Currently an expatriate in New York, where she works as Director, HR Operations and Analytics Americas Within the Richemont group, Isabelle André looks back on her professional development and the highlights of her career, from her studies at SKEMA Business School to her expatriation to the United States.
Lepetitjournal.com: Can you come back to your academic background?
Isabelle Andre: I’m from the northeast of France and I grew up in the countryside, my parents being farmers. I think my childhood on the farm helped me a lot to build a culture of work and a taste for effort.
I first did a preparation in Reims, then I joined the Master in Management of SKEMA Business School (formerly CERAM) on the Sophia Antipolis campus. During my studies, I chose a specialization in human resources, an area that had always attracted me. I graduated from SKEMA in 1996.
Much of my knowledge acquired in finance, marketing, HR and international law still serves me today in my daily professional life.
Why did you choose SKEMA Business School? What memories do you have of this training?
I had always wanted to go to a top business school and SKEMA had a very good reputation. Its presence on the Sophia Antipolis site also offered a very buoyant environment and a large pool of opportunities.
I really enjoyed my experience at this school.
At the time, the school already had a strong international outlook, and it also maintained a strong link with the fabric of local businesses. So there were many professional opportunities for the students. This allowed me to integrate very quickly into the business world.
Community life was also very dynamic. I was involved in the theater association and in voluntary associations. In particular, I was Secretary of the Alpes-Maritimes association for Restos du Cœur.
From an academic point of view, the courses were very well constructed. Much of my knowledge acquired in finance, marketing, HR and international law still serves me today in my daily professional life.
SKEMA Business School also allowed me to understand studies in a very concrete way (through case studies, problems and real-world challenges, etc.). This allowed me to develop a sharp eye, great curiosity and unparalleled analysis and synthesis qualities.
After my studies, I kept the link with SKEMA. I got involved in the alumni association and I was also a teacher at SKEMA Business School in International Human Resources Management.
I had the chance to participate in the first apprenticeship class organized by SKEMA Business School
How was your integration into the job market after SKEMA Business School?
I had the chance to take part in the first apprenticeship class organized by SKEMA Business School. I was able to integrate, in the last year of studies, the American pharmaceutical group Allergan, in Sophia Antipolis. At the end of my apprenticeship, I was offered a job and I ended up staying with the company for 8 years!
I had been hired in the context of setting up an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning)a large information system for the management of human resources.
So I got involved in setting up management systems. I liked it and I quickly became an expert in SAP, in the deployment of information systems for human resources.
The group then asked me to implement the HR information system in the group’s subsidiaries across Europe. This tour of Europe lasted 2 years: I was seconded to Ireland, Germany, England and Italy.
I then returned to France, where I was in charge of managing the SAP HR competence center for Europe. I regularly traveled back and forth to California, where the management was based.
I then met my husband and we moved to Haute-Savoie. I then found a job in Biel, Switzerland, at Rolex, where I was also responsible for setting up an HR SAP.
Shortly after, I joined an international NGO (International Organization for Migration) in Geneva, affiliated with the UN. It was an exciting experience, in a totally new sector! I finally joined, in 2006, the Richemont group, in Geneva, always with the cap of an SAP HR expert.
I then wanted to develop other skills in human resources and move away from the very technical functions related to information systems. I then joined the function Compensation and Benefitsstill at Richemont.
At the time, the group had opened a vast 45,000 m² campus in Geneva, with more than 1,000 employees, which housed many Richemont houses.
In charge of the site’s HR, I helped welcome employees and group entities. I also set up an HR Shared Services Center for the site. The group’s HRD then asked me to carry out the same operation for all of the Richemont houses in Switzerland. I therefore created an HR skills center for all back-office functions for Richemont (payroll management, social insurance, taxes, information systems, compensation and benefits, etc.).
Then, looking for a new opportunity, a little less than a year ago I joined the American subsidiary of the Richemont group in New York, where I currently work.
I have the same missions as in Switzerland: I am in charge of all HR operations and information systems. It is a very interesting experience. Richemont homes are growing in the United States, so there is plenty to do.
As for New York, and particularly Manhattan, where I live, it’s an incredible melting pot, with a tremendous wealth of cultures, languages and nationalities!
My role is to ensure that all the processes related to the recruitment and life cycle of the employee are carried out under good conditions and in compliance with local legislation.
What are your missions as Director, HR Operations and Analytics for Americas within the Richemont group in New York?
I am responsible for the entire region (USA, Canada, Brazil and Mexico), HR operations. My role is to ensure that all the processes related to the recruitment and life cycle of the employee are carried out under good conditions and in compliance with local legislation.
The Richemont group brings together several renowned houses such as Cartier; Jaeger Lecoultre ; Montblanc; Chloé… The group also has a large distribution center in Dallas, Texas, as well as a shared services center in Connecticut. I am therefore responsible for ensuring that there is compliance, on these different sites, with the legal requirements and the group’s directives.
I am also responsible for checking that the HR applications are working; to organize the HR teams internally; to ensure the proper implementation of information systems…I also contribute to continuous improvement initiatives and the digital transformation of the HR function.
I also take care of the creation of dashboards and management tools to have an overview of the figures and the recruitment issues.. You should know that in the United States, luxury attracts less than in Europe, it is a very tense sector here. There is therefore a lot of work to be done to strengthen the attractiveness of the sector and to improve the retention of employees.
You have to be always very curious, to inform yourself and to train yourself constantly.
What qualities are required to work in HR?
I think the commitment, the commitment, is above all essential in this sector. You have to have a taste for a job well done, a taste for quality… You also have to be able to show great respect for others. Performance, of course, is essential, as the sector is quite competitive.
I also think it is very important to be “ahead of the curve”, that is to say to be one step ahead, to stay abreast of innovations, new technologies… You have to be always very curious, to be constantly informed and trained.
Curiosity is also something I kept from my studies at SKEMA Business School. Since school, I have continued to constantly train myself in order to stay on top all the time!
You have to be both demanding in order to achieve the desired results, but also show great benevolence towards your employees.
It is also necessary to have a thoughtful approach, and to take the time to fully understand the sector.
What advice would you give to young graduates who want to work in the HR sector?
It may seem a bit old school, but I think that above all you have to be serious in your approach. You also need to have a thoughtful approach, and take the time to fully understand the sector, the company where you are applying, and be able to explain your motivations and your interest. I also think that it is essential to be demanding with oneself and to show pugnacity to achieve one’s objectives.
An interview conducted by Soraya Benaziza