Jessica was born in the United States but moved to German-speaking Switzerland at the age of 10. After studying economics in Geneva, she developed a passion for human resources, a field in which she has built a career and come into contact with a range of industries, from banking to fragrances and flavors and from commodity trading to the humanitarian sector
No specific moment springs to mind, but I would say that what has made the biggest impression on me over the course of my career has been the strength and results of working in a team.
When I joined the ICRC, I had come straight from the private sector and brought with me my experience of its tools, systems and way of operating. My team, on the other hand, had almost all spent their entire careers at the ICRC and had an in-depth understanding of its operations, how it functioned on the ground, the realities it faced and the constraints imposed on the sector. They had the experience. I had the tools. There were 15 people in my team and the work we did together was extremely rewarding. Our teamwork created real added value for the organisation.
I have adopted a similar approach since joining CHS: I work directly with the heads of the trade, finance, risk management and operations departments. We each bring something different to the work we do together and the results we have achieved already speak for themselves!
If you had to give just one piece of advice to a junior starting his/her career, what would it be?
I would strongly advise those just starting out to be open-minded and adopt a ‘Why not?’ attitude – especially in the beginning. You have to be open to any experience – good or bad – that can help you to grow and develop. It’s by accepting these challenges that we build up our professional experience. Never be afraid to ask questions, while at the same time trying to take on board different concepts by yourself. On top of this, I would add that it’s vital to be and remain flexible!
Do you have a Motto/Lucky charm?
I have several! I couldn’t pick just one… ‘It’s by listening that we improve our vision’; ‘And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years’; ‘Logic will get you from A-Z; imagination will get you everywhere’.
What do you enjoy the most in your day to day job?
The variety, the contact I have with other people and the areas we address. I’m fortunate enough to work with a huge variety of people, with very different duties, roles and personalities. In my current role at CHS, I am the HR Director for 10 European countries, so the people I come into contact with come from many different backgrounds and have very different approaches and perceptions. In a single day, I might speak with someone in Ukraine, then Romania, as well as with colleagues here in Geneva. At any given time, we have several projects under way, problems that need to be dealt with urgently and unexpected issues that crop up – not to mention the managerial aspect of working with my team.
If you had to do it again would you choose the same career path?
Yes! I would do exactly the same – it’s what I love! My job is people-focused – it’s about understanding how they operate, how to interact with them. I find it hugely stimulating. I discovered human resources when I did a placement with Sandoz SA, a big multinational, in Basel as part of my economics degree. On the first day, an HR manager gave a short presentation about the company to all the interns, with details about what would happen next and what our placement would involve. It was a lightbulb moment – this was the job for me!
What is the biggest challenge for a woman in the trading industry?
Working as I do in HR, it doesn’t pose a particular challenge. It’s certainly a very male-dominated environment, but, with two brothers and three sons, that’s something I feel comfortable with. Things are perhaps harder for female traders…
Where is your favourite place on earth and why?
Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, for me ‘There’s no place like home’…
How could you qualify your relationship with Ampersand World?
I like Ampersand World’s energy. You get a real sense of their diversity – they have a great approach! The team is young and dynamic and that makes you want to work with them. It’s not just about recruitment; what they offer is a much more comprehensive service and they are always ready to innovate and try new things. We have a very good relationship.