The success story of student alumna Ivana Drkelic

What inspired you to choose human resources as your area of ​​work?

During my undergraduate studies at the Zagreb School of Economics and Management, I attended Student Future Day, where I had the opportunity to apply for a professional internship in the human resources department at Coca-Cola HBC. After a few days, I was called to practice. I see this attractive experience as a great combination of creativity, analytics and working with people. A couple of months later, I was offered a full-time job in the department where I worked. I have held various roles, from recruiting and education specialist through HR business process specialist and HR change manager to HR project management at regional office and headquarters.

How did your career take you to the Netherlands?

In 2014, I started working at Pliva Ltd., a pharmaceutical company based in Zagreb, which is part of the Teva Group. My job was to lead and coordinate several HR transformation projects in European countries, so I had the opportunity to meet many colleagues from other countries and other regional and global teams. In 2016, I joined the European Regional Center in Amsterdam as Assistant Vice President (SVP) of HR Europe. It was a great opportunity for development, both professionally and personally.

How is working abroad different from your experience in working in Croatia?

Currently, as part of the European headquarters, I am responsible for the Regional Office for HR Project Management and Human Resources Support for European Headquarters staff. In this position, I am working on key strategic projects across the European Union, which makes it impossible for me to have a more holistic and strategic perspective than I have previously had in local positions. I enjoy working in an international environment with colleagues from all over the world. For example, I am currently working on a human resources development strategy as part of a digital transformation and in this project I work with colleagues from across Europe and beyond who carry out various functions within the company, including commercial, IT, communications, etc.

Would you consider returning to Croatia at some point in your career? If so, why?

Yes, I would consider returning to Croatia if given a good opportunity to further my career. I had the opportunity to work with many talented people in Croatia, and I always enjoyed working with them. Still, I think the return would be premature at this point. I still feel I can learn to further develop my current work role in the Netherlands and potentially explore some new countries as well.

What are the traits necessary to be successful in the field of human resources? 

What traits do people with human resources need to be successful in order to be successful? HR has evolved into a high-level strategic support function focused on partnering with business and translation business strategy into a people strategy. In addition to strong interpersonal skills and human touch, understanding of business, markets and industry is increasingly important. In order to be considered a true partner of the company and employees throughout the career, HR as a function and as an individual needs to establish clear and consistent policies and processes and ensure fact-based decision making for fairness and transparency. Finally, actively identifying people’s trends based on workforce analysis and the evaluation and timely planning of actions is one of the key human resource priorities that add value to the company.

How did ZSEM prepare you for your career?

Is there a professor or course that made a lasting impression on you while studying at ZSEM? If so, which and why? ZSEM has provided a solid foundation for my career. The classes were organized in an interactive way, including exercises, case studies and presentations, and I had access to the best literature and an online library in economics. This helped me, not only as a strong theoretical background, but also prepared me for a dynamic and interactive work environment – probably more than traditional ways of learning would do. Since I really enjoyed and still remember many interesting lectures, it is difficult to point out just one professor. I really liked all the economics courses held by Professor Amina Ahec Sonje – they were nicely structured and she was able to translate complex topics into easy to understand and engaging lectures. Of course, I enjoyed all the courses taught by Professors Ivona Škreblin Kirbiš and Mirna Koričan Laitman and continued to work with them on Executive MBA courses for new generations of students.

What would you advise current ZSEM students to do?  

Believe in yourself, find what you love, take every opportunity and work hard – do it for yourself and your development. Don’t be afraid to go wrong and enjoy the research.  

Author: Tina Eres

Interviewer: Ivana Drkelic