From Italy to Paris: an HR leader’s journey of global mobility and personal growth

15 June 2023
For me, the idea of going abroad was just a dream. As a young graduate with an Italian law degree in hand, I jumped at the opportunity to work in the HR department of an American pharmaceutical company. And the first thing I asked my manager was: “When can I go to the US?” He just smiled – it was only my first day, after all! But I already knew in my heart that a career with international mobility was the right fit for me.

HR wasn’t a popular field of study in Italy and Europe when I began my career. I decided to give it a try and gradually fell in love with the job, inspired by the people I was surrounded by, as well as the positive work environment.

Those early days in HR gave me the chance to travel extensively, but it wasn’t until I joined Allianz Trade in 2007 that I really got to see the world beyond the West. As the regional head for the Mediterranean countries, Africa and the Middle East, I had the opportunity to explore these regions and experience their unique cultures firsthand. Now, I’m the Global Head of People Development in Paris. Moving here this past January marked my first long-term relocation abroad.

After many years as an HR generalist, I’ve now evolved into a more specialized and strategic role. My focus on global learning, talent attraction and employer branding enables me to work closely with local HR teams to implement our global strategy. While my day-to-day interactions with employees have decreased, I relish the challenge of designing processes that support the company’s overall goals.

As an HR professional, it’s crucial to lead by example and embrace honesty, a learning mentality and a willingness to take risks. Stepping outside your comfort zone by going abroad can offer valuable opportunities to learn about different cultures and ways of interacting with people. For example, during my time in Dubai, I learned that simple things like eye contact can be misconstrued – I once misjudged a shy interviewee who turned out to be a rising star!

Different cultures also have unique approaches to building trust and rapport. In Germany, I’ve found that concrete facts and figures are the key to gaining trust, while in the Middle East, trust-building is done through sharing personal stories and experiences. 

When it comes to seeking new adventures and making important changes in your life, don’t let age or routine hold you back. Embrace the unknown and push yourself to keep evolving towards the person you want to become!

Got questions? Connect with Marco

Marco Antonelli

Global Head of People Development and Employer Branding