Name: Heli Hassinen-Biberger
Title: Human resources director, talent management, recruitment, learning & development and diversity, Europe
Location: Paris, France
Family: Husband, Tobias; daughters, Anni, 8, Emilia, 5
Born: Joensuu, Finland
Languages: Finnish, English, German, Swedish, basic Spanish
Education: MBA, Hawaii Pacific University, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA; master's degree, University of Joensuu, Joensuu, Finland
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
My first job in the automotive industry was as a human resources manager for Nissan Nordic. The fact that the company was part of the automotive industry was not necessarily what attracted me to the job. What I was really drawn to was the challenge of starting a new operation. That made the decision to join the industry an easy one. But it didn’t take long before I was hooked on the amazing world of cars. And I’m still hooked.
Starting up Nissan’s sales and marketing company for the Nordic and Baltic countries. We started from scratch, and in just seven months we were able to open four offices and start sales operations in all the relevant countries. Furthermore, we reached all of our targets in the very first year.
Biggest failure and what it taught you?
When setting up a multi-country company, I used to expect to be able to use the same operational model across borders within a short time span. I know now that doesn’t work. I have learned that you can establish a common operational model in all of your countries, but you still need to take the time to understand the important cultural differences and then amend your approach accordingly. I have also learned that some cultures require more in-depth analysis than others, and that you have to accept that.
What is your current challenge at work?
I’m working on a Europewide initiative to further improve employee motivation and quality of management. It is an absolutely terrific initiative, but very challenging to implement because of the cultural and legal differences among the various European countries.
What about the auto industry surprises you?
I’m continually amazed how passionate Nissan employees are. The bigger the challenge, the more excited we get. When something seems impossible, we get even more motivated. We have an intense desire to succeed.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
If you want to really grow and develop, take on challenges that allow you to do something that seems impossible to achieve.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
This huge industry offers you limitless opportunities regardless of your educational background. My advice is to find a way to enter the industry at any level. From there, you will be able to create your own path to success.
If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?
I would go to every department in the company for a day and work side by side with the employees. I would do this to gain a better understanding of what they do on a day-to-day basis, but also to have the opportunity to meet with them and listen to their concerns.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
Ideally, a global human resources role so that I can have some strategic influence on the direction Nissan takes in the future.
What do you do to relax?
A very Finnish thing: I like to go with the family to our summer cottage on a lake, heat up the sauna and take a dip in the lake or the snow, depending on the time of the year.
A Fiat Uno. It needed loving care, but started like a charm even when it was -30 degrees Celsius.
Nissan Note and Infiniti FX37.
2014- present: Human resources director, talent management, recruitment, learning & development and diversity, Europe, Nissan, Paris, France
2010-2014: Director, Human Resources and General Affairs, Nissan Technical Centre Europe, Cranfield, England
2007-2010: Human Resources and General Affairs Manager, Nissan Center Europe, Bruehl, Germany
2005-2007: Human Resources and General Affairs Manager, Nissan Nordic Europe, Espoo, Finland
2001-2005: Resource Manager, ISS Services, Helsinki, Finland
1998-2001: Service Manager, ISS Services, Helsinki, Finland
1995-1998: Customer service manager, Suntours, Finland, Portugal and Austria