Alumni Success Story - Ivana Drkelić

What influenced you to enter the field of Human Resources?

During my bachelor studies at ZSEM, as part of Student Future Day event, I had a chance to apply for an internship in Coca-Cola HBC, in Human Resources Department. Few days later, I was invited to start the internship and I found this experience very attractive and as a great combination of creativity, analytics and working with people. After several months, I was offered a job in the HR graduate position and since then I have held various positions in human resources ranging from Recruitment and Training specialist, HR Business process expert, HR transformation Lead to HR Senior Director for Regional Project Management Office and Headquarters.

How did your career path lead you to the Netherlands?

As of 2014, I started to work in Pliva d.o.o., a pharmaceutical company based in Zagreb, Croatia, member of Teva Group. In my role back then, I was leading and coordinating several HR transformation projects, across European countries and got connected with many colleagues from different countries and from regional and global teams. In 2016. I got the opportunity to join the European Regional Headquarters in Amsterdam, in a position of Associate Director to the Senior Vice President (SVP) HR Europe. It was a great development opportunity for me on both a professional and personal level.

How does working abroad differ from your experience of working in Croatia?

Currently, as part of the European Headquarters, I am responsible for Regional HR Project management Office and HR support for European Headquarters employees. In this position, I am working on key strategic projects across all EU countries, which enables me to have a more holistic and strategic perspective, than I used to have in local positions earlier. I enjoy working in an international environment and with colleagues from all over the world. For example, I am currently working on the people development strategy as part of Digital transformation and as part of this project, I work with colleagues from all over Europe and broader and across multiple functions, including Commercial, IT, Communications etc.

Believe in yourself, find what you like, take every opportunity and work hard – do it for yourself and your own development. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes and enjoy exploring.

Would you consider moving back to Croatia at some point in your career? If yes, why?

Yes, I would consider to move back to Croatia for a good career opportunity at some point in future. There are many talented people in Croatia I had a chance to work with and I always had a lot of joy and fun while working there. However, I feel it would be too early to move back at this point of time. I still feel I can learn and further develop in my current role, in Netherlands and potentially explore some new countries too.

What characteristics do people in HR need in order to be successful?

HR has evolved into highly strategic support function focused on partnering with the business and translating company business strategy into the people strategy. Beyond strong interpersonal skills and human touch, understanding the business, market and the industry is increasingly important. In order to be perceived as a true partner to the business and employees during their career cycle, HR as a function and as individuals needs to establish clear and consistent policies and processes and ensure decisions made are based on facts an data to ensure fairness and transparency. Finally, actively identifying people trends based on workforce analytics and benchmark and driving timely action planning is one of the key priorities for HR that adds value to the business.

How did ZSEM prepare you for your career? Was there a professor or a course that left a lasting impression on you during your time at ZSEM? If so, why?

ZSEM provided a solid foundation to my career. Classes were organized in an interactive way  including exercises, case studies and presentations, and I had access to some of the best literature and online libraries in the area. This helped me to build not only the strong theoretical background, but also prepared me for the dynamic and interactive working environment, probably more than traditional ways of learnings would do.

It is difficult to highlight one of the professors, as I really enjoyed and still remember many interesting sessions. I really liked all the economic sessions led by prof. Amina Ahec Sonje – it was nicely structured and she was able to translate complex topics into easily understandable and engaging lectures. And of course, I enjoyed all the HR sessions led by professors Ivona Skreblin Kirbis and Mirna Korican Lajtman, and I continued working with them on Executive MBA courses for new generations of students.

What advice would you give to current ZSEM students?

Believe in yourself, find what you like, take every opportunity and work hard – do it for yourself and your own development. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes and enjoy exploring.

Interviewer: Tina Eres

Interviewee: Ivana Drkelić