Meet Ulrike Fisher We interviewed Ulrike Fisher, Senior Manager of Global Mobility at CSL Limited. In this remarkable interview, Ms Fisher shares her career journey, the challenges and rewards of her role and her insights into the evolution of the Global Mobility industry.
Could you please describe your current role and responsibilities at CSL Limited?
I am the Senior Manager of Global Mobility at CSL Limited, an international pharmaceutical company headquartered here in Melbourne. CSL has a workforce of about 12,000 people in 26 countries with major operations in Australia, Germany, Switzerland and the United States. My role is globally centralised and I work closely with each site HR management team to manage a range of global mobility functions.
Can you describe your career path today and how you ended up in role you are currently in?
I started my career in general HR with my first substantial role in HR management at Bosch Bosch in Germany, where I looked after about 1,000 people in Reutlingen near Stuttgart. It was a very good company. I left when I was expecting my first child and soon after, my husband and I relocated to Australia.
What were your next steps upon arriving in Australia?
When I came to Australia, I had the good fortune to land in the field of Global Mobility Management. People told me, ‘You know about HR, you’ve moved yourself with the family around the world, you should know how to manage a global workforce.’ I believed them, so that’s how I started!
What has inspired you to stay in the field of Global Mobility Management?
At the beginning, it was that empathy I had with the international assignees and their families which piqued my interest in the field. What’s kept me in the field is the diversity of specialist knowledge that I have learnt. The knowledge required to fulfil this role is diverse and specialized at the same time: between immigration law, tax law and general HR management, cultural awareness and relocations logistics, I feel it would be a waste to step away altogether.
What do you like the most about your current role?
I love that every day is different. It’s a good combination of hands-on working with the assignees, and at the same time developing strategy and policy, employment conditions, planning and project management. It also involves driving how we’re managing international assignees globally.
What have you identified as some of the current and future challenges in the field of employee mobility?
There is now a global tendency to tightening of compliance areas such as immigration. There appears to be a growing ability to cross check between the immigration departments and tax authorities of more and more countries regarding movement of people. Any organisation needs to be aware of this to ensure that it doesn’t run into any issues. Not only expats are affected; travellers on extended business trips also need to have the correct visas and pay the appropriate taxes.
Do you find within your role that there is a constant need to balance the concept of a borderless society with the organisations’ compliance obligations?
There is confusion for people because we can still just board a plane any time for holiday purposes, with minimal effort to obtain a visa. There is a naïve belief that this translates into the business world. In reality, since the 1980s and 1990s and especially since September 11, it has become harder for companies to move their people around for employment.
So the role of the HR or the Global Mobility Specialist is becoming more crucial?
From the point of view of an organisation, it is certainly essential to have the internal knowledge base to understand the complexities associated with mobility. I think I’ve stayed in the role for so long because of the knowledge, specialist expertise and advice people like myself can provide organisations. It’s quite motivating because you can see that there is a real need and there is real value in performing this role.
What advice would you give somebody new to a career in the Global Mobility Industry?
To make sure that you don’t stay in one company for too long. Every company does it a little bit differently and you can pick up something, a new aspect, each time you move. I’d recommend working for one of the big professional services firms that offer tax advice and also immigration advice because they can learn a lot from how they do it and take that to their next job. Attend as many courses, briefings, breakfast seminars as possible. Talk to your peers and don’t be shy to pick up the phone and ask. People are always willing to help and share information.
A year or so ago, there was a new body that was launched here in Australia, the Employee Mobility Institute. Please share your insights as far as the need for a body like this in Australia?
I was very pleased to be asked to join that Steering Committee and I completely share the vision of the founder of the Institute of the need for the Institute in Australia. Like in the progression of any profession, there is now a need to formalize this one. The Institute is building something valuable that will benefit future generations in terms of representing the needs of our profession and also providing training, sharing information and networking.
Based on your experience here in Australia and overseas, how do you view the Global Mobility Industry here in Australia as compared to the industry overseas?
I’d say we can hold it with the best of them. As we are far away from the rest of the world, we have gained more experience than many internationally. I think it’s a quite mature industry here in Australia to be quite honest and I think we’ve got everything it takes to move forward and into the future.
BY LANA LACHYANI
Lana Lachyani is a Melbourne-based Freelance Writer and Communications Consultant. Lana lived overseas for several years, working across Europe and the Middle East before returning to Australia in 2012.