Head of Global Talent Acquisition at Siemens, Gonzalo Ruiz Calavera shares his unique perspective on globalization.
Despite the fact that I grew up in the pre-internet era, I was introduced to the idea of globalization at a very young age. My father travelled and worked all over the world, and whenever he came home he’d teach us about different cultures he’d experienced. I suppose a fire was lit inside me early for an international life.
With the help of Siemens I’ve managed to create just that.
Having worked my way up through the ranks of a truly multinational company, and now sitting as its Head of Global Talent Acquisition, I’m granted a unique perspective on globalization; its past, its present and its potential future. I’m also in a position where I can have a positive effect on Siemens’ own globalization efforts.
My journey into and up through Siemens
When I was 18 years old I got a scholarship from a United Nations organization, which gave me an opportunity to live abroad and learn about international relations. On my return home I started university, at the same time earning a spot on a Siemens Entry Talent program. At the time Siemens was seen as a German company that had operations abroad. I found that my ability to speak English and Spanish was incredibly valuable, and enabled me to participate in a variety of international projects.
Things moved quickly from there. Being involved in Siemens’ international projects granted me visibility. I was offered the opportunity to become head of HR in Greece, and I didn't think twice. I thought it was a great opportunity both professionally and personally, as Greece has a very different culture to Spain, the US and other countries I was familiar with.
Following that, I was offered a corporate job in our Headquarters in Munich, Germany, where I had the opportunity to experience our company from a different perspective, and, more importantly, understand our corporate culture. And before long, another great opportunity came up in Singapore. Again, the chance to experience a new culture meant I didn’t think twice.
I’ve been in Singapore for 10 years now. The first five were spent in a regional role within Siemens’ Asia Pacific, and the last five I’ve found myself in a more global role, as Head of Global Talent Acquisition.
Trading colonialism for a consultative approach
I feel as though working with international teams has changed over the past few years. In the early stages of globalization, particularly with ‘national’ companies such as Siemens, it was about standardizing processes – expanding your empire, copying the rule book from headquarters, and pasting it into the new location.
More recently, that idea has been flipped on its head. Globalization is no longer about standardization – it’s instead about recognizing and understanding cultural differences. It's not about educating other regions, but about getting things done in a way that makes sense in that region. This approach opens up a very different way of communicating and collaborating.
This is perhaps the part of my role that I enjoy the most. It’s not my job to tell people what to do – it’s my job to tell people what we want to achieve, and then to understand how a certain team might approach that challenge, and discuss strategies with the greatest likelihood of success.
The importance of company culture in modern globalization
As modern globalization is reliant on a more collaborative and consultative approach, the most successful companies will be those that boast a collaborative and consultative company culture.
I’d define company culture as ‘the unwritten rules of an organization’. It’s a term that sums up how team members think, act and apply themselves when they aren’t told how to think, act and apply themselves. That’s what makes culture so interesting to me, and also what makes it such a difficult thing to describe.
There are three things that stand out to me in regards to the culture at Siemens:
- Respect: An incredible amount of respect is shown at all levels of the organization
- Excellence: Quality is paramount. At Siemens we learn from mistakes so we don't repeat them
- Innovation: Sure, we’re a tech company. But innovation isn’t limited to our products and services; it’s part of our DNA. I always see people looking to innovate, no matter their role
Each of these elements is universal, applying as much in Munich as in Madrid or Manila. Each of these elements helps to facilitate globalization, by promoting collaboration, consultation and a culture of success.
Company culture is a complex thing. But when a candidate asks what it’s like working at Siemens, I typically elaborate on these three things. I’m proud to say that when team members leave to chase new opportunities, they typically say that culture is the thing they miss the most.
The real-world impacts of the Siemens culture
The Siemens company culture is far more than a handful of buzzwords painted on an office wall. It comes through in everything that we do.
As a people-centered organization, training and professional development forms a core element of our company culture. We’ve always been a destination for graduates and interns, and you constantly see managers training and mentoring their young team members – it’s just part of the philosophy and culture of our company.
Our culture also comes through in stakeholder decision-making. At Siemens we consult a lot of people before making a decision. Sometimes this has been perceived negatively; a case of too much red tape. But my perception is that while it may take longer to make a call, the final decision is more robust and, thanks to the consultation with all stakeholders, easier to implement. In a digital world where things like security and innovation are paramount, I think our strategy will only become more valuable into the future.
The increasing importance of diversity and inclusivity
We know that diversity is good for business, allowing you to make better decisions faster, attract and retain top talent and increase your bottom line.
We are very passionate about diversity and inclusivity at Siemens. We believe in the concept of bringing your whole self to work. Top leadership has been very vocal on this, and we use our social media presence to make clear statements, generate discussion and fly the flag. This is also evident in our talent-entry programs. We make real effort to hire people from differing backgrounds to create a diverse talent pipeline.
Part of this push for diversity and inclusivity is broader and more organizational. We’re trying to make ourselves more of a truly global company, and I'm an example of this: I'm a Spaniard, based in Singapore, working as part of the leadership team for a company founded in Germany. Each leader has pushed to have team members based across the globe, whether in China, the US or Australia, granting us access to a diverse range of opinions and perspectives.
Beginning with my father’s stories and slides, I have always understood that we’re all part of a single, global community, and I’m lucky to have found a company that shares my excitement about our role in the world.
And if you too see yourself as a citizen of the world, Siemens grants you an incredible opportunity to have a real and positive impact at an international level.