My brilliant career – Stefani Kurta

by 17 Oct 2006

What is your current role?

I am the HR systems & service centre manager at GM Holden. In this role, I am responsible for two departments – HRIT and the HR service centre. In my HRIT role, I lead and oversee HRIT projects locally and across the Asia Pacific region. I also manage the HRIT infrastructure at GM Holden. In my HR service centre role, I oversee an HR service centre across two sites, which provides HR support to 7,500 employees and processes approximately 25,000 transactions per year.

What qualifications do you hold?

I have a graduate diploma in human resource management from Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM) and I am completing a masters in human resource management with MGSM.

Why did you get into HR?

Even in my early days when I was working in retail while studying, I saw the connection between people and business performance. I noticed how two individuals performing the same role with different levels of motivation, engagement and skills can have vastly different impacts on the bottom line (one significant and the other not so significant). This motivated me to explore HR as a career, since I saw it as a way of influencing how people work within organisations.

How did you get into HR?

I started at the very bottom in an entry level HR assistant role. The first five years of my career were spent working with a national retail organisation that was doubling in size every quarter. This was largely a greenfields environment where I was involved in building the HR function from the ground up. It was a fantastic opportunity to learn all areas of HR.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?

I see myself working in the Asia Pacific region on HRIT strategy and implementation. I have a passion for working with different cultures and I enjoy partnering with the business to deliver technology solutions that contribute to business performance and productivity.

What has been your biggest career high so far?

Being able to demonstrate how my work has impacted both the bottom line and behaviours has been very rewarding. In the last 12 months, I led the HRIT side of a large HR automation project in GM Holden that has not only saved significant structural cost but has also improved accountability in the business. This project has also recently been awarded winner of the 2006 Australian HR Awards for the Best HR Automation Project and is being considered for rollout to 12 other GM units within the Asia Pacific region.

What do you think it takes to succeed in HR?

Most importantly, you need to thrive on change and excel at getting others on board. Being able to communicate and promote a vision for the future that people can relate to is critical. You also need to be passionate, resilient and have a high level of integrity. To really meet the needs of the business you need to understand the various drivers in business and work towards them, not only from a people perspective, but also from a commercial perspective.

How do you manage relationships with senior executives?

I maintain an open and honest approach and make sure I listen really well, particularly to what may not be being said. I also work hard to understand what may be driving their point of view – what is happening in their world right now that may be impacting their decisions. I make sure our executive team is kept informed of key developments in my areas as they arise so they can be prepared for any critical discussions. I also involve them in sharing the successes of our team to assist their understanding of what we do and also to give the team exposure to the executive level.

Who is your biggest professional inspiration?

One of the early managers in my career is still an inspiration to me today. She taught me the importance of integrity and trust – of being real with people and never compromising your standards. She involved me in activities that were beyond my skill set at the time and trusted me with various stretch assignments.

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

Continually seek ways to stretch yourself and gain diverse experience. Take on the difficult projects and work as broadly as you can in the early days. Learn the business you are working in and speak the customer’s language. Be credible and deliver what you say you are going to deliver, plus more.

Describe yourself in three words

Passionate, driven, committed.