From London to Saarbrücken or: How Bridget Jones met James Bond
An International HR Manager who moved from London to Germany shares some insights
Many people living in smaller cities dream of living in metropolitans like London and move there. Claire Raistrick did it the other way around: She grew up near London and worked there as a Human Resources (HR) Manager. But six years ago, she met her personal German “James Bond” and decided on moving to a tiny town in Germany. And as luck would have it, the very same time imc searched for a native English speaker for the international HR Business in Saarbrucken. Another match!
In the Job Slot interview Claire reveals more about her career path, why she was shocked in a German supermarket and clears up some prejudices about HR.
Job | International HR Manager
Working in | Saarbruecken, Germany
Worked at imc since | 2020
Super power | Ability to Listen
Favourite food | Typical British Sunday Roast Beef, Yorkshire Puddings and Roast Potatoes
Hi Claire, thanks for joining! First tell us, what exactly do you do in the Human Resources Department?
HR is wide ranging, and no two days are ever the same. It’s not only about hiring and firing or talking to people all day, but HR is also strategic, and there is more to this job than many people realise. I would say you can split HR into the following areas: recruitment and selection (or talent acquisition to give it is new name), performance management, learning and development, pay and reward, human resources information systems, and employment law.
Strengthening the employer-employee relationship is a large part of my role. My job requires expertise as a HR generalist, which means I must be familiar with every human resource discipline to some level, whilst always focus on imc’s strategic goals. I get involved in great projects such as our Diversity and Inclusion, Onboarding and there is so much more I would love to. We have some fabulous people at imc, and part of my role is working with management to create an environment where people never want to leave.
What professional background or education do you have?
I started off as Secretary in the Head Office of a Private Bank in London which customers had to have a large amount of money to invest. We had customers from Saudi, Lottery Winners actors for example visit our plush offices in Mayfair which was a great experience. After a few years, I was fed up with commuting on the train and tube every day, so I manged to secure a job working closer to home, again staying in financial services.
The HR Manager happened to say to me at the photocopier that she had a vacancy for a HR Assistant, and I said: “Here I am!”. Then she said, ok you can start next week. A few months in, she asked me if I would like to go to University, and I did not need to be asked twice. So, I started studying Human Resources Management besides working, as a HR Assistant and have been working in HR ever since. That was a very fortunate situation and one that shaped my career in HR.
In which areas did you work before joining imc?
Other than working as Secretary for a few years, I have always worked in HR. Prior to joining imc I had never worked in the IT industry. That’s a little shift for me, because in financial services you have very detailed and strict processes to follow, especially around compliance and risk. Although we have strict compliance regulations etc at imc as well, there is no comparison to financial services. In general, its more laid back and flexible here.
Which skills are important for your job?
Confidentially is key, a great communicator, objective, impartial, well-organised and a good listener… We have two ears and one mouth for a reason!
What do you like about your job most?
I really enjoy interviewing people. As I work in International, I have the luxury of speaking with people from across the globe which is so interesting. It is super important to make people feel relaxed in an interview so you can get the best out of them. I love to coach people also. However, that’s not all you need and do in HR and in my case it’s only a small part of what I do.
I also like the strategic part very much, like putting frameworks in place and focussing on the company’s employee agenda. More than anything I LOVE my team! I feel privileged to work with such intelligent kind individuals.
Ok, now let’s come to some more personal questions. You moved from London to a tiny city in Germany called Kollerbach, how come?
The oldest story of the world: I was on holiday in Austria skiing and met a German guy. It would be nice to tell you that our eyes locked across the piste, and I fell into his arms, but of course it was nothing like that and we met in a bar during Après Ski. He did not speak much English and I spoke no German at all. And I skied like Bridget Jones, and he was like James Bond… But somehow a fit.
Did you experience big cultural differences or clashes between England and Germany?
The most stressful experience I had when I came to Germany (apart from driving on the other side of the road in an English car) was a visit in the German supermarket. I had no idea that in Germany it’s super important that you are very fast at the checkout. You must grab all your stuff as quickly as possible, pay and nearly run!
When I first went to a supermarket, I didn’t know that, and I thought the checkout assistance was so rude and I felt under such pressure. But like anything, once you know the rules you can play the game.
I find Germany very clean and feel very safe here. The German’s are fabulous. The lifestyle in Germany is much more outside that in the UK and now I have an E- Bike, courtesy of the imc scheme, there is no stopping me!
When it comes to a business context, I found it quite unbelievable that Germans address certain people by their surname because I haven’t called somebody Mr or Mrs since I was at school so that is very different. However, in general, the differences are less than you might think.
On the other hand, some clichés I heard I cannot confirm at all. I have heard is said that Germans write very blunt emails, or don’t do “small talk” which is untrue. It’s right that people are a little more direct, or as I like to say “logical! and get to the point quicker, but I like that. I feel very comfortable here and cannot wait to experience my first Christmas Party in Saarbrücken.
You have already worked for a couple of companies, what do you find special or different at imc?
For me it’s the people that make it. At imc it’s really hard work but fun and I genuinely think people care. People work hard but still the atmosphere is relaxed and everyone is friendly. In banks people tend to be sort of stuffy, suited and booted, at least when I worked there.
I love to come to work in my jeans for example. I do not have one black suit in my wardrobe anymore (just red jackets) and it is quite liberating. I really appreciate the flexibility at imc and the hybrid working model we have. Oh, and I love the fact that you can always find champagne in the fridge, although I’m never sure who brought it… Or even if I can drink it!
Great, now let’s come to some random questions. Do you remember a very curious or funny situation you experienced in your job?
I could probably write a book about the things I experienced in the last 20 years, people would not believe what goes on in banks (and probably everywhere). I used to dread the Christmas parties as I could guarantee there would be a complaint following it, on my desk within a few days. I can’t think of one specific situation, well not that I could share anyway.
An amusing situation at imc happened at Christmas. Desi my colleague and I were in the office on 23rd December, and we were just finishing up when three “wise” men appeared at the office door and started to sing to us in their dulcet tones “We wish you a Merry Christmas”. I knew Raffael and Roman but when they left, I said to Desi: “Who was the guy in the green jacket on the end?” She was so shocked and said “Claire, you don’t know who Andreas Pohl is?”
You have to know that Andreas is one of the key people at imc and has worked here for years. Needless to say, I do now! (Sorry Andreas if you happen to read this… But you were wearing a mask).
What did you want to become as a child?
I wanted to become a vet. But I learned in a very young age that I was very squeamish, so that career was out of the window.
Do you also use e-learning privately?
Yes, I use Duolingo to learn German and get daily reminders to make my course!
What was the last book you read?
“Behind closed doors” which I call “beach books”. I read a lot of different types of genres, I am really interested in psychology books, and am a huge fan of Carl Jung.
Would you choose your profession again today?
Yes 100 %.
Great, thank you Claire for this lovely and funny interview and all the best for your private and professional life!
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I have been working in the Marketing & Communication Team at imc since March 2019.
Communication, creating unique content and social media are my passion.
"One can not not communicate" - Paul Watzlawik.
To explain complex content in an understandable way and thus make the topic of e-Learning accessible to everyone is an exciting challenge every day.
Privately I love to read, play poker and travel a lot.
I am always happy to receive feedback or suggestions.