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HomeCAREERSHR Ambassador Nominations (SMART HR Event) – Today, Estera Fodorean

HR Ambassador Nominations (SMART HR Event) – Today, Estera Fodorean

Estera Fodorean is one of the six finalists in the final stage of the HR Ambassador competition, organized with the support of the SMART HR Event. The voting session will take place “live” during the 9th Edition of the SMART HR Event, scheduled for May 23 and 24.

C&B: Tell us about your career path. What drew you to the field of human resources?

Estera Fodorean: I must confess, sometimes I feel like there was no other path for me, and that all the signs in my life were pointing towards Human Resources. When I was facing the choice of university, I chose with my ears, rather than my heart, which is why I attended another prestigious faculty for a year, and because I felt that I didn’t want to grow in that direction, I began to look for those indicators that I had long ignored and to realize that, in fact, my path and purpose were elsewhere. I took courage and one day headed to the faculty where I studied Human Resources. After completing it, I hit the “beginner’s experience monster” – as I like to call this phenomenon, that is, I was trying to find a job as a junior in HR and every job advertisement for this level asked for about two years of experience.

I didn’t understand then and I still don’t understand how in this case, fresh graduates could find a job. Therefore, my first job was in a renowned international company, but in a rather front office role, with very few duties related to HR. I felt like a lid had been put over my passion and desire to grow and make an impact for the people inside an organization, and I was determined to grow, which is why I continued to learn and prepare on my own, for the transition I wanted. During this time I was also studying for a master’s. Applying to more than 200 jobs (because yes, I was still at that stage in my career path where I was keeping track of applications, interviews, and so on), I was invited to an interview for the position of Human Resources Manager for a well-known company in Romania. How and why did I apply for such a position, having not even a year of professional experience (and not even specific to the field of Human Resources)? Honestly, because of the job advertisement, which was unique, different from the wooden languages I had read at the other jobs I had applied for. Why did I go to that interview even though I didn’t think I had a chance? Because my husband pushed me from behind, supporting me and believing in me and what I can offer. I participated in 3 interviews with the recruitment agency representatives and the company owners, and a test to assess psychological competencies and professional skills managed by another recruitment and performance management company. I successfully passed each stage and, even to this day, the fact that I was chosen for such a function, at only 23 years old, with so little experience, without knowing anyone from that company who might help me, but just based on the way I thought about certain business situations and the solutions I would implement, confirmed to me that I was on the right path and that what I felt towards the HR field was not by chance. I spent a year and a half in the position of HR Manager, I met some extraordinary people next to whom I grew, made mistakes and corrected myself, and rose again. It was the most intensive training, the toughest experience I could receive on my professional path, but which shaped me as a professional and outlined my work mode, my approach to crisis situations, and highlighted those chapters I needed to work on. I am more than grateful for how much I learned there. Later, I chose to be part of an IT company that is gaining more and more recognition both nationally and internationally, where I can say that I have simply flourished. Here, in a unique and paradoxical way, my career has become both a “rocket” and has been given time for reflection and focus on how I want to continue to grow. The fact that I have had and have the opportunity to generate strategic initiatives and projects focused on people’s growth gives me professional vitality. Throughout this journey, what has attracted and continues to attract me to the field of Human Resources is the opportunity to help people grow, not just any people – those people who are the heart of the business, those on whose shoulders dynasties are built, those who work behind doors and generate customer satisfaction and happiness, those who truly deserve to have the gates to evolution opened for them. I love a verse from the Bible that says, in its English translation, “Anyone can find the dirt in someone, be the one that finds the gold,” and I guide myself by this principle, which reminds me of the unquestionable value each person has. Every day of my life, in any context, I am an HR person who seeks and seeks and seeks again that gold that each of us has. I seek it and help it shine even brighter.

C&B: How do you think the role of HR has changed in recent years and what impact have these changes had on your profession?

