Be open to learn, be candid in conversations

Ashwini is an HR professional who has 11+ years’ experience across several companies such as Mindtree Ltd., Aztecsoft Ltd. and Motorola India Electronics Ltd. Presently, she is an external member of the POSH committee and a Director of Twam Global Advisors Pvt. Ltd. She played a pivotal role in setting up the HR framework for six start-up organizations. She has an expertise in performance management, policy authoring and administration, attrition management, rewards and recognition, people connect, communication, and core functional HR skills.

1. Please share the experience of getting your first job in HR function – the interview, offer negotiation, first day in the office?

I started my career 11 years ago when functions of HR were perceived as Operations and Recruitment only. I did my internship with Motorola, but I was not keen in making ‘recruitment’ as my profession. Meanwhile, an acquaintance, who was working with Aztecsoft, apprised me of opportunities in the HR department there and said that it would be a great place for me to start my career and grow further.  

Hence, I sent my résumé and waited to hear from them. However, the wait seemed endless so, I decided to barge in. On the record, I actually did barge in :)

I met Mr. Mahesh, Assistant Manager – HR, erstwhile Aztecsoft. The conversation was quite simple – “there are no opportunities currently!” But, I was very persistent, followed up until they said, “we will provide you with an opportunity.”  But, the hitch was to start without pay. Confirmation of employment was based on the available opportunity and performance.

All, I wanted was a good start and since then, I have not looked back. I anchored the basic HR operations with Rs. 0/- as my salary and continued for 3 months on that mode. My employment then received a confirmation.  

2. Why did you choose HR as a profession? What makes you a successful HR Professional?

No specific reason/s on why I chose HR. My self-assessment made it clear that I was best suited for the HR role. 

Success, is very subjective. In simple terms, for me success is to enjoy doing what you are doing or doing what you enjoy the most, while making a difference to the society.

Salary, Designation, Meatier role will all come by eventually if you give your 100% to what you do!

3. Tell me about your proudest professional accomplishment.

Many. Some of them are;

  1. When I launched a global program “Kura Klique” – a global hobby club.
  2. When I retained a key employee of a business unit twice, who eventually went on to be one of the best retention.
  3. Being a part of the Shared Services team as a lead in my previous organization, which paved way for a new way of functioning.

4. How much supportive and motivational have you found the management towards HR department in particular?

Very Supportive. Today, HR is considered as a Strategic role.

I joined this organization (Solutions Infini) around 5 months ago and I clearly remember both my CEO and CTO stating during my interview that “we need to hire somebody who understands HR and can drive the growth.”

5. Do you think all the HR activities and roles are aligned with organizational goal?

By and Large, Yes. A small grievance could hamper a team’s output which might eventually hamper the growth.

6. We all make mistakes we wish we could go back and rectify. Tell me about a time you wish you’d handled a situation differently.

The best way to move forward is to accept the mistake done, own it and find ways to correct it. For me – accepting mistakes is not an ego issue!

7. I often hear people saying that the growth rate of HR professionals is slow, as compared to their counterparts in Sales, Production, and Marketing, what do you think about it?  

Yes, HR is a very matured role. A lot of strategic decisions are based on the business.

Today, typically, HR folks spend anywhere around 5 to 6 years doing operations to be able to do justice as a Business Partner / Specialist.

It is important that HR folks understand the business, people, vision of the organization and see if each one’s career vision is aligned.

8. What do you do to stay current with ever-evolving changing dynamics of HR profession?

Read, Read, Read! Have mentors! Luckily, I have good set of mentors.

I have come across many who network for the sake of an opportunity. But, I say Network because you want to learn.

Be open to learn – be it from your peer / junior / senior.

9. Can you share an experience when you helped an employee finding job satisfaction in his role with your guidance?

A lot of times, most employees shy away from having candid conversation with their managers as they fear that it will hamper their relationship. Facilitating these conversations and ensuring the issue is resolved is where I have made a difference in an employee finding job satisfaction.

Many youngsters quit and change jobs for a hike of few thousand rupees. I have had many retentions where a lot of them were at crossroads. Speaking to them and conversing with them on how to build their careers is truly a very satisfying role.

One instance, an employee from my previous stint had used the corporate credit card for some personal emergency. The utilised amount was way too large compared to his income. The immediate conversation was to terminate him. However, terminating him would not have resolved the issue as there was a recovery to be done. I had to involve myself in reasoned argument with the Senior Management team on this as there was no capping of the usage of corporate card. We later had to cap the usage and the issue went on to become a classic case of mistake. The employee then, repaid the amount through his personal savings and we did not terminate him.  

HR, is a bridge between the employee and the employer. We need to walk on it thoughtfully and ensure that the bridge does not collapse.

10. As a seasoned HR professional with over a decade of experience, what are your suggestions for the HR aspirants for their endeavours?

Learn, be open to learn! Get your basics right – Know the laws, HR is not about managing a system. Technology has advanced; Simplify the process, ensure compliance and see how you can add value. Employers value your opinion!

And, do not come with a baggage called “Attitude”. As an HR representative, you are a brand ambassador – People perceive the organization as they see you. 

This interview was originally published on [Date: 13th August 2018]

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