The Big Interview with Alessandro Pietropaolo

- Vice President HR at Sabre Corporation

The HR Heads Career Profile Series, The Big Interview, launched in 2017. We speak with senior HR Leaders within our network to find out what ‘a typical day in the office’ looks like, what they consider their greatest career success to be, the advice they’d give their 20 year old self and the essential skills required to hold a senior HR position.

Hi Alessandro! Tell us about you and your professional journey into HR…

I am Italian, and I graduated in International Law at the London Metropolitan University. After university I traveled around the world before landing in London. I ended up in graduate roles, doing Market Research, legal and HR work. I ended up focusing more and more on HR when I realised what kind of impact it has on the business. I didn’t plan my career, it just happened organically. I took advantage of the opportunities presented to me and here I am.

What does a typical day in the office look like for you?

There are sixty offices around the world and I cover Europe, Middle East and APAC, working within a very diverse international team across many time zones. I’m proud to have a very talented group of managers working for me across multiple locations and I support their work in moving the company forward. I spend the biggest part of my day providing advice to employees and helping business leaders to scale our business and to shape our culture.

What do you love about your role?

I’ve been fortunate with my role to have the opportunity to live and work in continental Europe, in the UK and in Singapore. I have visited and travelled to Various countries across four continents! It has helped me to appreciate other cultures and respect diversity. It has somehow humbled me. 

Are there any aspects of your role that you find challenging?

I like to say that I’m a business generalist that works in HR. The main challenge I find is navigating the organisational paradox. There can be a lot of tension when connecting global and local change management, and employee engagement strategies. In my role it is critical that I really understand the business context in full and in depth, so that I can engage the business leaders and coach my team to add more value to the business.

What do the next 12 months look like for you and Sabre?

2019 is the year of People and Culture at Sabre, and our leaders have been given the responsibility to connect our values and culture to the business and engage their teams, continually scaling our business in EMEA, APAC and globally. We must drive innovation and further establish our company as a leading travel technology player.

Have you noticed any trends in HR recently?

Recently we have seen a lot of new technologies and approaches entering the market, centered around employee engagement, culture and feedback transparency – and all of these trends are forcing us to evolve the way we look at the people centric aspect of how our global organisation operates.

What Top Tips would you give to someone hoping to be successful in HR?

  1. Be open to new things. You might not be able to imagine them today – but they may well come in the future!
  2. The traditional career ladder is disappearing, and it’s important to embrace opportunities like international assignments and stretch jobs that push ourselves out of the typical comfort zone.
  3. Be intellectually curious about industry and economic trends, social-economic and demographics trends.
  4. Build your personal brand based on integrity.

As an HR Leader, what inspires you?

I want to create value for others. I believe in servant leadership, and my goal is to make every work place better than it was when I joined.

What are the essential skills of an HR Leader in your opinion?

  1. The ability to make change happen and manage an organisational culture.
  2. Drive people and talent decisions with solid data and a rigorous methodology.
  3. Most importantly – hire the best people (people that are better than you!) and coach them – don’t micromanage them!

In your experience, what drives and motivates your employees most, and how do you strive to provide this?

Putting a very clear, well defined strategy in place is absolutely critical.

And a selfless leadership that puts the collective good of the organisation higher than their own career needs is invaluable. For me in my international remit: respect and appreciation for diversity is key to keep my team motivated.

Get to know Alessandro

Can you recommend any books or materials for HR Leaders?

My favourite books about Business and Leadership are ‘Great by Choice’ and ‘Good to Great’ by Jim Collins – they are quite inspirational reads and help you to understand how the concept of leadership is evolving. It also allows you to dig deeper into resilience during a phase of change and transformation.

What do you do in your spare time?

I keep myself fit by exercising every day – mainly outdoor, high intensity training and boxing. I am passionate about wine and good food, Italian and Japanese cuisines are my favourites. I really enjoy live music and I collect Vinyl’s!

Is work life balance important to you?

I really strive to embrace a healthy work life balance, allowing myself to focus solely on what I’m doing. I have two children, so I intentionally find quality time for them especially over the weekend.

At work, I block time in my calendar and free up time to think – and I try to exercise mindfulness. We’ve just launched ‘No Meetings Wednesdays’ whereby we ask our employees to minimise or cancel meetings or calls that aren’t critical to allow themselves quality time to think without being bombarded with meeting invites and emails.  

If you’d like to be involved in ‘The Big Interview’ series, please reach out to us – we’d love to hear from you!

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