Estera Fodorean: I have noticed that, in recent years, the field has gained more visibility in business, a change that, in my opinion, came at the best time in history, preparing organizations to meet artificial intelligence. With the increasing emphasis on the Learning & Development and Mental Health & Wellbeing branches, I am glad that we have realized how important it is to take care of our people and to ensure that the time they spend inside organizations becomes a catalyst for their growth, and HR is the main facilitator of this process. The more frequent discussions among specialists about how to support and shape healthy work environments have given me confidence that we are on the right path and, moreover, understand how important it is to be prepared to adapt to changes and to learn, specifically, how to manage and shape a strategic flow of integrating changes and events from the market, when they eventually reach the inside of the organization we are part of. I am blessed to be part of an organization that embraces change and focuses on the opportunities it generates, all in a balanced yet dynamic manner – therefore, my role as HR is currently positioned as a business and growth partner, with the ultimate goal being to lead all People processes towards the macro success of the organization, starting from each individual.

C&B: Is there an HR initiative or project you are particularly proud of? What challenges did you encounter and what did you learn from this experience?

Estera Fodorean: It is very hard for me to choose just one initiative, because I have had the opportunity to lead a multitude of wonderful projects with demonstrated impact, which have brought me much joy and professional satisfaction and have served the growth of people in organizations. But if I had to mention just one project, I cannot help but mention the “Mind your Growth” mentorship program, which holds an extraordinary sentimental significance for me. Being the very first project I started my path with in the organization I am currently part of, this initiative came as the culmination of a short period in which I was wondering whether what I was doing was really bringing value. And yes, through “Mind your Growth” I regained my confidence, trust, and gave me that boost I needed to continue. The program was the first of its kind in the company and was met with great enthusiasm by colleagues, and the results were spectacular from the pilot phase: 94% of the objectives set at the beginning of the program were met, the level of satisfaction of the participants regarding their personal professional level increased demonstrably and measured, 94% of mentors considered that the program enriched their experience and knowledge, learning from mentees and proving that, indeed, the learning process occurs in both directions. Moreover, because we encouraged even the non-technical mentors to associate with technical mentees, we discovered new talents in the company, such as one of our IT guys who became a trainer on non-technical topics in the internal L&D programs, encouraged during the mentorship to step out of this comfort zone. New mentors have risen, we had 3 mentees from the first edition who became mentors in the second edition, we facilitated the professional growth process, for example, we had a mentee in mentorship with the COO of the company, preparing for a management role. Currently, the program is held regularly in our organization, twice a year, and was a finalist at the National Conference on Employer Branding 2023, in the “Best People Development Strategy” category. I am very proud of this initiative and my team. As for challenges, I can say that the art of bringing people together and encouraging them to step out of their comfort zone, but also to grow others next to them, surprised us and taught us that if we make the effort to shape the appropriate framework and serve by the power of example, the beautiful happens.

C&B: How do you approach managing diversity and inclusion within the organization? Could you give us a concrete example?

Estera Fodorean: A topic that touches me every time and that holds a special significance for me both in my professional life and in my personal life is the process of reintegrating parents, especially mothers, back to work. In recent years, I have realized that there is an unwritten pattern among my friends who had become moms, namely the fear and anxiety of returning to work, due to existing prejudices from employers and, of course, due to unpleasant experiences they had had at interviews over the years. Even I was asked, at one point, during an interview, a question intended to discover how I plan this chapter of my life, that of motherhood, in case it might appear in the immediate period after starting the collaboration. These facts only amplify discrimination against mothers returning to work. Recently, in one of the boldest reports on this topic by Andrea Pintican, it is clearly and honestly presented about this phenomenon in Romania. I am firmly convinced that a child is a blessing, not a brake, not a problem, of course, it changes the rhythm of our lives, but those people, mothers or fathers who wish to return to follow their professional dreams and have this determination to remain loyal to their ambitions, may well discover a much stronger source of motivation in that little child. In the organization I am part of, women are unconditionally encouraged, we have examples of parents who have returned to work in a relatively short time and who have been and are welcomed with open arms, offering them total flexibility in managing their schedule, just so they do not feel worried in case they need to dedicate time to their little ones. The little ones are joys for us and we do not miss opportunities to give them gifts, surprises, to organize outings and beautiful experiences for them and their parents. We offer this freedom to work 100% from home, but we also provide headquarters in the form of comfortable, informal houses, where parents can come to work quietly as much and when they want, even with their little ones. We are currently aiming to transform this process of integration and support for parents returning from child care leave into a structured one, which will prevent situations in which they face difficulties in managing roles. I am about to finalize a proposal for a program specifically dedicated to this cause.

C&B: What are the main qualities you consider essential for an HR specialist these days?

