“I am exceptionally pleased to announce that Anouk has joined us as a Non-Executive Director. She will be assisting us with active searches and also providing HR consultation and mentoring to clients and candidates.
Anouk’s experience will be invaluable as we continue to grow the business around the world. She has had an amazing international career which you can learn more about in the Q&A we did with her below.” Stuart Elliott, CEO and Owner, Elliott Scott HR
Anouk De Blieck
Why did you choose a career in HR?
That is an interesting question, as I did not originally consider a career in HR. Inspired by my parents who were both teachers, I graduated as a high school teacher in French, Ethics and History. Unfortunately at that time in Belgium, there were not many opportunities to teach. I was excited to start my professional career, so I joined an IT company that was hiring young female graduates. I took a leap of faith as I did not know anything about IT, however I felt privileged that the company wanted to invest in me. As a result, I worked for 8 years in that industry as a sales and education consultant. This experience, opened the door for me at Citibank’s Belgium technology department, where I joined them as a Technology Training & Project Manager. Entering an organisation like Citi gave me the opportunity to get exposure to project management, and early HR generalist work. The Head of HR at that time asked me if I would be interested in running their T&D department. That was the start of my career in HR, and I am ever grateful to the person who gave me that opportunity, as well as pushing me to explore new experiences.
To what countries has your career taken you?
I have been very fortunate to have worked for international organisations such as Citi, ANZ, Visa and most recently SoftServe, and during this time I worked and lived across emerging and mature markets in EMEA, Asia, North America and Oceania. We lived in New York City for 3 years, 5 years in Moscow, 5 years in Hong Kong, 3 years in Melbourne, and 2 years in Singapore. Each of these locations were amazing experiences, and we think back fondly on these times. Now we have made Italy our permanent home.
What have been some key career highlights and challenges?
I have been privileged to have had many opportunities. Each of them has contributed to who I am today, and therefore every experience has stretched and provided me with valuable learnings. When I think about which experiences were the most defining from a leadership and business perspective, I would select the following:
Working internationally with Citi and ANZ taught me how to build and lead regional and global teams across established and emerging markets. Asia Pacific, CIS and CEE regions were very different experiences. In addition to the geographical complexity, I also led the business through various organisational cycles such as start-ups, transformations, optimisation, acquiring and integrating new business. In each of these roles there was a big focus on HR transformation, building capability and creating a culture of connectivity & belonging through an aligned values framework across the region.
At ANZ, when working in Melbourne, I took the HR lead for ANZ’s Scaled Agile Transformation. Our focus was to reimagine People Practices, to support a major cultural change (such as Learning, Selection, Transition, etc) through design thinking. We studied various other organisations that had been through this journey. Also, we developed a target operating model to support this digital transformation and simplification agenda, whilst building organisational capabilities, augmenting a customer-centric culture that put people at the centre. This experience made me rethink the traditional ways of working, challenge the status quo and further shaped my people vision.
When in Belgium in the early 2000’s, I was asked to be the Business Project Manager to lead an important Change Management Program. The goal was to develop, for Citibank Belgium, a technology & business platform for future growth in an effort to become a true customer-centric organisation. This meant converting the banking operations from various old technology systems (separate systems, green screens, product focused), to one integrated customer friendly platform. We put together a team that led from project initiation to operational readiness and implementation. These 3 years were amazing, as it gave me exposure to end to end banking operations, managing and implementing high impact projects, and how to maximise the potential of cross functional teams throughout the project lifecycle. Moreover it taught me to think on my feet and solve problems.
Throughout my career, I have had to manage through various crisis situations, financial crises, challenging ER matters, cyber security incidents, natural disasters, COVID-19, and lived through 9/11 when I was in New York City. Each of these moments were impactful not just for others, but personally too. I learned how to navigate as a leader through crisis situations. Moreover it made me realise that as an HR professional, before you can take care of others, it is important to ensure your own wellbeing. Although we all have our super-powers, none of us are super-people.
What HR trends do you see as most pertinent this year?
COVID-19 has disrupted us all, and it has shown that those organisations that plan for the new reality will embrace new ways of working, and the need to stay relevant. It is an opportunity to re-imagine not just how you work, but also what you do to create value. Therefore, we will see no doubt a laser focus on the Workplace of the Future, with strong focus on reimagining people practices, Inclusion & Diversity with heightened focus on Wellbeing, and a deep dive on Talent, and Lifelong Learning.
The role of HR will be to drive with courage this people agenda, focusing on creating a diverse and inclusive people-centered work environment while growing people capability and enhancing the employee experience journey. More than ever, they will require business acumen, be commercial and drive a change agenda, sponsored by the business.
What are you passionate about outside of work?
I love spending quality time with my family, I enjoy culture & design and have started to paint recently. I always enjoyed traveling and connecting with others. Now that I am living in Italy, learning Italian is my priority. Moreover I do hope that we get our freedom back soon so we can again live our lives fully!
You can connect with both Stuart Elliott and Anouk De Blieck on LinkedIn, click their names to be taken to their profiles.