the wider workforce?
We are quite decentralised, so we don’t have a big head office that centralised everything. I have 21 business units, 21 HR Directors, and only eight people in my head office - two people in charge of different specialisms in HR. That means a lot has been done by the business units.
What is aligned and what we have as a common understanding is our purpose, values, culture, and leadership. We have some rituals as an HR community; we meet twice a year to share best practices and build things together. We have an HR community to learn from each other and share what we have been doing.
We have four strategic projects. In these projects, we have an opportunity to work together to deliver a better experience to our employees. One of those projects is related to leadership. The second is about employee value proposition (EVP) from a local and global perspective.
The third is about data analytics and how we can improve the quality of data, make decisions based on data, and how we can create this culture in our organisation.
The fourth is about building capabilities; looking at our strategy, business, and what capabilities are required for our business. To understand capabilities broadly comprises tools, processes, and competencies – looking at the people and what we are missing, the knowledge we can enhance in the organisation, and leveraging knowledge sharing in our teams.
With these four strategic projects, we have the commitment of working together to apply the product of these projects to other business units.
Was there ever a different career path if it wasn’t HR that might have been interesting?
No, I love working with HR, I love human beings. I love to study psychology, coaching, and mentorship. I truly believe in people development. I think we can learn everything our mind can acquire, meaning if you understand it exists and you believe it is possible to learn, then it is possible.
I think I was born to work in HR. My goal is to be a business leader, to help my colleagues and influence them to make good decisions about the business, taking into account the effect on people.
When you have happy people in your work environment, that can impact your profit and loss (P&L). Happy people will make customers happy and send a positive wave worldwide.
I think everyone understands that people is not a subject that belongs to HR; people is a strategy and subject that has to be integrated into all parts of the organisation.
Is there anyone who really stood out to you as being inspiring or anyone who has helped contribute to your success and where you are today?
I am a lucky person, as I have had the opportunity to work with very inspiring leaders. Since the beginning of my career, I have had the opportunity to work with different people and different profiles.
I can share one small experience. When I was at GSK, I had my first son, and I received a letter of my first promotion as a manager when I was at the maternity hospital, which is very meaningful. I went to the hospital to have my baby, and my promotion letter arrived together with my baby – it’s very symbolic.
It was an important message; you can have a baby and climb the career ladder. You can do both together.
I’ve had leaders who were so generous with their knowledge to help me understand the business and develop myself. Also, I am very lucky to have worked with amazing teams, very good people, with very good potential, and high talent - they fly.
I am very proud of the people I have worked with who are in very special positions today. They have climbed the career ladder and are remarkable professionals.
For people who are early in their HR career, is there any advice you would pass on to them that has been helpful for you and had an impact on how your career has developed?
The first thing you should do is know yourself. Leverage your level of self-awareness, know who you are, what you like and what you don’t like, embrace your vulnerability, and don’t pretend you know everything, because you don’t - you need people to connect with you. So, please be aware of yourself, who you are, and where you’d like to be.
The second tip would be to take the opportunity, take the risk, don’t be afraid – go, go, go!
The third one is to be generous with your colleagues and the people around you. Connect with them and share as much as possible, because when you share, you grow.
Thank you to Danielle for speaking to Katie Insley, Associate Director in our Human Resources 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.
Mario Della Casa is the Chief Operating Officer at Medartis in Basel, Switzerland. He started his career in Italy, before moving to Switzerland in 2007. Mario has since worked for Johnson & Johnson, Stryker, and Invacare Europe.
How would you define the role of Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Medartis?
As COO at Medartis, I am responsible for the end-to-end supply chain activities, from strategic sourcing to manufacturing, supply chain management, and global quality.
Medartis is a growth-focused company, so the main objective of my role is to ensure that our supply chain can cope with double-digit growth, while achieving effective management of costs and capital.
What is a memorable moment from your career and why?
I have many, and I had the privilege to have many experiences in several companies. I still remember many achievements, but also big mistakes. However, looking back now, both achievements and mistakes allowed me to grow and learn.
If I need to pick one single event, I will never forget the call that I got from one of my former CEOs years ago when I decided to leave the company for another opportunity. It was the greatest possible recognition of my work, but also a big lesson in leadership.
What excites you about working for Medartis?
Working in the medical devices industry is a privilege, as your work is connected with the purpose of improving the lives of other people. In addition, Medartis is a very innovative and dynamic company.
I like the speed in decision making and the focus on making sure that the supply chain supports the double-digit growth of the company. The combination of high dynamic, speed, and growth creates a highly engaged environment and committed teams.
What sustainability challenges does your organisation face?
Similar to many manufacturers, we are asked to reduce our carbon footprint and reduce the waste of the packaging of our products. Medartis is well set up in this regard, as we already have a very low carbon footprint in our manufacturing, thanks especially to the utilisation of fully renewable energy.
