Heidi Wassini

Talent Acquisition & Employer Branding Transformation Leader, Heartfelt.biz

1. Do you remember a time when you were happiest as a child? Where were you, who were you with and what were you doing?

I don’t remember much from my childhood. Growing up with an alcoholic (step)dad and a mom who was always working had an impact. In school I was the only one living in an apartment not a house – and the only one from a worker family. So I guess my mind simply has blocked most of my not-so-happy childhood out… However, it was not all Oliver Twist or a Never-ending Story of Misery 😊.

My happiest moments involved one of two thing (or preferably a combination). Spending time with my grandmother and reading books. My grandmother was my everything growing up and I still miss her every day. She didn’t have a lot but she had room and heart space for me and she was my confident and no. 1 support in life till she died. Books were my escape (hence the not so subtle hints to books 😊) – and I was granted a special permission from both school and local libraries to take home a lot of books. I read a lot, as much as three books a day at times – and even as an adult on vacations I would gulp e.g. 700 pages of Harry Potter in 24 hours. I would pick eras or genres – and then basically empty the library for books on it. I would read eating my meals, in school breaks, to/from school (when I started using public transportation), walking to/from classes, you name it – I would read anywhere.

2. Who was your favourite teacher at school? What did you learn from that person?

Only one teacher really stands out to me and that was my English teacher Hr. Moltved from 5th to 9th Grade. He was an excellent teacher and I have him to thank for my great interest in the English language. He was old school and the only teacher we called “Hr.” (Sir) which is not common at all in Danish schools. He had clear expectations to us and make learning challaging. To this day I can still inflect about 20 irregular verbs by heart 😊

3. When was the last time you changed your mind about something really important? What was it and what led you to change your view?

I think it has been in the “making” for some years, but I was unable to really articulate my mind about it and thus also why it was important. But the past few years, I have been educating myself about diversity, inclusion and equity in the recruitment process. I mean, of course in a modern world we know it is “good business”. On a personal level I never thought twice about whether people identified as this or that, what background they had, etc. so I thought I was quite fair, unbiased and inclusive. But boy have I learned so much more and now, looking back I can see the countless mistakes I have done and are determined not to make them again.

To be honest it was really Joanne Lockwood that opened my eyes twice, first in Ukraine when she led a round table discussion – and the second time when she was kind enough to meet 1-1 to talk about D&I. I have learned that diversity is not just about male/female and that inclusion is much more than just gender-based bathrooms. Today, I challenge myself regularly to face my thoughts and the biases that comes with that and I am so passionate about creating processes that allow fair and unbiased recruitments to lead to a more diverse and inclusive talent pipeline.

4. What are the three books that you would unhesitatingly recommend to others? Why?

Just 3 books? Jeez… I don’t even know where to start 😊. I guess that if I must pick only 3 books I would go with:

Stephen King “On Writing”

I am a huge SK fan and I have read every book he has published. One of the reasons why I love his books is because of his unique way of writing and his vocabulary and mastery of the English language. But I never fully appreciated his writing style and personal history before reading his semi-autobiography on his craftmanship

Michael Newton: Journey of Souls: Case Studies of Life Between Lives.

Brian Weiss’ book “Many Lives, Many Masters” was life changing when I read it in 1995 – but Michael Newton’s book (which I read late 90s) just put everything into place for me spiritually. We are here with a purpose, for a purpose – and everything happens for a reason. Now you can affect this of course through choices you make, so choose with your heart and let your intuition lead the way…

Jean M. Auel “The Clan of the Cave Bear”

I was introduced to her books in 1989 or so and I was sucked in right away. The mixture between the extensive research to understand how life was “back then” and the fiction. The girl on the outside, never feeling like one of “them”, taking matters into her own hands… yeah that spoke to me 😊. I reread every book when she published a new one – in fact I think it is time to read them again…. Right after I finish “Fall of Giants” by Ken Follet, “The Vampire Lestat” by Anne Rice, “Wolf of the Plains” by Conn Iggulden and “A Game of Thrones” by GRRM (see how I did that? 😉)

5. If you wrote a “user manual” for how people should interact with you, what would be the most important point in the manual?

Honesty and integrity. It is really that simple. I am a trusting person and I always give people the benefit of the doubt. In life I have learned that not all people can be trusted or have integrity, they will lie to your face, take credit for your hard work or in other ways show personality traits that I find less attractive. But I refuse to let that stand in my way – and thus treat me with honesty and integrity, and you will have a friend for life…

6. What personality trait has got you in the most trouble? What kind of trouble does it get you in?

I think I would have to choose my passion. I am really not a person who gets into trouble – but when I have it has been because I have been passionate about something. Even growing up I would get into passionate (word) fights with people if I strongly believed something. As an adult, I have learned to moderate my passion a little but it will sometimes get the better of me, especially in combination with being faced with people who think very little of a recruiter’s skills – and I can come off as arrogant and condescending which is so far from who I am as a person.

