How did you get into a career in HR?
Shell offered me a scholarship to study Geology at the University of Wyoming. I thought it was an interesting opportunity given my dream of studying overseas. I quickly realized I didn’t have the passion for it. To me, they were simply rocks to be studied. While it was clear that Geology was not for me, it was less clear what was ‘for me’.
As pragmatic and practical as I was (and still am!), I looked for a field of study that would give me the best chance of securing a job after graduation. I signed up for a degree in Business Administration specializing in Human Resources at Iowa State University, USA.
Soon after graduation, I was offered a role in Shell in Malaysia with the HR department.
What are the key responsibilities in your role?
In this regional role, I am accountable for Global HR Process execution, Country HR Policy Development, HR Shared Services deployment and HR Operational Excellence, Employee Relations/Industrial Relations, Diversity & Inclusion, Change Management, Capability Development, Crisis Management, External Reputation with respect to HR issues and Leadership of all HR professionals across NE and SE Asia (Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, Brunei, Myanmar).
Describe a typical day.
There is no “typical day” for a role like mine – covering 11 countries, 13,000 employees, diverse Shell Businesses. My day could be filled with engaging with Country HR Leaders, Business Leaders, crisis management, Union/Industrial Relations matters, coaching, assessing potential hires, advocacy with Government agencies, external networking or contributing to external Boards on HR or Leadership matters. Some days find me in various Global HR Leadership forums which mean attending virtual meetings till late in my evenings.
I also spend about 30% of my time travelling across Asia or to Europe and nearly 100% of this travel in conversations about strategy, operations, business, and most importantly about people. My mind is constantly processing each fact, data point, opinion, feedback how this feeds into the business strategy, its impact on our people and the other relevant stakeholders.
What skills are needed for this role?
The ability to manage issues, stay calm, deal with the diversity of situations and perspectives given the spread of my region is critical and trust the team I have on the ground.
Make informed decisions. I need to be able to quickly prioritise where I should be spending my time. And when I do, be able to wade through the multitude of information and opinion so that I am able to make informed decisions.
Build an intimate knowledge of the different businesses, understanding the challenges they face and the ability to speak their language will give you the trust and respect of the Business.
Team Leadership – with around 130 HR staff across my region, the need to keep the community engaged and motivated is essential.
Virtual Working – Being comfortable in working in a virtual environment through a solid foundation of trust – both for those reporting into me and as well as stakeholders who sit in London or The Hague.
What challenges do you face in this role?
HR in Shell is going through a major transformation and this will be a multi-year journey. The need to bring the HR community along this journey and keeping them engaged is a priority for me.
As a senior HR leader based in Asia, it’s crucial that I bring the “voice and realities of Asia” to ensure that we have a balanced perspectives of multinational/global realities.
What keeps you motivated to go into work every day?
I take great pride in working for a great company and brand! It’s been 30 years of sheer pride and gratitude to the people and for the challenges. Shell is a company that holds up to its Core Values of Honesty, Integrity and Respect for People, a company that is made of many intellectually stimulating colleagues who demonstrate a high degree of care for each other and passion in what they do.
What advice would you give someone considering a career in HR?
To genuinely believe in the role HR plays - developing a people strategy that will enable the business to succeed.
Explore career areas within the people profession, and the typical activities you may find yourself doing
Information and guidance to help you excel in your role, transition into the profession, and manage a career break
Read the CIPD’s November 2023 submission to His Majesty’s Treasury