How can leaders create diverse teams?
There are many ways to create diversity, and education, gender, and age are important differentiators. When setting up a team, I rely on the Gallup StrengthsFinder to assess the diversity of my team in terms of strengths and create the so-called team blend.
This allows us to quickly assess the 34 traits and classify them into four main dimensions: strategy, execution, influence, and relation.
I then make sure that my team knows the characteristics of the group and, most importantly, I select new hires based on the traits that are missing to create more diversity in the team. Currently, for example, I am focusing on increasing the execution and relation skills through new hires.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders?
Be clear about your personal objectives, including your professional ones. This will help you to set the course of your journey. A lot of the people I ask this question cannot answer it properly.
But, if you can’t, how can you decide the next steps in terms of career and development?
I had the privilege of having clarity on my target since the beginning of my career. I have wanted to become a Plant Manager since I started working. This helped me a lot to make the right choices and make the journey I needed through different experiences in lean, materials management, and production management.
At the age of 38, I took over a 600-employee plant. At 45, I had multi-plant responsibility, which I never thought I could achieve.
Also, choose your boss - I learnt leadership from my best managers, not from books. Especially in the early stages of your career, this is an important key to your success. Nevertheless, keep your authenticity - do not try to be someone else other than yourself.
Furthermore, manage yourself with high discipline, especially for time management. You need to master this skill; you will profit from high efficiency and effective execution. You cannot manage others if you cannot manage yourself first.
Finally, know yourself - the strengths that you should further improve and will make you successful, but also the blind spots that you need to mitigate.
Switzerland offers a high quality of life and has a lot to offer. Many people who come to Switzerland never want to leave again. If you come from abroad, I suggest you live close to one of the bigger towns, as life in the country doesn’t offer a lot of entertainment.
What is your favourite motto/quote and why?
“Make it happen” – I like me and my team to be focused on changes and improvement. I value focus, speed, and perseverance as important skills to execute successfully and to make a difference.
Nashaat Salman is the Director of Global Manufacturing Strategy & Quality at Hitachi in Switzerland. He started his career with ABB in 2000, where he worked for almost 20 years. He joined Hitachi in 2020.
How does your global role at Hitachi Group contribute to the overseas transformation and what sustainability challenges does your organisation face?
Hitachi Group has been undergoing an unprecedented transformation in recent years, moving from a Japan-centric manufacturing portfolio into a global player in green and digital transition, with the aim of becoming a global leader in the social innovation business.
Portfolio transformation drastically globalised Hitachi’s business and required the group to set up global teams to create a sustainable management structure, and to enable the global rollout of diverse businesses and initiatives by working as “One Hitachi” in the various fields related to three global trends: green, digital, and connectivity.
The key to achieving Hitachi’s goal is the growth of our social innovation business, which provides solutions for social and customer challenges through co-creation with various partners by leveraging information technology and operational technology with superior and high-quality products and Lumada (Hitachi’s advanced digital solutions, services, and technologies for turning data into insights to drive digital innovation).
Within the Manufacturing Strategy division, we work on applying these solutions - starting with our core business and production sites - so that we support testing and showcasing those innovative solutions within our core manufacturing footprint. We also put high emphasis on exploiting any possible synergies, as well as cross-sharing of expertise and technologies across our sectors and business units.
As for sustainability, Hitachi puts great emphasis on environmental challenges and the wellbeing of people. The transition to green is perhaps the greatest global shift and Hitachi is embracing this unparalleled challenge as an opportunity. Aiming to become a climate change innovator, Hitachi has developed a green strategy that comprises the two transformation pillars of “GX for CORE” and “GX for GROWTH”.
While Hitachi’s portfolio is well positioned to contribute to the realisation of a carbon-neutral society, we still have homework to do, as we have pledged to move to a 100% carbon-neutral footprint of all our manufacturing sites and facilities by 2030.
The key contribution of our manufacturing and production design is within the GX for CORE pillar. In addition to decarbonisation, energy saving, and applying eco-design for newly developed products, we are promoting sustainable recycling across our own operations. Contributing to a circular economy is a key area that we address.
What strategies do you use for developing innovative, diverse teams?
Hitachi now has more than 300,000 talented employees around the world, with diverse languages and backgrounds, and even with different approaches to doing business, but sharing a common determination to contribute to society and to people’s happiness.
We believe that such diversity fosters an environment of innovation. We would like our teams to be enabled to appreciate such a diverse global network. I personally believe in the power of network leadership.
