I had worked in commercial roles in the pharmaceutical industry for nearly 20 years. My most recent post was with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in London, where I spent a lot of time doing research behind the sales process. I engaged in exploration of patient behaviours, measuring what they did and did not know about specific diseases or medical conditions, etc. I was part of a customer experience (CX) team that explored patients‘ treatment journeys: from diagnosis to treatment on to how patients handle the emotional and rational aspects of treating their
In early 2014 I learned that my position at GSK would be cancelled based on an internal decision to downsize some operations. However, I didn’t take this news in a negative way. I had just under a year to plan a transition and was certain that I would find a suitable job from among multiple internal roles that GSK had open at the time. Ultimately though, after submitting several applications, the right job match just wasn’t there.
So I took this opportunity to do some thinking and deep reflection on what I wanted to do during the next 20-25 years of my life. Did I want to be self-employed or go the consultant route? Did I want to stay in pharma or move to another industry? Essentially, I used this moment to carry out a detailed self-evaluation of my professional skills and experiences.
Everyone approaches analytical and developmental processes differently. I tend to engage in brain-storming-type assessments. So, once I understood that I would have to look for a new position outside GSK, I went to work making mind maps. I outlined all my skills and experience; focusing particularly on what type of jobs or roles I might find where I could make a true difference for customers and the given organization. With support from my family, I took a month to specify and define that direction of my job inquiry, i.e. what I really wanted to do in the next phase of my professional life. I also took advantage of outplacement support programs arranged by GSK and enrolled in one of their coaching programs. This included one-hour sessions with a professional coach every 3-4- weeks, which gave me important insight into how recruitment processes currently work, how to edit and improve my CV, how to write effective letters to HR departments and how to conduct impactful job interviews. The GSK-arranged support programs also provided other invaluable input that later helped in my job search: lessons in reputation management, using LinkedIn as part of the search process, etc. During the 9-month period for the redundancy package provided by GSK, I even had options to work with counsellors on analysing the pros and cons of corporate vs. self-employment.
For me, the entire transition process lasted 7 months. However, these were seven months full of intense work and development of my personal job search tools. During that time, I sent out 35 applications for positions, where I thought I was a suitable candidate (i.e. roles in commercial sales, medical positions or CX-facing functions). I was strongly interested in jobs, where I could add value and make a real difference. Ultimately, I only interviewed for 5 jobs and got offers for 3 positions; and I used this process – specifically following up on rejections to job applications – to collect insight from various companies. I wanted to learn why my application was passed over or did not move forward. This helped me improve my approach to companies in subsequent applications.
In April 2014, I was contacted by the UK offices of the pharma company, Teva. This was the start of an interesting, professionally-executed interview process that ran for roughly two months, and during which I learned that the roles we envision for ourselves can sometimes be different from those where we can truly succeed. For example, I applied for a role in the UK, but Teva recruiters told me they had a role for me in Amsterdam. Yet ultimately, I didn’t end up in that second role, but rather a third (new) position in their Amsterdam offices. The role was my dream job: one where I got to work in a patient support program, while using my skills in behavioural and economic analysis.
Now I am in a situation where I commute between London and Amsterdam, since my family remained in the UK (due to my wife’s career and our having children still in school). I have been lucky that my family is so open and flexible as regards my career change. Also, I work with a very supportive line manager in my new job, which has helped me better deal with spending time between two cities. Needless to say, the reality of commutes is much different from what it seems to be on paper or how we tend to initially imagine it. Yet, I now have my dream job and I wouldn’t change that for anything in the world.
Improve your self-awareness: the transition period allowed me to think not only about what I wanted to achieve in my future professional life, but also about what was/is my maximum future value for employers. I did my best to set up a professional structure for managing the entire application process: noting which companies had received my CV and reassessing where it made sense to follow-up and push for an interview, etc.
Bring clarity to your professional experience: one drawback that surprised me during the search process was the breadth of my personal experience. When asking for feedback from different HR departments and recruiters, they told me they found my professional experience in multiple fields confusing. They asked why I hadn’t chosen to focus on a specific area? Why had I seemingly dabbled in a little bit of everything? This led me to re-focus my CV writing and underscore how different skills or tasks served to fit a specific mission.
Start your job search early in redundancy situations: one lesson that became evident to me quickly in my search process was that I should have begun looking at external positions sooner. In some cases, there are options for internal transitions with your current employer, but this should not be taken as a given.
