Feb 04 2022

Career Longevity through a Data-driven and Tech-centric approach

“The ability to be really comfortable with tech and being able to deploy it in a way that actually adds business value will be absolutely vital and critical to add longevity to one's HR career. I think this is an absolute non-negotiable skill to have.”

by  Sriram Iyer, Founder & CEO, hrtech.sg

hrtech.sg's Tech Talks focuses on engaging with HR & HRTech Subject Matter Experts to unearth trends & insights in the realm of HR Technology.

In this edition, we talk to Carmen Wee, HR Thought Leader & Board Member - HTX.

Carmen Wee is a seasoned and passionate business leader providing human capital insights and counsel to business executives. She is a trusted business partner to C-level stakeholders and has 20+ years of experience in partnering with businesses to drive growth, change and cultural transformation. She brings with her an established track record of working with organisations to deploy innovative HR strategies in employer branding, talent management and organisation development to build a strong and motivated workforce. Carmen’s experience spans across varied industries such as FMCG, Telco and Technology companies like SAP, Tellabs & Schneider Electric, where she successfully handled global HR leadership responsibilities.

Carmen recently launched her new book, ‘From The Kampung to The Boardroom. My Leadership Journey’. This book is a culmination of her two decades plus HR leadership journey. The book shares insights from her varied experiences as a CHRO, Boardroom member and influencer. 

Here are some notable excerpts and insights from my discussion with Carmen:

What was the key motive behind your latest book? Could you provide us with a glimpse of your book?

We are in a very critical, interesting and disruptive phase in HR Globally, not just in Singapore. That inspired me to put together my story in the form of a book, having worked in different countries and companies with varying levels of complexities. There are not many books out there that will capture and demystify HR leaders' careers. I took a risk and decided to write a book about my own story to relate that to current trends.

The key takeaways from the book:

I would say there are at least three key takeaways:
  1. Your own values as HR leader: Your core is what defines you as an HR leader. Since we are a people function and we look at all the aspects of human development, we want to be very authentic and honest in how we actually treat people.  It's commendable that the HR function has evolved and  we have become very mindful of treating people with respect. But if you, as an HR leader, have a very strong core, then you are able to stand the pressure.

  2. The need for transition management as a personal skill: I have gone through different transitions in my career - different countries, different roles (regional to global), different industries and even worked with different types of HR leaders. I think I've worked for 30-40 HR leaders in my career and I've gone through several big M&As, reverse takeovers and restructuring.  I think it is as colorful as it could get but the ability to really manage the transition on a personal level is very important. Always have a strong self-belief in your efficacy that your skills are relevant, or at least you keep upskilling yourself. Always be very positive about who you are and what you bring to the table and to the team. Always try to be a positive force for good in whichever sphere that you are contributing in.

  3. Willingness to step out of your comfort zone: The willingness to step out of your comfort zone is almost a necessary competency. I think even if you choose not to, the business that you partner with will require you to do that. I'm aware of people who have lost their jobs because they were not able to pivot back or make that shift very quickly and not able to straddle between strategy and execution.

So, I feel these are the key three key takeaways, and of course, it requires a lot of self-awareness, reflection and that willingness for one's overall development.

Can you highlight to us, what are the key things that you do to ensure that you're always at the leading edge of the market? 

I sign up for a lot of blogs and newsletters and, follow cutting-edge thinkers in our profession. This helps me stay informed about the business news and current affairs spanning from marketing, finance, economics, sustainability and innovation. I sign up for everything in the tech world and also the industrial world to understand how they are evolving to catch up with the impact of digitalization. I also like to listen to social psychologists such as Adam Grant and others involved in social work. I find that everything that I've learned in social work school has helped me deal with the health crisis right now. I like things that have to do with team dynamics and how to build stronger, better, unique teams. I don't just read stuff that's local, I like to read anything that's global.

What do you think needs to be done to ensure that we have more CHROs seated at the decision-making table?

I think we need to raise up a greater generation of business CHROs that are able to partner with businesses. It sounds like an oxymoron but there are various kinds of HR leaders out there and we are very comfortable in our own HR world. If you are not adding value to the business agenda by any growth or transformation efforts, M&As, or any high impact activities that are able to solve business problems, the business will think that you are really a program manager. So, one has to be extremely cognizant of how to deliver value that is profitable for the business.

How technology and analytics have helped you in your CHRO roles and as a board?

If I look at the evolution over the last few decades, I realised quite early in my career that you have to present data, facts and figures to the business. I remember about 10 years ago, I was presenting a brief to our global CEO and presented so many statistics that he said “Hey, you don't talk like an HR person anymore.”  The point I'm trying to make here is that using technology and data analytics is really the next phase of our evolution.

Your company has also put together that roadmap for some of the tech solutions. We need to measure the implementation efforts against some of the goals that have been set in the strategy. Going forward, this wave will not stop. In fact, it will accelerate and therefore, the ability to be really comfortable with tech and being able to deploy it in a way that actually adds business value will be absolutely vital and critical to add longevity to one's HR career. I think this is an absolute non-negotiable skill to have.

Sriram Iyer is a Human Resources practitioner with around two decades of experience in the areas of HR Technology, Workforce Planning & Strategy, Talent Supply Chain, Employee Engagement, Talent Branding and Acquisition & Client Management. Based in Singapore since Jan 2012, he has strong exposure to the JAPAC region and has a knowledge of the cultural nuances of the region. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, he has also played leadership roles with NCS (Singtel Group Enterprise) and Nasdaq-listed Cognizant Technology Solutions in Singapore, running large scale talent initiatives across regions. He is a proud alumnus of National University of Singapore (Singapore) and Symbiosis Institute of International Business (India).

Carmen Wee



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