November 12, 2013
HR consultant Carol Olsby's cool global job
What do you do? I am in the people business, as an independent global human resources consultant working with multinational companies that are focused on having workplaces where people are proud to work. Working globally is challenging and fun, requiring endless curiosity, flexibility and the confidence to deal with change on a global scale. Understanding what’s important to the business and people and having great people relationships is a must. We all want to work for companies where we can be our best and feel appreciated.
For example, [I was] a member of an international team of eight people [who] set up a large software development center in the Philippines in less than 100 days. My focus was on the people side of the business, establishing employee benefits and policies and recruiting activities, all with the focus of being an “employer of choice,” a place people want to work.
How did you get started in that field? I started my career in an entry-level recruiting support position for a technology company in the Washington, D.C., area. I worked for other high-growth technology companies in the area before relocating to Seattle to join a start-up technology company, where I was the first HR person. This was [the] first job where I could work with company leaders to create a workplace where employees felt highly valued, they had challenging work, received good pay and benefits, and had fun. This company was highly successful due to the engaging work environment.
I have worked for a variety of local technology companies since then, including a Scandinavian software company with operations in the U.S. focused on global expansion. I led HR for the U.S., Canada, China, India, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, where the company had large-scale growth, all with a focus on being an employer of choice globally. As a result, I traveled up to 50 percent of my time to Asia and Europe.
I then transitioned into global HR consulting [more than] three years ago and have thoroughly enjoyed working with many company leaders [to] recommend and implement country and global HR strategies supporting their efforts to be employers of choice in their marketplaces.
What’s a typical day like? Each day, I work with people from around the world. I start my day at 6:30 a.m. from my home office in front of my laptop, so I can support my European clients who have U.S. and Canadian employees.
Later in the morning, I either travel to a variety of local businesses or work virtually with my out-of-state clients -- I am their interim HR team member responsible for establishing and implementing global, regional and/or country HR strategies.
Later in the evening, from my home office, I connect virtually with my Asia-Pacific clients, HR colleagues, consultants and vendors to support their country, regional and global HR needs.
What’s the best part of the job? Working with people around the world. I love working with many different companies, people and cultures with a focus on building great companies globally. Being successful in this job requires an earnest desire to understand and care about people -- a perfect match to my relationship-oriented personality. Every day I learn something new. It is challenging and fast-paced -- a job that I can take anywhere with my mobile phone, laptop and a Wi-Fi connection. I love that!
What surprises people about your work? People often do not realize the unusual hours I work [or that] the fact that I only speak English hasn’t been a barrier to working globally. Keeping up with changes in country laws and accepted business practices introduces a whole new level of complexity that requires a commitment to research and learning. Also, that I take full advantage of my travel, always seeking an adventure with the goal of getting know the country, people and culture better. I am constantly humbled by having such a great job!
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