Our teams are encouraged to go far beyond traditional inward-looking and autocratic hierarchal management. This would also require the workforce groups that have no access to resources to manage the hierarchal barrier. They are encouraged to utilise the global network within the group to initiate collaborative action, share skills and knowledge, and bring connectedness to diverse mass under a “One Hitachi” spirit.
64% of companies are still at an early stage of digital transformation.
Think back to the best manager you’ve ever worked for. What did you like about the person’s management style?
It’s hard to pick a star leader that alone stands out. In fact, all the previous business leads and line managers have had some kind of positive impact, but the teams I have worked with have had the most influence.
I have been inspired by leaders and peers who empower and develop their teams, encourage them to explore, and to go and play beyond their comfort zone, while remaining resilient. That brings me back to the very early stages of my career, when an inspiring well-known quote was shared by a senior colleague of mine: “20 years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
How do you relax outside of work?
Spending quality time with my two daughters has always been a cherished escape from the demands of everyday life. The joy of watching them grow, explore, and learn fills my heart with happiness.
However, one of the most fulfilling aspects of our time together is our shared love for music. In fact, not many of my colleagues are aware, but in my spare time, I find joy and escapism in the art of music composition and orchestration.
Be agile and ensure you have the soft skills to adapt to change – to quote Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
The ability to adapt and evolve is not just a skill; it's a cornerstone of success. Supply chains are continuously reshaped by technological advancements, global shifts, and unforeseen challenges.
Stay curious and committed to lifelong learning. Life is a journey of continuous exploration and progressive development. Keep playing until you get it right.
What is the one book or podcast you would recommend to all?
It’s difficult to pick just one, but let me recommend the latest book I read, which I received as a present from a colleague of mine: Our Iceberg is Melting by John Kotter. A complex topic like change management is told in a simple story.
Finally, what are the three challenges ahead for you as Director of Global Manufacturing Strategy & Quality?
David Peters is the Chief Financial Officer at Cerba Research in Rotterdam. He started his Finance career in Audit at EY, before being CFO at several businesses in the Netherlands, including Greetz, Land Life, and Coyote Logistics.
What risks have you taken throughout your career and how did they help you get to the level you are at?
Generally, Finance and risk do not go hand-in-hand, but I have taken some risks in my career. I started in auditing at EY, but I quickly concluded that auditing wasn’t for me. So, when the opportunity arose, I decided to join a start-up.
I remember people around me were surprised I was leaving a well-established company with a planned-out career path to instead join a company that can go up, but also potentially go down. It was a leap of faith.
In general, and in a strong sense, I like to stay in the driver’s seat and be in control of the steps I take where possible. It also may be a bit counterintuitive to be in Finance and be very rational, but I do listen to my gut feeling when something feels right and, in that case, it did. That has happened on a couple of occasions.
Moving from EY to a scale-up is the ultimate learning curve; if you’re in a large multi-national company, it’s established, and the structure is in place. You’re almost moving onto the opposite challenge.
There were a couple of things. Firstly, the fixed career path at EY didn’t appeal to me at the time and I wanted more speed and a faster dynamic. I found that in the company I joined.
We were closing venture capital rounds within the year after I joined, expanded internationally, and built the team. I also was given a lot of opportunities and a steep learning curve I don’t think I would have received anywhere else.
The basic Finance premise is high risk, high return - and that definitely happened there.
How did you plan the development of your career and what was your thought process?
If I’m being completely transparent, I didn’t have a career path laid out, but it was clear that it was going to be in Finance, starting in secondary school.
However, I have made some specific choices, like leaving auditing. But also, the decision I made a couple of years ago to continue my career at larger, international, and more corporate environments, like Coyote Logistics and now Cerba Research.
I have also been involved with companies with a focus on sustainability, which sparked my interest in the field. I try to apply this in the companies I work at, but I have also continued to advise start-ups and scale-ups in the field of sustainability on how they can establish themselves and create a viable business.
Ultimately, the type of companies I click with are fast growing, highly dynamic, and a lot needs to happen in a short period of time. That appeals to me.
How do you feel digitalisation and transformation has changed your role/the role of Finance?
On a meta level, it has changed and is changing the Finance profession from a transactional role to a much more value-adding role in the business, which can be on different levels.
I think the Finance profession is evolving from recurring routine work to much more specialised. It can be as simple as adding robotics to ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems and removing some of the routine work to free up the team for other things.
On the other hand, it can be more sophisticated in terms of predictive analytics, taking financial and non-financial indicators to come up with an accurate forecast for the business.
My CEO says forecasting is both a science and an art. You need to be creative to identify which information is in fact relevant. I think Finance professionals starting out now need to be very tech-savvy. In my role, I need to continually learn and develop to be at the forefront of what is possible.
Do you attend events to keep your learning up to date? EMEA Recruitment runs a number of events to engage with our network and share ideas.
