What was your first project?
My first assignment was with the HR Business Partners responsible for global functions in more than 90 different countries – that includes about 15,000 employees! One of my major projects was on our annual scorecards. We worked with the global function heads and controllers to review key performance indicators from the previous year – which define bonus payouts – and then use these to set the objectives for the year ahead.
What was your strategy?
Ask questions, make mistakes, question the way we do things, seek out support, smile and keep breathing! It was my first project, so I was still learning about the organization as a whole. It felt overwhelming at times, but there was always a lot of support – from my supervisor, my manager, the project lead and everyone else on the team. The philosophy at ABB is "It begins with you". People really live that – if you are doing your best, others will take time out to support you.
Can you see the impact of what you do?
Absolutely! I used to work in the financial sector, where I enjoyed working with customers but I could not identify with the products. Then I joined ABB’s Global Trainee Program for HR. It is very different here. Our goal is to use technology to create a better future for people and our planet. I am very proud to be part of that journey.
Big impact requires millions of small actions. It is important to remember that, to take pride in the small successes along the way, as they all have an impact. For example, after a workshop we had called "What will HR look like in 2030?" I worked with another trainee on a new way to network in Germany. It is called "lunch roulette" and involves having lunch with someone in the business you have never met before. It can inspire new ideas, deepen your understanding of the business, dramatically expand your network, change your outlook, and inspire you to try something new. It’s amazing how something that simple can be so powerful.
How about mentoring?
That is one of the things that’s impressed me most here. My mentor, Elena, is great and I really appreciate her dedication. We meet every two weeks for a learning session, or formal discussion about key issues - like how to make an impact, personal growth, stress management and project management.
Mentoring at ABB does not just happen in formal relationships. If there are specific questions you have or issues you want to explore, you ask around until you find an expert and ask for a quick meeting. Everyone is really open to share their thoughts and ideas.
During the assignment in Zurich, you also have the opportunity to have lunch with members of the senior leadership team, like the CEO, the CFO, CHRM and business leaders. They will spend an hour or an hour and a half with you talking about their career, their work, key initiatives and what you want to achieve. I met them all again when ABB Formula E came to race in Zurich, as ABB sponsors the championship. The technology is seriously inspirational and great for raising awareness about the huge challenge of switching to sustainable transport.
Is there a strong sense of purpose at ABB?
ABB has a clear agenda for environmental and social change. Did you know that nearly 60 percent of people in sub-Saharan Africa have no access to electricity, for example? What does that mean for education? For women who want to work? Tackling challenges like these attracts people who want to make the world a better place. Whatever you do here, even if you’re not on the frontline, you know your work will count toward the big goals.
Safety and integrity are at the heart of how we work: We do not accept business if it means putting people at risk, or engaging in unethical practices. Listening to our new Global Head of Government Relations recently, it was absolutely clear that each of us is expected to call out behavior that might compromise someone’s health or well-being or that might jeopardize their career or the reputation of the company. This culture of safety and integrity is really important for me, and allows me to be proud of the company I work for.
What about work/life balance?
We all work hard, but you are expected to have a life too. I sat next to the Chief Financial Officer at lunch one day and asked his advice. If I am honest, I was expecting something pretty hard-nosed. But you know what he said? Make sure you spend enough time each week focusing on yourself, your friends and family, your hobbies… it will fill your tank, boost your productivity, and make you happier when you are at work.
For me, that is what diversity is actually all about. Many people focus in on gender or ethnicity and that is important. But diversity is also about family background, personal interests and attitudes – the whole package. If you are surrounded by smart, qualified people, from a variety of social and cultural backgrounds, the more robust your output will be - and the more fun you will have working together! I had heard this theory when I was studying. Now I am experiencing it for myself.
What is next?
I am now in Germany on my second assignment, learning how global HR processes and focus areas integrate at the country level. I am in our Power Grids business, working on an external recruiting initiative and developing the employer brand for our sales network. After that, I am moving to our Global Business Services team in Bangalore, India, for my third assignment.
I have worked with many of the colleagues already virtually, and I cannot wait to meet them in person. There is still so much to learn!