Hands up if you work remotely or spend at least some of the week working from home?
As increasing numbers of us look for more flexible working arrangements, it’s clear how we hire, train, and develop people is changing – and will keep shifting.
So, who better to discuss this changing world than someone whose skills span talent and development, training, headhunting, and much more?
In episode 33 of The Talent Intelligence Podcast, we welcome Marina Blanco, a globetrotting talent guru with opinions on the workforce of the future.
Listen as host Claire Murray discusses the topic with Marina, and looks at:
- How you cope when someone turns up to an interview having partaken in some “liquid courage”
- Why companies need to be offering something different and special to attract new candidates
- The importance of being a self-starter
- How HR is evolving to invest more in candidates
- What Marina would tell her younger self getting into the talent space
And much more…
Listen to the podcast:
Watch the Podcast: 00956e
Claire Murray: Hello and welcome to episode 32 of the Talent Intelligence podcast, where we discuss all things HR, talent, recruitment, and the general talent world. Today, we have Marina Blanco, who is the founder of “Learned to Fly.” She is a talent and development consultant, a headhunter, and an all-round talent guru. Marina, how are you doing today?
Marina Blanco: Hi, Claire! I’m fine. How are you? Nice to be here with you.
Claire Murray: Thank you for coming on. I’m very well, thanks for asking.
Claire Murray: Marina, the first thing I would like to do is just get a background for our listeners and viewers on who you are, what you do, and a little bit about your professional life.
Marina Blanco: Okay, I’ve been an HR professional, so I’ve been working in HR departments for many, many years, around 16 or so. I’ve always worked for international and multinational companies, focusing on talent development, team building, and headhunting.
Marina Blanco: In the last year, I’ve started working as a freelancer while still collaborating with well-known companies.
Claire Murray: Yeah, when we first started chatting, I had to look on your LinkedIn, and there’s quite a lot of experience in this industry on there.
Marina Blanco: Yeah, well, I’ve worked for many of the big ones like Unilever or Bacardi, or I’m also well aware that it’s an airline. So yeah, nice companies to grow and learn. It’s been nice to be there working.
Claire Murray: Great. So, I always like to kick off the podcast with a little bit of an icebreaker, right? So you have worked for many companies, and I imagine you have taken part in or hosted many interviews in your time. Can you tell me, what is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you in an interview, either as the interviewer or as the interviewee?
Marina Blanco: Yes, yeah. Well, of course, I can’t remember all the interviews I’ve done in my life. I’ve been in like hundreds, or I know many, and you always have a lot of different situations, even strange ones. Sometimes I’m uncomfortable. But I remember once I was interviewing one guy. I can’t say the company where I was working, because, of course, but when he arrived, it was like, “Hmm! He has a strange perfume, but I’m a little bit like, I don’t like the smell.” So I was okay, nothing.
Marina Blanco: And then as he started speaking, I was thinking, he speaks strangely. And then I realized that, hey, this smell, it’s alcohol.
Marina Blanco: So yeah, I realized that he was drunk. Well, I stopped the interview and I said to him, “Well, I think that you’re not in the mood to do an interview. Maybe we can reschedule or something.” Of course, he needed to know what I was talking about, so nothing more needed to be said. And of course, I never knew anything more about him. But nothing more. Yeah, it was quite strange, like coming drunk to an interview.
Marina Blanco: Do you think maybe he just felt really nervous and had a couple beforehand to calm his nerves? Yeah, that could be it. I mean, of course, he wasn’t drunk like super, super drunk. But the feeling was like, you know, you have… Yeah, I mean, like that. So yeah, when you’re interviewing, I don’t know. But you cannot go with a beer to an interview. So yeah.
Claire Murray: That’s definitely a lesson that people can take away. Don’t have a couple of beers before an interview.
Marina Blanco: Yeah, of course, because as you said, Claire, if you feel nervous, you might think, “Well, I’ll just have a beer, and I’ll be more relaxed.” Yeah, but don’t do that. I mean, because if you… If the interviewer is like me, they will smell everything, and they will get that. So yeah, of course, it’s something that you can’t do.
Marina Blanco: No, no way.
Claire Murray: So, in your… So just now, apart from interviewing slightly tipsy people, what… Tell me about what you’re currently doing just now and what your day-to-day looks like in your professional capacity.
Marina Blanco: Well, now, my day-to-day is different every day. So that’s nice. I work as a freelancer. And now, in addition to headhunter projects, I also work as a trainer for different international companies and different projects.
