Dr. Aarti Ramaswami has carefully charted her career course and has emerged successful in Human Resource Management. Here she shares her expertise and insights on HR.

I have known Dr. Aarti Ramaswami as a precocious and diligent student. At present, an associate professor with the Department of Management, ESSEC Business School, France, Aarti is also the academic director of the ESSEC Global MBA Mentoring Programme. Over the years, Human Resource Management (HRM) and its various streams have gained tremendous significance. But how did Aarti comprehend the importance of her subjects of study, namely, Industrial Psychology and HRM? “My aim was to make a positive impact on various sections of people, through my research and my teaching, so I charted my course towards that end,” she says.

“It was a conscious choice to pursue doctoral studies and enter the academic profession. But I continue to maintain my relationships and network with the industry,” she continues.

Aarti’s expertise and experience in the field could be useful to youngsters who consider HRM and its allied courses as career options.

The route to a career in HR …

“There are many. Opting for Arts, Science, and Commerce streams in higher secondary are equally qualifying, although I believe a student benefits more by exposure to Liberal Arts and Humanities. I see students who pursued the science group in school, move on to Arts in college, and later to a career in HR.”

She must have done a lot of spadework on the field before she decided to take it up…

“The spadework was mainly for the right schools to apply to for a Ph.D — to find schools with research-oriented faculty. I got interested in the area of fit during my Master’s programme and during my internship with Mahindra. In fact the latter helped me know more about my own fit for certain professions, my capabilities, strengths and potential career avenues.”

HR seems to include almost all issues at the workplace…

“In some organisations it could mean payroll, compensation, labour laws, and administration aspects of employee management. People management on the other hand encompasses non-administrative areas such as training and leadership development, talent management, diversity, inclusion, affinity group management, employee motivation and morale and succession planning.

All aspects that prove mutually beneficial to the employee and the organisation come under the umbrella of HR.”

Her advice to students who wish to take up HR as a career…

“HR is a very broad field. I suggest, even if your focus is HR, get acquainted with all aspects of the business — from strategy to finance and marketing. Each of these has its implications on HR and vice versa. With the necessary expertise, one can also be an independent consultant, work for a research think tank, write a blog/book and so forth. HR offers many creative options …”

The rating of our B schools at the global level …

“The Financial Times list of Business Schools seems to be the go-to list if one seeks global rankings for various management degrees (except Ph.D.). The Indian School of Business in Hyderabad and the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, continue to be featured on the list.”

On a doctoral student’s research guide …

“Having multiple mentors in your developmental network also helps in gaining alternative perspectives and complementary resources.”

Her experiences in mentoring …

“My interest in mentoring relationships came about, thanks to my dissertation chair, Dr.George Dreher, an expert in the field. Mentoring and developmental programmes for employees help in leveraging and retaining talent, especially diverse talent, in organizations. In one of my studies, we found that having a senior male mentor is particularly important for female employees in male-gendered industries, such as Law, Consulting and Investment Banking.

On interesting cross-cultural issues …

“As an immigrant in the U.S. and France, instances of culture shock and culture clash have been many — some funny, some annoying, yet all instructive.

As a doctoral student in the U.S., I never addressed my professors by their first name.

It was always Prof X or Dr Y. I would not dare address my professor at the Mumbai University in any other way but ‘Sir,’ even if he wanted me to! But after my graduation, a dissertation committee member from the Ph.D. programme insisted that I call her by her first name. In some way it was a learning experience for me to just go with the customs of the country I live in, to accept myself as a new peer to my professor who herself treated me as an equal and not as her student.

“I’ve also noticed that U.S. students are much more vocal. They like to think aloud as they are formulating an answer, and are not afraid to speak up.

In comparison, French students seem diffident. They do not like to speak up until they have the ‘correct’ answer lest they should appear foolish in front of peers.”

“I suggest, even if your focus is HR, get acquainted with all aspects of the business – from strategy to finance and marketing.”