“You need to think about the profile of the job really carefully when you accept positions, and not be afraid to change positions when jobs don’t turn out to be the right fit for you.” – Tereza Kožuská, Human Resources Director for Central Europe at Ipsen Pharma, speaks to us about developing a career in HR Leadership.
As part of our commitment to supporting candidates to develop fulfilling careers, we’ve invited some HR Leaders to share the secrets of their success.
This week, we had a great conversation with Tereza Kožuská at Ipsen Pharma, who began her career with Kraft Foods, acting as a Compensation and Benefits Specialist and a Training and Recruitment Specialist before moving to GE Money to serve mainly as Senior HR Manager and temporarily Deputy HR Director. During her time with GE Money, she also moved from being part of Human Resources to the role of Black Belt and 6 Sigma Trainer.
In 2010, she took on a role as Senior Consultant at Aon Hewitt, from which she was able to launch her own consultancy enterprise. In 2012, she joined Beckman Coulter as a CEE HR Manager, before assuming her current role in June 2015.
Can you tell us how you got into HR and why?
During my degree studies in Statistics and Commercial Languages at the University of Economics in Prague, I worked at a recruitment agency two days a week, doing interviews and trying to find the right candidates for our clients. After I graduated from university, the recruitment agency offered me a job with Kraft as a Compensation and Benefits Specialist. I felt it was a logical connection between HR and statistics, so I accepted. I was really open to anything at that time, so starting out in HR was a complete coincidence.
I think that a lot of first jobs happen by coincidence. People usually do not have a plan when they leave university; you either come into something that you’ll stay in first time around, or spend a few years looking for the right opportunity.
When I moved onto GE Money, I started as an HR Manager, but being a generalist, I also took on aspects of HR Director and HR Business Partner roles. Working for GE in the Czech Republic was extraordinary; the environment was fast-paced and very tough, but offered so many opportunities. I loved being able to tackle projects with a group of people I chose and make decisions about everything—that was really empowering. I also got the chance to switch from HR to Quality and back.
I’m grateful for all the knowledge I acquired while doing so—it was very beneficial. For example I have been able to effectively map processes in every position I’ve gone onto since because of it, and have clarity about who needs to do what. That’s key, otherwise processes don’t work, and things like payroll and onboarding simply have to work well.
Can you tell me about the prevalent themes and challenges that you’re seeing across the HR sector?
I think my biggest challenge at the moment is that the role I’m in is a combination of different duties that ranges from making strategic, multi-country decisions to quite basic operational stuff. As I have no internal team, I have to control everything and be point of contact for all.
The challenges that wider HR faces are very much connected to where both the business and society are heading as a whole, and that varies between industries. When an industry goes into crisis, usually we start in HR area with cutting costs, do outplacements sooner than deployments, and finding the cheapest solutions for everything.
I don’t think that’s good for either people doing HR or wider society itself. And if this comes, it is crucial to be transparent in communication to people and smart/respectfull in decisions if possible. In industries like IT that from my perspective are not too much in crisis and are able to be innovative, HR can be more compassionate and caring. It’s interesting to look at how different HR can be from industry to industry and the different types of competencies working in HR can require.
I think the pharmaceutical industry is different from others out there, as it seems very close-knit and little static compared to industries like finance, FMCG or telecom; where there’s a lot of rotation in and out of industry.
What career advice would you offer to someone either working towards a career like yours, or someone just getting started in their HR career?
I would say that you need to embrace the mistakes you make rather than avoid them, because those mistakes can teach you things. My own mistakes have helped me realise what I don’t want, and I’m grateful for that.
Be brave and try new things—I left HR for a short time, and I’m glad I did. I got to see HR from the outside, and realised that many people can feel afraid of it. It helped me understand that people can be wary of the information and influence we hold, and since then I’ve tried to work differently and change that perception.
HR uses such a combination of skills that it’s important to realise where your strengths are and work to them. Some people can come into HR because they like working with people and then find that 60% of the role they’ve taken is administrative. You need to think about the profile of the job really carefully before you accept positions, and not to be afraid to change positions when jobs don’t turn out to be the right fit for you.
Don’t be afraid to open your mind to other industries, either, as you can make real change to new ones that may struggle with innovative/different point of view. Be as closest to business as possible to be able to have added value.
If you want a more specialized role in HR, it’s best to aim toward bigger companies, because in smaller companies, HR is more of an all-in-one generalist function, and you need to do a bit of everything.
Tereza has been working as Human Resources Director for Central Europe since 2015, and is responsible for the design and implementation of HR strategy and processes within Ipsen Pharma across Central Europe, including Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Romania, and Poland.
If you are interested in having a confidential conversation about your career or would like support growing your team, please get in touch today.