I do try to attend events to broaden my horizon and to get outside in views on other industries. Finance can be a bit of a solitary position, so it’s good to have sparring partners and be surrounded by like-minded individuals doing similar things, in a similar company, or at a similar growth stage.
Also, things like roundtables, knowledge sharing events, webinars. During COVID, they became very prevalent and accessible, because you didn’t need to travel. It’s important for Finance to focus outward, gain knowledge, and then bring that into a company.
In your opinion, what do you believe are the drivers of changes experienced in the employment market in the Netherlands?
So much has changed. One of my personal observations is that the generation before me used to work for a company for ten-plus years – and, in some cases, their whole life. But, nowadays, it’s much more common and acceptable to have shorter stints at a company.
Before, that was a bit more frowned upon. Today, you still need a solid story, but it’s generally more accepted.
However, on the flip side, if a person has been at one company for so long, it’s hard to know how well that person will deal with change, their adaptability to new environments, and their agility. It’s now a case of how committed that person is versus someone who doesn’t switch – how agile are they?
I also remember recruiting ten to 12 years ago. There was a clear distinction between a contractor and people you would hire as an employee. Nowadays, it’s much more acceptable to say, “I did freelance work and want to be employed again,” or the other way around.
Also, the gap between being a contractor and being an employee has closed a bit. Companies, especially in the tech sector, are much more mindful of making sure the benefits of being an employee outweigh the benefits of being self-employed.
The last topic I have seen – further developed by COVID – is the blurred line between work-life balance. I say to the people in my team, “I am flexible as an employer, and I expect a certain level of flexibility from my employees.” I have confidence in my team and flexibility is important.
The downside is you can work 24/7, because you’re always on. On a personal level, I try to be mindful of that. When I am with my family and children, I am present. When I am at work, I am fully engaged in my work.
There was a company I worked for during the pandemic that was very traditional about being in the office five days a week. They completely changed overnight, and I was blown away by the flexibility to change so quickly. That, to me, is a big benefit and has shown it is actually possible.
What was the best/worst interview experience you have had?
The best interview experience I had was at Sonos. I was interviewed there for a Finance job, and the entire process was completely streamlined and perfectly executed. They gave me a full demo of their products, and everyone was very engaged and prepared. In a way, they really expressed their company culture and their way of working during the interview.
It was good to take someone who would be working in Finance and not necessarily with the product, and really make the interviewee part of the DNA of the company and what they are driven by.
A not-so-good example is when the interviewer isn’t on time, not prepared, or doesn’t really engage the interviewee; as a candidate, I don’t feel appreciated.
Another good example - and I really took this away with me - was at Coyote Logistics. They took the process very seriously. They gave me a business case as a last round to prepare and discuss with my direct manager and the people I would work closely with. It takes time to prepare from my end, and it takes time from them to sit through the case and ask questions. Overall, it was a positive experience.
I have done that with candidates myself and it can completely change the perspective you have on a candidate – someone can be a good talker, but then doing, conveying, and presenting your message is a separate skill.
What are the challenges that await your business?
Cerba Research is experiencing immense growth, both organically and non-organically. We have a growing number of companies worldwide, some wholly owned, some as joint ventures, forming a significant and complex group.
There is still some work to do here - driving efficiency and harmony across multiple entities and continents, transforming a science-based, and very conservative business, making sure it’s ready for a digital way of working. All this while growing rapidly.
The key challenge is to combine running the businesses on one hand, transforming it on the same hand, and - parallel to that - not losing track of the fundamentals.
Other challenges surround keeping the team engaged and informing them of changes, gaining feedback from them, and making them feel heard and part of the transformation process – that’s generally what we are going through.
Being business-specific, the clinical trial landscape is evolving more rapidly than ever and COVID was a big driver. Everything that is going on in the world creates pressure on the global pharmaceutical supply chain; there is globalisation, decentralisation, personalisation, and it’s extremely data driven. Taking that data and making trials much more efficient is really playing a role, making it incredibly interesting.
Clinical trials, as we know them today, have been running for over 60 years, but now we are in the middle of a digital revolution.
What is your favourite business motto and why?
It’s not a business motto, per se, and I have used it on other occasions, but it is: “He who wants to fly one day must first learn how to stand, and walk, and run, climb and dance, as you cannot fly into flying.”
My interpretation of that it is key to ensure you have a solid foundation in place before you start building, and - as I am experiencing now - it is a continuous cycle. That’s what I find interesting in a fast-growing business. When you lay a foundation, you build on it, then you need to reassess it, because you’re becoming too big.
For example, in very practical system selection, a simple bookkeeping system may get you up to 100 employees, but - at a certain stage - you need to migrate to something bigger and repeat the process as you grow. That continuous cycle is very energising to me.