Understand job search as a learning process: for me personally, doing research and reading books on professional development and even industry trends were critical parts of my transition. I committed myself to not just researching what roles were available, but also to investigating the day-to-day tasks and skills needed for specific positions. At this point in my career, I didn’t want just a job, but a great job! Additionally, I read a number of books on the importance of timing in the job search process.
Learn how to speak impactfully: since many interviews are conducted over the phone or on Skype, I found it very valuable to have consultations with a speech expert. She provided me with great tips on how to speak clearly and with confidence, which words to use, which words to avoid and how to sound authentic. I found this really important for making the right impression over the phone or on Skype.
SpenglerFox wraps up the summer with discussions on talent motivation and agility with clients in the Czech Republic On Thursday, 30 August, SpenglerFox consultants led by Michal Vajskebr met with between 20-30 of the firm’s top clients in Prague to wrap up the summer holidays with some good food and drink and exciting discussions. The event took place in the Černá labuť (Black Swan) Gallery with its splendid view of parts of Prague's Old Town and Letná Hill. The main draw for the event was two very successful and interesting speakers, who came to share their experiences in executive leadership teams throughout the region. The topic of the evening was how to inspire and motivate good talent with a focus on retention. The expert discussion panel, moderated by Michal Vajskebr, included Martin Horčička, COO at Wüstenrot and Ján Čarný, managing director at COFACE. Comments by the panelists led to some interesting discussions and delivery of insights on what attendees’ personal leadership experiences and challenges they faced in the past taught them about team-building and motivating managers to perform. Martin Horčička (Wüstenrot): Martin’s experience is specific in that he has done a lot of interim management consultancy and worked in teams where he was brought in to manage a business turn around. His biggest challenges related to building and nurturing trust among members of the teams he managed. He pointed out in his remarks that the best first step, when new to a leadership situation, is to find the commonalities that you have with your team; specifically, when working in multicultural environments. One issue that Martin pointed out is that many managers, workers, team leaders, etc. are looking for a higher purpose in their day-to-day jobs. They want to be part of something bigger. He noted that when discussing difficult operational changes with teams he led in Western Europe, there was greater comprehension and respect from his employees once he convinced them he shared their concerns and passion for the future of the company. He noted that during his time in Belgium, the workers in the team he led had a personal investment, feeling-wise, in the company they worked for and wanted to ensure its viable future. Martin pointed out that one way to involve team members and secure their commitment to business plans was to seek their input in defining the company's business strategy. On the executive leadership side, he recommended taking the time to evaluate managerial talent and measure their personal investment in or commitment to the company vision or strategy. He noted that team members are more likely to deliver better results when they know they are trusted and company leadership is willing to give them the freedom to be creative. He underscored the need for executive leaders to foster constant dialogue with their managers and team members: help your talent understand there is no shame in asking question or seeking assistance. You'll be surprised at the results you can achieve when you set talent free to be creative and engage. Ján Čárny (COFACE): in his opening remarks, Ján reiterated Martin's comments that people really should like their work. He noted that local and regional markets have evolved quite a lot since his first years working in the Czech Republic in the investment banking industry. He pointed out that during that time most business leaders in Central Europe had yet to come across the concepts of corporate vision or company mission. Ján mentioned that, for him personally, one of the key motivators for excelling at work is the challenge that a given job or assignment poses. He had worked on finance-related projects on the Czech market, but then moved on to take on regional roles in Poland and later Ukraine. He noted that managing teams in diverse markets in the CEE region was fulfilling for him, because he got to see how corporate structures function in other regional markets. He also had the opportunity to contrast leadership roles in corporate vs. more family-style businesses. Over the years and across various national teams, Ján has come to see understanding of a company's business model as being mission-critical. He is constantly speaking with managers and their team members to find out what they do and why. He noted that problems most often arise when people do not understand their role in the business. It is important that executive leadership support teams in the creative aspects of defining and implementing business plans: executives should empower their teams by saying what to do, the team then says how to do it. Remarks from the two main speakers were followed by contributions from local and regional business leaders contributing to an open discussion forum. Some key points raised included the following: it’s important for executives to assess and define what existing operational systems work and not just pursue slash-and-burn policies (what to keep vs. what to discard); executive leadership increasingly appreciates how value for the company was achieved over the mere creation of value (teams should achieve results based on honest, transparent business plans); observe your talent, especially among younger generations, and find a way to balance their need to create and achieve with the results your company needs to deliver; focus on inter-personal relationships and building trust and mutual respect among your employees (corporate life produces a lot of unforeseen and sometimes unpleasant situations; you may perhaps have to fire your colleagues but, with politeness and respect, you can nurture those relationships and build new ties in the future); foster an environment that supports openness, honesty and authenticity (even regional cultures that have a tradition of operating based on 1:1 or closed-door meetings can be rebuilt). For further information please contact Michal Vajskebr. Image : Pixabay
