Marlies Tognella-Abbrederis - Director Human Resources - Bisnode D&B Schweiz AG

What do you love about Switzerland and why?

I have been living in Switzerland for 25 years now and I love the professional/working culture and the flat hierarchies that tend to come with many companies now. In addition, there is no great distance between employer and employees now – which creates an excellent working atmosphere. I work in Zurich, and even though the country us small it is really beautiful with a range of different cultures and languages.

What advice would you offer to someone moving to Switzerland?

The times were very different when I moved to Switzerland (particularly in terms of work permits) – it is now much easier to relocate and start to live your life. I would advise any newcomer to dive into the culture and try to speak the local language at least (whether it be French or German). Don’t expect it to be the same as your home country. For me, at the beginning it was more formal in the work surroundings and the behaviour/approach. During the 25 years I have been in the country attitudes and behaviour have changed for the better, in that it is now more informal and relaxed.

What are your growth plans?

Bisnode’s growth plans are mainly focused around bringing new countries on-board – particularly in the Southern hemisphere. We are now fairly satisfied with our levels of operation in the current countries we operate in.

What challenges await your business and how do you hope to overcome them?

One particular issue we now face is that a significant amount of information we tend to get paid to provide is readily available on the internet and social media. Technology and the internet has been responsible for many positive changes worldwide and in Switzerland, but for Bisnode this has meant we have to find new business fields.

What excites you about working for Bisnode?

It is never ending change within Bisnode. The organisation has changed and grown over the years – we were originally American but are now Swedish, working with global partners in franchising connections. In addition, the culture is such that I can work autonomously in my role which is important. Every employee has this freedom, within reason. There is also an ‘Open-door Policy’ - every person can go to the CEO to discuss issues. It is this positive working culture that sells the company to potential new employees.

If you could go back and give your younger (graduate) self some career advice, what would it be?

If I had the choice, I would go abroad earlier in my life to an English, French or Spanish speaking country. I studied languages but would do something more focused around Economics as I feel it would have assisted more by providing a basic understanding to business. Another language is also important but Economical knowledge is always good as a basis and is a good starting point. 

Being a sparring partner is a pre requisite for an HR Division - what do you feel makes an effective sparring partner?

You have to know what the other departments are doing and give proactive advice. You make this possible by being in constant contact with other leaders, understanding what they are doing and what their needs are. But this alone does not make a good sparring partner, you also have to provide proactive solutions and make yourself available to others.

What makes you relaxed from working in such a pressured role?

 

Within work I feel I am in the right place, I love my work and the industry we are in. We have good partners in our senior management team and we know each other very well. This makes me relax within work.

Outside of work I feel it is important to have other areas where you can go to relax or have some recreation (sports, other hobbies). For me, it is painting, reading, sports (jogging, swimming and biking) – I try to do some exercise at lunch time, evenings and weekends.

What are your personal motivators?

I am motivated by the impact I have, and in my current role I feel I can influence things and help others. I also love to learn and continue my progression. I get great pride when I something going in the right direction that I have influenced.

When did you decide to explore a career in HR and why?

I tried a lot of other things before going into HR. I actually started with languages as I wanted to be a teacher, then moved into Finance and Sales. I noticed that I was not 100% satisfied with either and I knew I wanted to do further training and was choosing between marketing and HR as these were two things that interested me. My manager at the time told me to go into HR and do some training – this is when I did the Personalfachfrau. Generally, I took opportunities as they came along.

How did you plan out your career development path?

I did not really plan my career path – looking back on my career I feel I could have planned more, but I am happy by my decision to take chances as they came up.

What would you say is the most rewarding part of your role?

Motivation from working in a good company and industry. Thinking specifically within my role, I am incredibly proud when I see the results of engagement surveys, and the end result. It is also extremely rewarding to receive personal feedback from an applicant, employee or leader.

If you could change one thing in your career what would it be?

There were times where I had the feeling that the job I was in was not going to be the one I would do for the rest of my career. When I had this feeling I wish I would have changed sooner and tried other things.

What recruitment challenges do you face?

IT positions are often quite challenging to fill as we are a part of a special industry with a small market. We often have to give training to new employees as they come from other industries to give them the necessary knowledge on the industry and to ensure we can retain talent afterwards. We don’t necessarily have the highest salaries (in comparison to banking for example). The culture of freedom and autonomy plays a big role in retaining talent though.

What attributes do you look for when choosing a recruitment partner?

The most important factor for me is that any partner deals with what we are looking for efficiently and does not provide candidates that don’t fulfil the requirements. It is also equally important that the partner is interested in what they are looking for and is asking the right questions of her so they know

How would you advise a jobseeker to approach the current market?

Ensure you invest time into researching and achieving qualifications relevant to the job you are looking for. Also, be persistent, try several channels, use social media, the internet, job adverts and get in personal contact by phone with companies. Just call and be persistent. It can be tough but the rewards will soon come.

What advice would you give to future aspiring leaders, and why?

Any aspiring leader should think why they personally want it and make those reasons clear to themselves. Once this is clear, it is important to have training in this direction for being a leader, to have the tools you need.

Who is your most inspirational person in business and why?

My current manager has been really inspirational. He has been with the company for over 25 years - starting at the bottom and working to the top. His personality and will to go further got him to where he is today. He is very inspirational and a great leader and person.

If you could choose an Artistic/Musical/Sporting career, who would it be and why?

If anything, I would choose a sporting career (e.g. an endurance runner) – when I do sports I feel happy and relaxed, and full of energy. This rewards me with new energy to do other things (like work).

Do you have any hidden talents?

I really enjoy painting pictures. But overall, I get a long with everybody – I love to meet new people, and I think this helps in my role.

 

*Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the Interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment.*

 
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