Christine Schmidhalter, VP of HR, Belimed AG

Could you give our readers a brief summary of your career and how you became VP of HR for Belimed AG?
I was a Glassblower initially. I went through education and by accident went into HR. It wasn’t really my choice but accepted a role as a trainee in HR. A few years later I moved to Australia as my husband secured a job out there. I secured a role there to build up a HR department. This is something that one can recognise in all my positions. I have always had brand new positions with the task of building up HR. I then went through different roles, some locally and some international roles with big corporate companies.
Prior to my current role, I made myself redundant from my previous position at Covidien; we did a huge restructure taking the business from 5 to 3 business units affecting 8,000 people and it made no sense for me to stay in the new structure. I enjoyed a seven-month paid break and then I secured my role with Belimed.


What attracted you to the VP of HR role at Belimed?
I was approached by a head-hunter. The position was newly created. At that time we only had basic payroll, HR administration in the countries but no Global HR and therefore no aligned processes, tools, nothing. There was no HR business partnering model. It was a green field situation. They wanted someone to build that up. They wanted ideally a Swiss national because of the culture but also with an experience in international companies which I offered.


What are the challenges for Belimed on the horizon?
So, when I started three years ago I got a new CEO after 30 days and together with the management team we developed a new strategy three months after he joined and we announced that we would go from 4 to 3 production sites which meant a product transfer to Slovenia. We had a new functional organisation, nothing in HR and nothing really in the pipeline in regards to innovative products so we had quite a huge challenge. We completed this reorganisation last year and what we face now is that we are ready to launch products and therefore we did not maintain the sales organisation very well because we didn’t have new products. Overall we are hiring talents for all kind of departments with new skills which are missing in the organisation. This is aligned with our new strategy 2025.


What are your Recruitment challenges?
We have a huge challenge in our R&D function because we did not develop new products recently so we missed an innovation culture in the business and that’s what we face now. It’s very challenging to find good R&D people who are willing to change and join us. We particularly struggle in locations where are not in big populous areas; Sulgen, Switzerland and Mühldorf, Germany. Since March 2017 we are doing quite a lot of employer branding initiatives but we are still very much in an infancy stage.

 

What do you look for in a recruitment partner?
Many work kind of the same. Where they can make a difference is how they treat candidates. When I recruit somebody I always ask the candidates, “how did you perceive the interview process?” and “how did they treat you?” etc and there is where a recruitment partner can make the difference.

 

What are your key motivators?
A challenge. If there’s no challenge then I lose track as I want to make a difference. Of course, a kind of freedom too. Let’s define the business goal, but having the freedom to go and do it motivates me. I am lucky that I have a great relationship with my CEO where I can learn off him, but am entrusted to manage my function.


What do you think makes an effective sparring partner?
Firstly, you need to understand the business otherwise you will not be recognised as a trusted partner. In most cases, you need to build and receive trust and to gain that you need to show that you can help and have good ideas and contributions to the strategy. What I have done in all my positions is to understand where does the business want to go and aligned our HR strategy and activities and then you can build a trusted partnership.
 

Looking back through your established career, what would you identify as a personal highlight?
One highlight was definitely moving to Australia. I had no job, I was young, well around 30. I learned a lot and it was also nice to come back too, I must admit.

The second one was when I made myself redundant in my position with Covidien that it was working when I left. I was pleased that the team was coping without me.

 

If you could give advice to a HR professional starting out in their career in Switzerland, what would that be?
I think it’s important they start from scratch and learn the basics in terms of administration, processes, tools what you have. Then after you have the basics mastered ask yourself whether you want to be a specialist or a generalist. From there you can make your education decision based on that. I think sometimes it really helps when you understand the more ‘basic’ parts of HR so for example if you’re a HR Business Partner, you know what should be done and what the effect if you miss something on the processes.

 

What makes you relax from working in such a pressured role?
I actually have two classic cars so I like that. I like to exercise two to three times a week. I also enjoy cooking and wine!

 

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

 
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