Marina Blanco: And I’m also doing executive and career coaching for these companies or individuals. On the other hand, I’m a psychologist as well. So as a brief psychotherapist, I’m starting a personal project focused on phobias. Specifically, I will be working with people who have a fear of flying.
Marina Blanco: So yeah, I really appreciate how different every day is because I can work wherever and whenever I want. This has been a major aspect of my professional background for a long time, having the freedom to work from anywhere in the world. So every day is different, and I love that.
Marina Blanco: Absolutely. You know, it’s funny because quite a few of our team at Solution Shh… and they have psychology backgrounds. And quite a few of our guests have psychology backgrounds. So I guess it’s just that interest in people that takes people into the industry. It is. It is, of course. I mean, when you work in HR, you need to love working with people because you’re working with and for people.
Marina Blanco: Because, yeah, it’s difficult working every day with different people. Everyone has a different way of doing things. So you have to love that.
Marina Blanco: Yes, that’s probably the background of psychology is one of the most common ones you see in HR. Yeah, absolutely. So you said that you currently work self-employed, and you’ve been doing that for the last year. Is that right?
Marina Blanco: Yeah, how did that come about? What you said before, you’ve worked with Unilever, Bacardi, all these big companies. What made you move to being self-employed?
Marina Blanco: Well, as I mentioned, and this was in my professional plans for a long time. I really planned to do that in 2020, but we changed the plans of all of us. So as I enjoy working with people and had the impression that probably I could use my skills in another way, not just being in the same company with the same people for many years. So working on different projects while having the option to decline a project if I’m not feeling it.
Marina Blanco: Working with different companies and different values, missions, visions. So it’s a daily learning for me, and I can also learn different work practices every day. So I think it’s incredibly enriching for me. And of course, I can also combine traveling while I’m working because for me, traveling is not only vacation, it’s a state of mind. So I think that’s why I ended up here, thinking, “Well, this is the formula to work on projects which I love, but being free to work in the process that I like, and around the world, and of course, being able to start my own project, which I really want to do now.”
Claire Murray: Of course. I’m quite jealous. I went freelance in 2020 and spent a year freelancing. But of course, we were all in lockdown. I was working from home, I didn’t really have a team, and it was too much for me. But I can imagine how amazing it must be when the world opens up and you can go and you can work from anywhere. It must be a great experience to have.
Marina Blanco: Well, it is, yeah, because you can just… I mean, one of the projects, and I’m starting this week in Madrid, and then next week I go to Barcelona, and then Istanbul, maybe Budapest. And so yeah, to Tokyo. And so this, for me, it’s something that I really appreciate because it’s traveling, but traveling while I’m working on projects that I really love. So yeah, it’s amazing.
Claire Murray: And obviously, we’ve just spoken about the pandemic there. That was a huge shift in how we all worked, but I guess from your point of view, from being in the HR and talent space for quite a long time, what’s the biggest shift you’ve seen happening in the industry in the last… Was it 16 years you’ve been working? I think it’s a little more probably. But yeah.
Marina Blanco: Yeah, well, I think that there has been an enormous shift since I started, especially on the recruitment side.
Marina Blanco: Not only talking about AI, which, of course, has changed a lot in the last 2 years, even in the last week and every day. It has changed the way we work, but also the applicants. With this, it’s very different now to apply to a job with AI. But the new generations want companies that offer something special, something different and challenging. So, it’s not just about money or projects anymore. Many years ago, the candidate was solely responsible for convincing the company to hire them.
Marina Blanco: Nowadays, as a recruiter or as a company, you need to give something. You need to make the candidate choose you as a partner, like it’s a match. They need to feel a connection and fall in love with you. So as a company, you have to work hard. If they don’t like it, they can choose another one. So this has changed a lot, and also on the side of training and development. I have the feeling that nowadays companies have grown in that area.
Marina Blanco: From our point of view, in many companies, even the HR position, the HR role, is part of the business and the executive committee. That means these companies have made a huge evolution. They truly believe that employees are the most important asset to achieve their goals. So they invest in money programs to develop and upskill their teams, and even change roles. This is an important aspect that highlights the role of employees. It has changed in a very positive and nice way, I think, for HR.
Claire Murray: Yeah, it’s become almost a two-way street.
Claire Murray: Both pre-hire and post-hire, it’s about what can you give and what can the company give to you. This extends to training and development as well, which must make things quite interesting for people like yourself who have a full spectrum view.
Marina Blanco: Well, it’s interesting because it’s not only that the company wants you, but you also need to want to work with the company. I want you to genuinely want to be here with me every day. It’s something emotional, something that you truly desire.
