HR in the hot seat: Syntia Leite, VP of people and performance for APAC at Kraft Heinz

Syntia Leite chats with HRD Singapore about the excitement, challenges and techniques for implementing HR in the APAC region

What made you decide to work in HR?
I worked as a business administrator and I did my post-graduation in marketing. I also did my MBA in strategy. So was very business-oriented. At the beginning of my career, I had a dream to work in marketing but I started in HR and I fell in love. I worked for two years as head of marketing in a television company in Brazil but I missed having an HR role. I missed the strategy, talking to people, helping people, supporting companies through people. I think HR is my role for sure.
What is your job title and what brought you into this role?
My job title is vice-president of people and performance for Asia-Pacific. I gained experience in different roles in HR for different companies. When I started my career with ABI in Brazil, this improved my skills to understand the business and aspects like HR tools, objectives, problem solving and results. I am here now in this company because I understood from the beginning that HR has to work very close to the business. I learned more and I can add more to the role that I am in now.
What motivates you or excites you the most about your role?
For me my motivation is the challenge. In my role, I am challenged all the time. We are never happy with the way we are doing things. You get the results but then you see what should be done better. And I like that.
I also like to think that I can take ownership in the company. I take care of every detail from the strategy to execution and make sure that we are doing exactly what we proposed to do. I like that. You have time to think about the strategy but you also are in charge as an owner to execute your plans. It is very hands-on.
What are the goals you most want to accomplish in your work?
My long-term target is I want to see APAC as a global reference for people and performance practices. And I would like to supply talented people through the leadership pipeline in a very short time. To train, attract, and develop people to fulfil leadership positions around the world. I believe we can export good people from the Asia-Pacific to other places globally.
What is next for you in your work? What are you looking forward to?
Because I’m quite new in the role, I still have a lot of things to do. I still have things to be delivered. The really short-term goal is to hire, attract, retain and develop the pipeline of talent. We have to train and develop our leaders to align them with the culture and invite them to be the leaders that we would like them to be. Since I still have things to be delivered in my role, I’m not at a stage where I can think about what’s coming next.
What’s your favourite aspect of the job and what’s your least favourite aspect?
My favourite aspect is the transparency about the culture in the company. We have an open space to suggest and implement ideas, and give the employees the ownership to do something. Every time we have a problem, we invite employees give their suggestions and solutions. Because of this transparency and this open environment, I am allowed to do that as HR.
I think what I like the least is the challenge of the language and culture in each country in the Asia-Pacific. Sometimes miscommunication hurts me. I would like to understand more about the culture and language. I would like to talk to people in their language to see what is going on. This is a thing that I don’t like but I can see it as a challenge as well.
What is the best piece of HR-related advice you’ve ever received?
I had a boss in the beginning of my career. I was in a project, an appraisal performance assessment, and I was not really sure about the numbers or the process itself. It was the first meeting with him and he told me, “Syntia, you should try to be the best in whatever you are doing”. If you are doing something, try to be the best person. I think he was 100% right. It doesn’t mean that you are going to be the best but at least you have tried to be.
Did you have any key mentors who influenced you? If yes, tell me about them.
He’s not really a mentor, but I talk to my husband every time I have a dilemma, have to figure out what to do or have to clear the message in my mind. He is very sensitive and at the same moment very straight. Sometimes I think too much and he says, “The situation is just this. Don’t add any emotions. Don’t put anything else in. Just take the message and its conclusion.” I think for me, this helps a lot.

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