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In Conversation with: Mounir Shaltony - HR Director, Essilor
1st June 2016
Laura Bowen- Ashwin interviewed Mounir Shaltony – HR Director for Essilor Middle East. In the interview, he talks about how he got into HR and what he looks for in a long term recruitment partner
How did you get into HR?
I studied Political Science to help people, but I realized I was a bit naïve about the actual role of governments and policy-making entities. I figured the next best thing was to help people by giving them good jobs in good companies with good work environments. I started off as an HR Administrator and worked my way up to Director. To solidify my credentials, I got a Masters in HR with a focus on a growing national concern (nationalization of private sectors) – so perhaps my love of good ol’ policy making isn’t dead yet.
How did you get to where you are today?
I do not see HR as work. I truly enjoy helping people work in good environments. I got to where I am today because I didn’t have a problem doing my workload and working on additional projects; sometimes requested, sometimes hinted at by my managers, and sometimes it was a problem that I thought I could solve by showing initiative. I also got *extremely* lucky by working with a few good people on very, very cool projects.
What’s the hardest part of your job and how do you overcome difficulties?
Budgeting is always hard as there are so many things you want to do: better medical coverage with higher limits, better education allowances and training budgets; better work environments overall. The way I overcome them is I keep rapport with most employees (as much as possible) and I collect feedback throughout the year as to what they want versus what they actually need and the focus is put on the latter eventually. Keeping rapport also helps with decision making about what works and what doesn’t, in terms of policies, structures and other matters.
Tell us about the industry you work in and how this fairs to previous industries you have worked in?
I work in the healthcare industry for the world’s largest ophthalmic lenses and equipment. I am absolutely proud to work for a company that helps people see better – having family members with very poor eye sight made me personally aware of how difficult life is when you can’t see well. My previous industries were a mix of Facilities Management, Hospitality & Automotive; but I spent quite a bit of time consulting and working for military, government and other entities that can’t be identified by name.
What’s your proudest career moment?
I worked on setting up an entity dealing with religious tolerance, and it was mentioned by Obama in his State of the Union speech a while ago. I am proud to be part of the team that might eventually make people realize that extremism is not the way for modern societies. I also worked as part of the launch team for a political research firm in the UAE (a rare thing, but we need more intellect in the region!) and a Communities project that may be launched eventually, which will have a broad impact on how we live in the UAE. These three are my proudest moments because I want to look back in a few years and see their results and know that I played a part in launching them and altering my society.
On a smaller scale, however; I am always extremely happy and proud when I hear great feedback about people I took a chance with earlier on, doing well and succeeding in their careers.
I prefer Abu Dhabi as I was born and raised there. But I actually moved back from Canada because I realized the opportunity for growth and development here is much better than anywhere else. Things just get done here, as opposed to get talked about quite a bit elsewhere.
What career advice would you offer someone looking to go into HR?
HR is about dealing with people; if you don’t have the emotional intelligence, cultural knowledge and overall altruism, perhaps you should think about changing fields. Oh, and for those who are starting off; the best function to be in within HR is as an Administrator: you get exposed to all contracts, policies, procedures, meetings and most importantly, the thinking that goes into making decisions that affect people.
If you were to ever leave Dubai, where would you see yourself going next and why?
Latin America is a dream but the language barrier might be a bit much. Frankly, I wouldn’t rule out any place as long as it’s safe: I’d want my daughter to experience life outside the UAE’s comfort zone.
What do you look for in recruitment agencies when starting a recruitment partnership?
Two things: I look for an entity that understands that I do not want someone to simply go on a job board and get candidates; I can do that for free in a café while sipping tea (and I actually enjoy going through hundreds of resumes and wonder what people were thinking when they chose a specific font or used a specific term to explain their role). I want an Agency that remembers the information I provide about the company, the cultural and team “fit”, the expectations and basically all the things that don’t get written in a Job Description and uses it when identifying and presenting a candidate.
Second point is a bit more personal but most of my friends and colleagues agree on it: agents who don’t return calls from candidates or agencies that do not route calls to agents because they are “too busy” will probably be blacklisted. I understand the heavy workload and the need for consultants to place candidates and generate new business; but those same candidates are future business opportunities: take the call, and treat them with respect.