Estera Fodorean: I believe that authenticity is that key value for an HR specialist, especially these days. Everything we do with and for people must come from a space of authenticity, honesty, and appreciation, so that we can shape and support a healthy base on which any business can be built. For years, the traditional image of a professional intrigued me: a figure with a smile on their face but still rigid, inaccessible, who does not allow themselves to admit when they are having a tough day, a formal speech, the refusal to deepen relationships due to the fear of the inability to be impartial when situations will demand it… I do not believe that we can still talk about a traditional HR, but rather about a growth partner, a trustworthy one, with solid principles and anchored in personal and company values.

Then, adaptability represents a smooth bridge over the challenges that arise every day. An important lesson from an extraordinary mentor I had is “take time to learn how to unlearn“. It is so necessary in an HR career to be able to let go, at the right time, of what you considered to be among the only methods of doing something and to learn how you can do it in a different, new, optimized way. If we do not embrace the ability to be adaptable, we risk seeing changes as something frightening, difficult, when in fact they could be like a launch ramp. Thinking back on the experiences I have had over the years spent in HR, I realized how important the ability to self-motivate is as well.

Sometimes that “emotional fatigue” generated by the uninterrupted focus we give to people and their well-being inside organizations, a focus that often does not come back to us in the same measure, can be felt. For this reason, I believe that the power to recharge with energy from the satisfaction and passion of the work is essential. Last but not least, emotional intelligence represents a pillar in the HR profession, as we must be facilitators of human relationships and emotions. In an era dominated by artificial intelligence, managing human relationships brilliantly by applying healthy relational principles is truly a precious and, I dare say, rare art.

C&B: How do you see the future of work and what is the role of HR in shaping this future?

Estera Fodorean: Certainly, the evolution of the HR role is caught in the race to optimize processes and explore all the opportunities that artificial intelligence offers us. The challenge I believe we will face is integrating that “human touch” into increasingly digitalized processes, defining the balance and the line up to which AI can help us and from where the deepening of human knowledge and consciousness begins and how we will educate organizations to embrace major and rapid changes. I believe that shaping and structuring this not-so-distant future has a good part in HR’s garden, because the integration and assumption of any new solutions starts from the way the organization, the teams, “embark” on the process of assimilation and adoption.

C&B: What advice do you have for companies regarding adapting to the new challenges in the world of work?

Estera Fodorean: I believe it is the opportune moment to seek, to identify, and to bring to light the hidden potential, the talents and inclinations of our people. The labor market, as we know it at present, is extremely fertile ground for the growth of people, and the needs of the future will be different from those of the present. Therefore, our approach and management of people must be innovative, going one step ahead. In an ideal labor market, companies are attentive to the way the “wind” is blowing and prepare accordingly. My advice, therefore, is to invest in the unconditional growth of people.

C&B: If you had unlimited resources, what program or initiative would you implement to improve employee well-being?

Estera Fodorean: Oh, where to start? Of course, I would focus on the area of growth, learning & development. It would bring me much joy to set up an internal university, with various professional growth programs, exploring different areas: authentic leadership, personal development, deepening personal passions (such as art, writing, etc.) and how we can transpose them into professional life, emotional intelligence, mental-health and well-being applied in organizations. I would like one artery of this university to be dedicated to the children of colleagues, so that when their parents are learning, the children have entertainment, afterschool programs for homework, on creative workshops and so on. I would collaborate with the best experts in the targeted fields and would fight to raise the notoriety of the respective university, so that its results would be authentic professionals, rare, ready to face challenges and who will grow, in turn, other people. With unlimited resources, I would even offer the “students” of this university fully sponsored vacation opportunities, so as to reward and appreciate their loyalty to growth and to lifelong learning.

C&B: Why did you apply to this competition and why do you think you should win?

Estera Fodorean: I applied to this competition because, first and foremost, I consider myself an HR ambassador, and my efforts and work have focused in the direction of raising the notoriety of the field, raising awareness of its importance, and supporting the next generation of professionals. I am more than honored to be among the nominees and to be alongside such beautiful and enthusiastic people, with a passion for people and their work. Should I win officially? I don’t know, but I know that if I have inspired even one person through my story and what I want from myself for this beautiful field of HR in the future, then I already feel like a winner.



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