MSc Int. Business '14
A love of learning took Rebecca Heins from a well-established human resources career in HP Bangalore, India to study at UCD in Dublin. She’s back in Bangalore leading HR strategies at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, as well as running several networks, including the local UCD Alumni chapter.
About Rebecca Heins
Tell us about your education and career progression
Though my undergrad degree was in commerce, I did not want to end up as a finance professional so followed up with a post-grad diploma in business administration from Bangalore University. Right after my PGD, I started to work in advertising.
My career has taken some unexpected but interesting twist and turns from marketing to human resources. I started with advertising, moved into market research and later into marketing communications. With HP I had a stint of more than a decade, but was fortunate enough to hold various roles, from communications to managing employee engagement for a business with over 3,000 people to human resources.
While I was working a lot more closely with HR in my communications role, a fully-fledged HR opportunity came up that required a branding background and I was invited to apply. With this role I moved to HR to manage employer branding for India and my role later widened to manage talent acquisition and a talent channels for India. Subsequently, I was promoted to a more strategic role of leading talent channels for Asia Pacific and Japan and reporting into the APJ talent acquisition director based in Singapore.
I’ve always loved to study – every few years I have had the study itch! While I was able to get an executive MBA along with working, I never had the satisfaction of studying full-time once I had started work.
My parents dissuaded me from quitting a well-established career for full-time study. Fortunately, my manager was supportive of my ambition and approved a year’s sabbatical and I was able to convince my parents to let me go. And that’s how I ended up in Ireland in 2013 to do my master’s in international business at UCD.
My sabbatical was for a year so I could look at only one-year programmes. When I got admissions in the UK and UCD in Ireland and was confused about which one to choose, my close friend who was already living in the UK for many years said the Irish are really a friendly lot (that I experienced first-hand once I got there) and it would be a lot easier than with the English folks who take time to open up. To top it all, everyone raved so much about Ireland’s beautiful countryside. UCD being one of the top universities in Ireland, its amazing campus and globally well-known triple accreditation really helped make my choice a lot easier.
And it was the best decision I ever made. My time with UCD will remain memorable for my lifetime. I met really wonderful people and I remain friends with a lot of them.
Even though I had worked for a multinational company and for ex-pat managers and travelled in Asia before, I never had a chance to live long-term in an international multicultural setup. As well as giving the opportunity to meet and interact with different people, studying abroad offers an insight into perspectives from various cultures. I recommend an international master’s to everyone after experiencing this myself.
My personal opinion is that it should be encouraged, more so for Indian girls. Mostly, Indian girls grow up in a close family culture, protected by family and friends, living a sheltered life. Coming out of the protected environment and living independently encourages them to take decisions on their own and helps them build confidence and discover their true identity, independent of their family.
After I completed my studies, someone else had taken over my Asia role and my manager recommended me for a contract position with the HP UK & Ireland compensation and benefits team, and so I ended up working at HP’s Kildare office for some time.
Now, I’m back in Bangalore and currently working with the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) as a senior HR manager leading the talent acquisition and compensation and benefits areas. And that has aligned nicely with my affinity for education as the IIHS is primarily a research, consulting and academic institution in the areas of climate change, water sanitation and sustainability.
What motivates you?
Every day I want to be able to look forward to the work I do. Passion for my work drives me and I want to be able to make a difference wherever I am. Whatever I’ve learnt, I would like to be able to teach. That’s my motivation – to be able to come to work and share what I have learnt and also make a difference at work and in the lives around me.
What is your leadership style?
I like to nudge my team towards common goals, encourage people to develop and discover their own abilities, empower and equip them to take the lead and guide them when they need. Perhaps this was largely influenced by a US ex-pat business leader – Larry Terrell – I worked with many years ago. I saw how he positively inspired and influenced many of his first-line leadership team’s capabilities and the culture throughout the organisation. I would like to think I have imbibed that in my leadership style so far.
Who or what has influenced or inspired you?
Professionally, it was Larry; he has continued to be a mentor in my life, even after he retired from work. Personally, my mum and sister are two big influences in my life. Despite all the hardships we have had, I saw how my mum sacrificed and pulled us through, but still has a big heart and is kind even with the most difficult people. My sister is strong-willed and pursues her goal with all vigour and makes it happen with a lot of perseverance. I always call her a one woman army. Her tenacity has been an example in my life.
What has been your biggest achievement?
It’s probably how far I’ve come, personally and professionally. I was a very quiet, shy child who hardly spoke. Now I would like to believe I am a lot more confident and comfortable enough to connect with people. There are some parts of the little child still in me, but I think time and experiences have made me a stronger woman than I was before.
