As I was going off on maternity leave in early 2020 ‘Brexit’ was the concern for GM specialists; keeping everyone on their toes with lots of contingency planning. I since returned in 2021 and it seems the cocktail of Brexit and Covid kept GM specialists extremely busy. Unfortunately for some this meant redundancy, but for most it was a fantastic learning opportunity, with new processes required overnight and a demand for new policies to be written.
Speaking to candidates and clients alike, the common questions I am asked surround the new challenges GM professionals are facing in this new world. I thought I would interview one of my clients whom I regard very highly as an expert in the GM space and an influential mobility leader; Andrea David – Head of International Mobility at CHANEL.
With Andrea’s in-depth experience in various industries, not to mention now working in one of the world’s most luxurious fashion houses, with first-hand experience of working abroad; Andrea shares her personal experiences of getting into the Global Mobility and her insights on current trends in this space. I am delighted to share this interview with you all that she has so kindly agreed to.
What made you get into Global Mobility?
Like most working in Global Mobility, I just fell into this field. In fact, I didn’t know this specialty even existed within HR when I entered the workforce. I had always known I would work in Global HR but could never have imagined how much I would absolutely love mobility and that I would be doing this for 20+ years.
What would you consider skills that are essential to be a good GM specialist?
You may be surprised by my answers but the essential skills you need aren’t technical skills. You need to be curious, love to learn and solve problems, show empathy towards others, never settle for the first answer, be comfortable with constant change and don’t take yourself too seriously.
If you weren’t in your position now, what do you think you would be doing?
I would probably be a cross-cultural trainer/coach. It’s how I started my career until I fell into Global Mobility.
How do you think the GM industry has changed since you started in the sector?
It’s not that it’s necessarily changed but it’s evolved. Today we are involved in just about anything cross-border workforce related and not just international assignments.
Are there any common barriers or challenges for GM departments? Do you have any advice to overcome these?
I think the most common challenge for GM is branding and promotion. Anyone who is in the industry understands what GM does but very often our organisations don’t fully understand or only have a limited view of what we do. My best advice is to seek internal opportunities where you can showcase global mobility including being ready for that impromptu chat at the coffee machine. The work we do is technical and complex and so much more than just “moving the sofa.”
What developments do you currently see in the industry?
There’s been a lot of recent buzz around virtual assignments but for us we remain focused on the employee experience from policies to service delivery, duty of care and the employee/family well-being.
What are the GM concerns post Covid?
Duty of care and the mental well-being of our international assignees and their families.
Can you tell us what a typical day looks like for you? Or what are you currently working on?
That’s the beauty of Global Mobility. There are no typical days. We’ve just completed an RFP for a technology solution tool which we will start implementing in the fall.
Do you have any advice for supplier-side Global Mobility specialists who want to transition to in-house mobility roles?
Don’t underestimate the power of the company culture, its influence on global mobility and its impact on how things get done.
What do you consider your most significant achievement (personal or professional)?
Managing the relocation of our employees from our global corporate headquarters in New York City to London while also being personally impacted by the move. Being able to experience our policies and all the service providers first-hand was a great way to test our assumptions. My greatest learning was the importance of providing the right level of support for our families and especially our spouses who are leaving careers, networks, and friends behind. Their success and happiness on assignment should not be underestimated.
If you could switch jobs with someone (anyone) who would it be?
Probably James Martin the British chef. I’m a foodie and love to travel and he gets to do both and in some amazing places.
Did you have a role model or mentor that you looked up to during your career? If so, how important was this to your development?
My manager at my first corporate job in Global HR. The best thing she ever told me was not to come to her with a problem asking for a solution but rather come up with a solution first. I won’t say I always came up with the right answer but it’s not always about the answer it’s about the process.
And everyone is dying to know... What is the best thing about working at Chanel?
I truly love how Coco Chanel’s legacy is alive here, in our products and in everything we do.
Thank you to Andrea for sharing her thoughts and personal experience in GM. I hope her insights inspire and encourage those looking for a career within GM and helps keep those already working in the space stay motivated to get to where they want to be!
With GM such a niche field, it is perhaps not an obvious career path. Be that as it may, the GM industry has grown substantially over the last 10 years. It is not just a matter of managing expatriates and the completion of a few tax and immigration forms anymore. The way our world is evolving, the work of a GM specialist is a lot more interesting; with expectations of expatriates changing, technology improving, country’s migration/ tax legislations constantly updating and wellbeing becoming a focus- to list just a few of the factors GM specialists have to now consider daily.
I am keen to post similar interviews out on a regular basis; if you found this useful or interesting, please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts. Equally, if there is anything you’d like me to focus on next time or anyone that you would be keen on seeing me interview please let me know. I lead on Global Mobility hiring at all levels, globally; so if you are considering a move in the GM world do get in touch.