Marina Blanco: Because if not, it doesn’t make sense to just come to your job and that’s all. Of course, you can do that, but if you want to truly excel in your role, I think it’s nice. It’s a nice way that this role is evolving.
Claire Murray: Absolutely.
Claire Murray: And now, in your recent roles, you’ve been quite international, quite global.
Claire Murray: How do companies ensure that they foster an inclusive culture across different countries without losing the essence of their company culture?
Marina Blanco: Well, I think this is really the main goal of the HR role in the HR department. And when you are a global company, it’s important to be able to adapt your culture to different countries. But it’s not easy. We have to take into account that it’s not the same being a woman working in Europe as it is being a woman working in Saudi Arabia, for example. We need to be careful about that, because we can’t impose a company culture that goes against a country’s culture.
Marina Blanco: So we need to have a deep understanding of the country’s culture and try to adapt our company culture accordingly. And if it’s not feasible, if it doesn’t align with our company, then it’s not the right place to be.
Marina Blanco: It’s impossible to impose a company culture in a country that doesn’t allow it. I don’t want to give specific examples, but cultural considerations need to be taken into account. If you have an HR department in the country, of course, you should utilize them to understand how the country works and what cultural aspects can be incorporated or adapted. And if you don’t have a team there, it’s your main responsibility to understand the culture of that country.
Marina Blanco: How can I adapt my company culture to fit in here? It can’t be forced. So it’s a challenging task, especially when you have a strong global presence across many countries.
Claire Murray: Yeah, of course.
Claire Murray: We have a large part of our team working in the Philippines, and we conduct an annual company review where everyone can provide anonymous feedback on different aspects of the company.
Claire Murray: We can analyze the responses based on factors like country or department. Interestingly, we noticed that our Philippines team had indicated that they were 100% happy with everything. We had to think about how we ask these questions and ensure we receive genuine responses.
Marina Blanco: Of course, it’s nice to believe that everyone is completely satisfied with everything, but that may not always be true. I had a conversation with one of my team members based in the Philippines, and she shared that they tend to always express happiness and avoid saying no. It’s a cultural mindset that we need to be aware of instead of assuming everything is 100% fine over there.
Marina Blanco: For example, with the project I’m starting this week, I told them that feedback is crucial. However, feedback in Spain is not the same as in Japan, Singapore, or Shanghai. We have to consider the cultural differences. In my company or the company I’m training, feedback is highly valued. But I need to be cautious because what I give as feedback in Spain may not work in Japan. We have different approaches to receiving feedback.
Marina Blanco: So it’s important to consider the cultural context of each country and try to align with it without imposing it.
Claire Murray: Yeah, I visited Japan a few years ago, and the way people sleep on trains and in bars and then go back to work was mind-boggling. I have a friend who lives there, and he finds the workplace culture so different and surprising. It’s truly interesting how things can vary across countries.
Claire Murray: Moving on from that, as we work more internationally and remotely, with team members no longer sitting in the same office, employee development and training become even more crucial. As an HR professional, you understand its importance. How do you see employee training and development evolving for remote and international workforces in the coming years?
Marina Blanco: We are not going back. It’s difficult to explain, but this trend will continue. You need to consider that in many years, you may have your teams spread across the world or different cities. So it’s important to understand what your teams require to achieve the company’s projects and goals. It’s not just about training or individuals. It’s about identifying their specific needs.
Marina Blanco: Effective communication, feedback, and strong leadership are key factors. However, the most crucial aspect, in my opinion, is having conversations with your team. Because my team in the Philippines will have different needs compared to my team in Spain.
Marina Blanco: It’s not solely about training or being a good leader or having good communication. It’s about understanding what your team requires, especially when they are not physically present every day. In such cases, effective communication becomes essential for achieving objectives. This trend will only increase as more and more people work remotely.
Marina Blanco: So yes, you have to consider the unique dynamics of your team.
Claire Murray: Absolutely.
Claire Murray: We’ve discussed training and talent development, but you also engage in headhunting to a significant extent.
Claire Murray: Looking into the future, what do you believe will be the most important skills for the workplace? AI has disrupted many things, but if you had a crystal ball, what would you say are the essential skills for success in the future workforce?
Marina Blanco: If someone who is not from the HR environment, someone seeking a job or something, is listening to this podcast, I would say, be cautious. I have conducted many trials with AI in terms of reviewing resumes, and I believe that we can still differentiate whether it was crafted by a human or not.