Even though the Middle East emerged much later than Europe and the US on the international business scene, numerous conglomerates and multinational companies have established some kind of a set-up in the region. Attracted by the promising growth potential, many multinationals have built large local and regional teams in the main cities such as Istanbul, Cairo, Dubai, Casablanca or Riyadh. Just like anywhere else on the planet, the progress of telecommunication, the increasing interconnectivity of cities by plane and the hiring of the first millennials, have shaken the established organizations to their core. Working space is expected to be friendly of modern design and even a place where you can have fun in. Permanent email and phone connectivity blurs the boundaries between home and work space. Businesses in the region are now challenging the traditional office space, where employees worked a rigid 9am to 6pm shift sitting at their desk. Video conferencing, informal meetings, and work on a project-basis require additional facilities. One of the growing trends in the Middle East, which is gaining popularity day by day, is the flexibility for employees to work from home. Some of the cities in the region, more particularly Istanbul and Cairo, face horrendous traffic. It is not unusual for employees to spend 3 to 4 hours a day commuting. It is thus no surprise that home-office flexibility becomes as important as remuneration, benefits and job content, when it comes to attracting or retaining talent. In the recent years, multinationals have started to adopt an open space set-up to reflect their values of transparency and teamwork. Directors and Managers are now invited to join their teams in an open space. Meeting rooms offer the required confidentiality for conferences and sensitive conversations. This is sometimes hard to digest in a region where a private office stands for position and status. An even more advanced form of this trend is desk-sharing. The idea came as a solution to reducing office costs, which may well be the second largest expenditure after payroll, while desks are often underutilised. Consultancy firms whose teams often spend most of their time at client sites, lead that initiative, which enabled them to improve their P&L significantly. Newly-founded businesses are early adopters of nomadic work habits. Co-working is booming in cities like Dubai, a hub for regional start-ups. Flexible desks and meeting areas are offered by well-known global players in flexible workspace solutions, however independent co-working spaces are flourishing. Even the government-managed free-zones are now offering workspace to newly registered companies. This whitepaper attempts to highlight trends on the workspace evolution in the Middle East region, and how the latter impacts on international businesses. We believe the best way to explore these trends would be through testimonies of people that have led and/or coordinated their implementation in their business environment. We selected key note speakers, each one representing one of four key markets in the region: Dubai, Egypt, Turkey and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia(KSA) and asked them the same questions for consistency. We hope that our exercise will provide you with interesting insights and perhaps some food for thought. Africa_MiddleEast_FLEXIBLE_WAYS_OF_WORKING.pdf Size: 2.98 MB
We are delighted to announce the hire of Dr Eva Wuellner, Regional Practice Group Leader, MEA - Family Businesses and Technology “Based in Dubai, Eva will support our clients in both Executive Search assignments and Human Capital Services projects (Leadership Development, Assessment Centres, HR organization…). Having worked in multinational enterprises and family groups (Unilever, Amazon, FANUC, Lindab, Wadi Group), Eva has gained a broad cultural and professional expertise while working in Germany, Luxembourg, Russia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Egypt and Kuwait. Along her career, Eva grew her expertise in Talent, Change and Performance Management and Recruitment/Talent Acquisition. Eva holds a Master degree in Economics from the University of Passau, Germany, and an MBA General Management from the European University of Economics and Management in Luxembourg. She earned a Doctorate of Business Administration from Surrey Business School, UK, with the doctoral thesis titled “Talent Management in Luxembourg”. Eva is a fellow of the University Forum of Human Resource Development (UFHRD) and the European Institute for Advanced Studies in Management (EIASM). Eva speaks German, English, French, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, and Portuguese.” Says Cedric d'Halluin, Partner, Emerging Markets - Middle East, Africa, Russia, Turkey. “I am thrilled to join a multi-cultural team of Executive Searchers and HR professionals in a company that is grounded on high ethical values and family spirit with a strong customer-centric approach.” Says Dr Eva Wuellner, Regional Practice Group Leader, MEA - Family Businesses and Technology.