7. On what topic would you never make a joke? Why?

I think the overall subject would be “war”. Throughout my life, WWII has been a topic I have found very little to joke about. I think it stems from growing up with my grand parents telling me stories about growing up during the war and being more or less part of the resistance against the occupiers. There is just not anything to joke about with everything going on in that war from Holocaust to what happened in Asia, on the battle fields, etc. Same thing goes with e.g. 9/11 – To me a joke about those subjects will just always be “too soon”

8. When was the last time you felt like an outsider in a group? What/How did you learn?

I think I always feel like the outsider. For sure that goes back to my childhood and the way I have learned to deal with it is to just be myself. I think in a professional setting it really hits me when I am at conferences as a speaker. Complete imposter syndrome…. I will be together with these amazing people, and I will just never feel like I am “one of them”. I have learned that we all feel that way, some more often than others, and that it is ok to say out loud. Because once you voice your insecurities, a lot of the time people will connect with you and so many times I have felt such love from strangers that end up becoming friends

9. What is your most prized possession? What’s the story behind it?

That has got to be my Kindle Whitepaper. When I was working for Ramboll I was lucky enough to travel quite a lot. And I kept forgetting to bring my books – or I would finish one while away and then the sequel would be at home. I finally got tired of that and got myself a Kindle although I had sworn, I would never give up the feeling of holding a real book in my hands. Practicality won over principles – and I am a huge fan now. Not the least because I can read with lights out and my kids sleeping next to me 😊

10. Cheese or Chocolate?

Anyone who spends a little time with me will know that I am not a “either/or” person but a “both” person 😊. Cheeses with red wine and chocolate in the couch with a book

11. If you were to survive the zombie apocalypse, what role would you play in the new society that would follow?

I think I would be the “gather of knowledge” – and teaching skills to others. I love learning new things and I pride myself that I may not know it all, but I can learn it all. And I would like to pass on knowledge to the future generations of the New World

12. Which fictional villain do you find yourself sympathizing with the most? Why?

I am not really a “Marvel” kind of person so I would go with Negan from TWD. When we first meet him, he is by far the most scary and evil character I have ever seen in a show. But as the story unfolds, you see why he took that road and his road back to redemption. Can a person truly change – or?

13. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received?

“Fake it till you make it”.

I had a really great mentor in Copenhagen Airports and she had a wonderful way of pushing my boundaries and getting me to understand how I could transfer my competencies as a product manager to work in HR. I remember the first time I was going to interview a person. I was so, so nervous because I felt completely out of my comfort zone and she simply reminded me that the candidate would also be nervous – and the candidate wasn’t holding the questions, I was. It reminded me of all the times when I suffered the imposter syndrome – or didn’t think I would be able to do something. But if I can fake it, I can make it – eventually 😊

14. Can you give an example of a time when you had to learn the lesson the hard way?

Yes! I almost always tell this story in job interviews as it is a defining moment in my career. I was a recently promoted Product Manager in Mobilix. My manager asked me for a business case for a range of mobile services we were launching. But being the first in DK to launch them, I had no way to gather insights (early internet days), which I told him. I remember he looked at me and said: “Well if you can’t deliver, I guess I have to find some one who can”. Needless to say, he got the numbers…

15. Who was the best person you ever hired? Why were they so good?

I have always hired people together with either a Hiring Manager or a colleague so I cannot take sole credit. However, I have a few hires I am proud of because they excelled in the role, were well liked and advanced within the company.

But in a personal level my former student helper Søs stands out. She had absolutely no experience with HR or office work when she started (she was doing her Masters in HRM). I remember when she just started and had to send out a calendar invite… and she simply didn’t know how to do it 😊. But what she lacked in office skills she had in multitude in personality and brains. She was good because she was a quick learner, she was humble but ambitious.

But most of all, she had very high ethics and never felt the need to use her elbows to advance in her career – and I admire that.

16. Who is the best co-workers or collaborators you’ve ever worked with?

I would have to say Orange and the Life Services team. Even though it was quite a male-dominated environment, I never felt that, and I never felt like an outsider. We still keep in touch after +20 years and I owe so much to that group of people and my manager and the company it was.

17. When it comes to our work and industry; what scares you the most?

The belief that technology can fix bad processes. I don’t care if you have the best tech in the world. If your process is still an inside-out thinking and you do not respect the candidate experience, all the tech in the world cannot fix that. Guess what, bad recruiters are still bad recruiters just with better tech…

18. What’s one industry challenge you don’t actually think will ever get solved?

I think we can never have a recruitment process that is complete deployed of bias and 100% fair. We can try with AI, tech, process optimizations, better training of recruiters and hiring managers. But by the end of the day, we are just humans and that will still touch upon every step in the process – and in particular when it comes to final decision making.

19. Name one person who would you like to read these answers

I think that would have to be Nico Blier-Silvestri. He has been such a cool friend and cheerer for me ever since we met and I have the highest respect for him on both a professional and personal level

20. Who would you recommend to do the next 20 Questions With … ?

So many wonderful people come to mind but I recently met Nicklas Pyrdol and I would love to get to know him better. He is an excellent listener and so I end up speaking all the time when we meet 😊 he is a class example of “more to him than what meets the eye” – cap and all 😊

Thank you to Heidi Wassini for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune.

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