Marina Blanco: So, if you haven’t tailored your CV and it doesn’t match during the interview, I will notice that something is amiss. Be mindful of that because the HR landscape is undergoing significant changes due to AI.
Marina Blanco: Of course, AI is beneficial and I appreciate the assistance we receive from the recruiter’s perspective. However, regarding the skills you asked about, it depends on the role and the company. In this global and remote world we are discussing, the primary skill for me is change management. The world is evolving rapidly, and if you can’t adapt, someone else will do the job better.
Marina Blanco: It’s crucial to stay updated on how AI works, as it affects your ability to apply for jobs or perform well in your current role. Autonomy is also important, considering we are discussing remote work. Additionally, being results-oriented is crucial because ultimately companies care about the outcomes, not where or when you work.
Marina Blanco: So, manage your time effectively but focus on achieving results. These are the three main skills, in my opinion, that we need to possess for the coming years. However, things are changing so rapidly that I can’t be certain. Next week, I might say, “I don’t know” to be a perfect AI.
Marina Blanco: Yeah.
Claire Murray: It makes sense that you’re seeing that people need to be able to manage themselves well, especially because you’re not sitting in an office and there’s no boss looking over your shoulder. You need to be a self-starter and get things done without someone micromanaging you. This is a change for a lot of people, I imagine, coming from the office environment.
Marina Blanco: For example, here in Spain, I don’t know about other countries, but we’ve made a huge jump with COVID and remote work. In Spain, the culture was often about sitting at your desk for 8 hours, which is not results-oriented. Many companies had to change during 2020, but some went back to the old ways. It’s a bit strange. Some people need that micromanagement, but for roles that can be done remotely, autonomy is important for sure.
Claire Murray: Absolutely. Well, we are coming to the end of the podcast here. However, I’d like you to go back in time, not with a crystal ball, but to give yourself three pieces of advice when you were starting out in HR and recruitment.
Claire Murray: What would those three pieces of advice be?
Marina Blanco: Yeah, I always think that I really chose my job with a passion because I love it and have been enjoying it for many years. So in that sense, the advice for my younger self would be, “You’re on the right path, so keep going.” But if I had the knowledge of what is happening now, I would advise myself to start learning about coaching, NLP, and personal development.
Marina Blanco: Not just for myself, but also for understanding others. We are now in a phase where we are constantly talking about self-improvement and personal growth. When I started, it was more focused on business and numbers, and not so common to talk about the self.
Marina Blanco: Another piece of advice would be to take more risks and not be afraid. I have taken more risks than the average person because I enjoy challenging situations. But sometimes I’ve been a bit cautious. So, I would tell myself, “Trust yourself. Just do it. What could go wrong?” But overall, I’m quite happy. If I could go back 16 years, I would say I did well. I made the right choices.
Claire Murray: Amazing. If everyone could say that 16 years into their career, they’d be pretty happy with that.
Marina Blanco: Yeah, I’m happy about that. Of course, you can always change things and strive to be better for sure. But yeah, the career and the role, I love it.
Marina Blanco: Good! That’s a nice thing to hear on a Monday afternoon.
Claire Murray: Great! Well, listen, Marina, it has been a pleasure. Thank you so much for answering my questions and for coming on the podcast today.
Marina Blanco: Thank you very much for inviting me, Claire. It is a pleasure.
Marina Blanco: Hey, well, have a lovely day.
Marina Blanco: You too. Bye bye.
Claire Murray: Okay, this is done. Thank you so much. That was really great. Some fantastic answers in there.
Claire Murray: What I normally do now is, I was thinking about putting this out this week if possible. I was going to cut it this afternoon and then write it up. I’ll send you the draft. I usually include a blurb and a little bit of explanation, mostly for promotional purposes. I’ll send you the edited version, and once you approve it…
Claire Murray: I will then distribute it to our email list in about 5-6 days, and people can share it on LinkedIn. You can also share it on your own platform.
Marina Blanco: Oh, that’s perfect. Yeah, cool, great. Well, I will head off and get it done. But thank you so much. This was really enjoyable. Thank you. Yeah, because it’s very nice, really. Thank you very much. Did you get a headshot?
Marina Blanco: Yeah. Oh, yeah. You will use the one that I haven’t been in, and I don’t like it.
Marina Blanco: Let me take another one without sunglasses.
Marina Blanco: Okay, I will send it to you. I will take a selfie now, I think. But yeah, it needs to be a professional selfie. It’s okay. Yeah, I will send it to you today. Yeah, okay, great. Thank you very much. Bye bye.