My brilliant career – Daljit Singh, director global talent management, Baker & McKenzie

by 04 Mar 2008

What is your current role?

Director of talent management, global talent management, Baker & McKenzie, based in Sydney. By way of background, Baker & McKenzie is one of the largest law firms in the world with 70 offices in 38 countries and our global talent management team is a “virtual team” which is represented in every region of the firm –Asia-Pacific, Europe and Middle East, North America and Latin America, with there being directors of talent management in each region.

My responsibilities include leading various global projects, and also act as a talent management consultant/adviser to the management of our offices in Asia-Pacific. I am presently working on a major global project on leadership development.

What qualifications do you hold?

Bachelor of Commerce, Master of Economics, Master of Education and a Master of Business Administration (Human Resources).

Why did you get into HR?

I thought that it would be an exciting field as it is so people-centred and that it is about helping people grow, achieve and succeed. I strongly believe that people have a huge potential to achieve and become the best that they can be. I think that this potential is not being fully tapped by most organisations.

How did you get into HR?

I actually started off as an accountant, and than after just two years (my heart was not in practising accountancy) moved to teaching accountancy at a university for four years (I enjoyed working in the education sector). This then lead to the role of director of learning and development at accounting firm Touche Ross in 1987.

Touche Ross merged with KPMG in 1990 and during in my 12 years with KPMG, I was able to gain a lot of experience in HR, and held a number of different positions, including director of L&D and director of HR.

What has been your biggest career high so far?

Working on two significant global projects, where I was the “leader” and the “learner”. Firstly at KPMG, in leading a global taskforce that developed a truly global approach to learning and development. It was the result of team work of a top group of professionals who were committed to making it happen. Secondly at Baker & McKenzie, in leading a global project that developed a global competency framework (we called it the “Development Framework” emphasising the main driver for it) and then working on the development of several talent management applications based on the framework. We paid a lot of attention to consultation and engagement with the business and with the talent management community. This paid huge dividends for buy-in and implementation.

What do you think it takes to succeed in HR?

Firstly to have a holistic and open frame of mind. This means seeing connections, how things are related to each other, and being open to ideas from anywhere and everywhere. Secondly a really good understanding of the business, what makes it tick, what are the preoccupations of people, what constitutes success in the organisation, and what are the goals and strategy of the organisation.

Thirdly, the ability to consult, that is to really understand people and their issues, develop potential workable solutions working with people, and to execute solutions. Finally the ability to make revisions by looking at the results of our interventions, asking if our assumptions correct and considering what would work better, etc.

How do you manage relationships with senior executives?

Being open, focused and confident. I think it’s particularly important to keep it focused on the business agenda, and relate what we have to contribute to it. I try to ask good questions, listen well, and speak openly.

What advice would you give to graduates considering a career in HR?

You can make a difference if you are committed to a personal mission of making a real difference, and to your own self-development as a professional. Keep focused on making small differences when you start out and keep growing your knowledge and skills. It’s not just HR you need to learn; the knowledge and skill requirements to succeed are much broader now. It’s about how organisations really work, developing your emotional intelligence and your consulting skills. Learn how to influence – for example how and when to push and when to pull.

Describe yourself in three words

Pragmatic, empathetic and rigorous.


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