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Aarti Fernandes - Head of Talent Acquisition

Name, Job Title, Years in Serco

Aarti Fernandes, Head of Talent Acquisition, 12 years

Tell us a little bit about your role?

As Head of Talent Acquisition, I represent the region as a leader within the Serco global resourcing model. I am responsible for enhancing organisational effectiveness through developing, leading and executing resourcing strategies to support the organisation’s growth objectives. I lead a team of brilliant talent acquisition professionals who work tirelessly alongside me, to enable our company’s purpose of bringing national visions to life.

Describe your career progression, and what has supported you to progress to a senior position?

I joined Serco in 2011 as a temporary recruiter, brought in to support the mobilisation of some of our transport contracts. I was made permanent within my second month on the job and went on to successfully mobilise several key contracts. I supported the global Empower Project as the HR Data Lead for Serco Middle East, moving on to Sr. HR Advisor at one of our transport contracts, then made my way back to recruitment where I was the Talent Acquisition Manager for the CSHD sector and finally the Head of Talent Acquisition for Serco Middle East.

I attribute my success to hard work and a strong support system at home that has enabled me to pursue my professional aspirations - as well as the talented, passionate and collaborative professionals I have been fortunate to work with during my career, who have supported my career progression.

At Serco, 50% of our Executive Management Team is made up of females – how do you feel the business has supported you?

I have watched with pride as the female representation on our Executive Leadership Team has gone from zero, at one point in time, to 50% today - many of whom progressed into these roles. Serco Middle East is unique in that respect. This displays our commitment to diversity and inclusion and demonstrates the equal opportunities given to all to succeed at Serco.

What barriers have you personally faced in your career when progressing into senior positions, and what advice would you give to others to overcome these?

For a long time, my biggest barrier was me! I lacked confidence. The confidence to speak up and be heard. The confidence to ask ‘why’ or ‘how’. The confidence in myself to succeed at something new.

Like many working expat moms, without local extended family support, I worried about stability and didn’t want to rock the boat in case I failed, as I had a lot to lose. But along the way I learned, that to progress my career, I needed to take risks. I needed to fail, so I could learn to do better. I needed to challenge myself, to give myself the best opportunity to succeed. I needed to believe that I deserved better!

So, my advice to others is: never let anyone dictate your expectations or what you ought to be happy with. Push yourself to do better. Know your purpose and don’t be afraid to pursue it.

What do you think makes a good leader?

Good leaders facilitate continuous learning within their team. They inspire and lead with passion and empathy. They are present and support their team every step of the way.

For me the phrase “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn” really resonates.

How do you balance work and life responsibilities?

This is still a work in progress for me. I do believe I have achieved a degree of balance through averages. Serco’s hybrid work model gives me the flexibility I need to achieve my prioritises, both personal and work related. I feel fortunate to work in an organisation like Serco, that allows me the flexibility I need to have a fulfilling work and home life, without having to choose between the two.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Over the years, on many occasions, I’ve had to re-shape the structure and ways of working of my team. Each time brought with it immense learning and made me realise, as uncomfortable as it may have been, the importance of continuous change and the value in pushing the boundaries on what is considered reasonable and possible. It was these instances that shaped me into the leader I have become and prepared me for the role I am in today, which I consider the highlight of my career.

Who inspires you and why?

I am inspired by my team every day. Their dedication, passion, and commitment to living Serco’s values, even when things get challenging, or the target seems unattainable, is truly inspiring and makes me want to bring my best self to work every day.

What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders in Serco?

Comfort is overrated! Get comfortable with being uncomfortable, that’s how you know you are making progress. Never miss an opportunity to take on a new challenge or do something that scares you. It is only when you push yourself out of your comfort zone that you realise what you are truly capable of. Believe in yourself and never be afraid to try.

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you!” - Fred Devito