Landing her first job in HR some years back, San Francisco born and raised Marie Jerusalem has gone on to work at a senior HR strategic level, embedding people processes within the professional services industry.
A month into her recent appointment as Global Director of Human Resources at management consultancy firm Arthur D. Little, Marie took a breather to tell us about her career so far, as well as to impart valuable industry advice to people-driven graduates looking to embark on a career in Human Resources.
For most fresh graduates entering the world of work, reaching the ideal career path takes its twists and turns. For Marie, this was very much the case. Upon graduation in 1992, Marie left the University of San Francisco with a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology, intent on pursuing a career as a psychologist. An internship arose which saw the plucky young graduate working for free for two years, training towards counselling psychology and career counselling.
‘After my internship, where I worked as a career consultant, I then made a move into change management and career consulting at DBM, a human capital management organisation. This eventually led to me running the business on an office level, then country-level, and finally regionally as the VP of operations for Europe. The driving theme throughout my career has been this desire to motivate people to want to do their very best. This has led to tangible successes in every position I have held.’
Travel as an essential part of the role
Marie is quick to attribute her success to embracing change and has, throughout her career, been open and flexible to the idea of trying new things and even relocating, which has resulted in higher salaries but more importantly, for her, fast career progression.
‘I moved to London in 2000 as a Regional Director for DBM, after I was told I would never experience swift promotion unless I was willing to relocate,’ explains Marie.
‘So I booked a one-way ticket to London and moved over on my own. Suddenly finding myself in a brand-new environment having to learn basic things like my weight in metrics or the temperature of the weather in Celsius. However, I embraced this new adventure. I am great believer that if you are really interested in something, you can learn it. I never let my lack of experience get in the way.’
This openness to change has certainly paid off. Over the years, Marie has been exposed to different cultures, moving to Paris in 2003 as a member of a senior team leading DBM through the most significant change in the company’s history. In 2005, joining Booz Allen Hamilton, Marie took responsibility for global executive and staff development, which saw her travelling across the US, Europe and the Middle East.
‘Travelling is great,’ enthuses Marie. ‘The best thing is getting exposure to different cultures whilst driving corporate initiatives and accommodating different thinking in order to be successful. I am very much the kind of person who thrives when I keep moving. Experiencing change in your life gives you the confidence to look ahead, to anticipate trends and to be aware of the constantly fluctuating business world.’
With more than 14 years experience under her belt, Marie recently joined global management consultancy firm Arthur D. Little in October 2008. With a great challenge ahead of her, she is resolved in rising to the tasks set in her path.
‘This is an exciting time to join Arthur D. Little. The firm is producing industry-leading work to help clients achieve long-term success across all practice areas globally. My role here is about creating HR value for the markets to allow the seniors in the company to focus on their clients. Reporting to the CEO, I will be re establishing the people processes, very different from my role at Booz, which was already mature in its processes. A deep learning curve lies ahead.’
Tips for getting into HR
‘Over the years, I have discovered that changing companies or positions fairly often makes for the most successful people. For me, changing roles every one to two years has allowed me to move up the career ladder fairly quickly. All of the new experience I gained in each role has helped me to build my confidence thereby getting to the senior roles more quickly. For recent graduates, it is important to be well versed – keeping abreast of current affairs especially in times of recession when companies are downsizing, for example. Reading the Economist and the Herald every week keeps me informed on the challenges that businesses face. Graduates need to keep the bigger picture in mind and possessing a commercial mind is essential.’
‘Never rest on your laurels,’ adds Marie, ‘graduates should always be seeking ways to add value and be open to new ideas. Networking is crucial.’
‘What creates success is when you really understand yourself, what you like to do and how that translates to everyone around you. Graduates should take some time to identify what they like doing. In HR, a lot of people think it is all about processes. Actually there is more to it. It is about applying your knowledge of people and processes to make a business successful.’
Looking to the future
Based in Germany for five years with her husband who she met during her time at DBM, Marie is very pleased with the prospect of driving initiatives and forging new relationships in her new role as Arthur D. Little’s Global Director of HR.
‘I am once again in a place where I am learning new things and applying my experience to a new environment. Someday, I can imagine running my own consulting business. This would allow me continually take on new challenges and stay at the forefront of what the HR issues are that companies face globally.’