Are there failures or mistakes you’ve learnt from?
There have been failures on work projects where I have relied on someone else to do their part and it did not turn out like it should. For a while I hesitated to take up initiatives for the fear of failing. My mentor said, “Rebecca, if you are not making mistakes it means you are not doing anything”. That struck a chord and I learnt failures are a part of life’s experiences and you can only learn and grow from them.
What are your tips and advice for success?
Be open to learning! Take only the positives out of your experiences and move forward. Nothing is too small and no one is too young to teach you. Be open to learning from experiences, people, books, the internet, everything. Take every experience, every challenge and every failure as an opportunity to learn. Personally, every difficult situation has taught me something. I think by keeping a positive mindset and viewing it as an opportunity to learn you will take away something good that can only enrich your life.
What are your plans for the future?
My sabbatical to study in UCD and being in Ireland helped me look beyond work. If I get passionate about something I devote 100% to it and it has been all work for a long time and I have not given enough time to my personal life. So I have decided to take time off at regular intervals and to also do other things I’m passionate about like writing, travelling and volunteering. I have already taken a step in this direction by taking off on a vacation to Bali a month ago with a friend I met on a UCD international student trip. We met in Bali after not seeing each other for almost two years.
Tell us about your involvement with the Bangalore chapter of UCD Alumni
Before I went to Ireland I never really knew the value of investing in networking. After I came back, I realised I have a lot of connections and there could be real value in bringing them together. So I created a network for people who work or have worked in human resources in HP in India and we now have 200-plus HR alumni professionals in that group who work across various industry sectors and senior levels. It’s mainly a social networking group to share HR topics, news and discussion and we also catch up offline for lunch once in a while.
Also when I was in Ireland, I noticed that international students coming in to study ended up asking the same questions over and over again. I thought bringing together people who have studied there with people looking to study in Ireland would really help answer all those questions; basically connecting alumni with the new aspirants.
So I set up and moderate another group on Facebook called Study in Ireland – Community Help and we now have over 500 members from UCD, TCD, DIT, etc, from various courses and I think it’s helped answer questions about studying in Ireland, queries and concerns from an international student (non-EU) perspective.
UCD Alumni, India heard about my initiative and asked if I’d be interested in getting involved in its Bangalore chapter, which it was hoping to set up. The chapter is only a few months old at this stage. I’ve tried to get a few people together but it’s not really active yet. We held a reception recently to help get the word out and I had a chance to meet a few more alumni. Over time I hope people will see the value of networking and coming together.
What are your interests outside work?
I am a practising Christian so I spend my weekends being a part of the church band, involved with other church activities and volunteering.
I have always had an interest in all forms of arts, including writing. I started blogging about lifestyle and business related topics but my current work takes up a lot of time so I haven’t had a chance to do as much as I would like.
And I love reading. With work, trying to find time to do some uninterrupted reading becomes difficult, so to push myself I have enrolled in the Goodreads reading challenge. I was pretty successful last year with 12 books read in total. This year I am aiming to double that number. My most recent read that left an impact is The Grit by Angela Duckworth. She talks about how talent counts, but how passion and perseverance play a significant part in successes. It definitely is an inspiring read.
What is your fondest memory from your time in UCD Smurfit School?
The Vietnamese Festival Celebration and Halloween, where all my classmates got everyone included in the festivities.
Tell us one thing that most people don’t know about you
I am so picky about being organised that I have an Excel sheet tracking how many days I’ve worked out every month for the past couple of years. That helps me to be consistent with my workout and not to slack off.
What piece of technology can you not live without?
Like many, I am attached to my iPhone, from using it for waking up till I sleep!
What is your pet hate?
People talking loudly on the phone in public places.
Who’s your favourite writer and what’s your favourite book?
Steven Covey is my favourite author and his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a classic and will always remain relevant.
What are your favourite dishes to cook?
Various types of biryani, along with masala ginger chai.
Name three things on your bucket list
Slow travel, deep sea diving and getting a vacation home.
What are your insider tips for anyone travelling to India?
Don’t go with media defined perspectives of India. Go with an open mind. If you are not overwhelmed, I am sure you will be touched by our hospitality and the amazing diversity in our ancient culture.
What charities or causes are closest to your heart?
Causes relating to children and education have always been close to my heart and I support U&I, a local charity that works in these areas. I’ve always held education in high regard because I believe it makes a difference in lifting people up in their lives.