Leyla Novruzova is one of the Azerbaijan’s successful women. She held the post of Vice president for Human Resources in BP-Azerbaijan. She has recently been appointed Human Resources Director for Global Business Services in BP’s London office. APA’s London correspondent talked about her career, and the secrets of being successful in this area.
Q: What was your first job in the early years of your university or career? How did you find this job?
A: When I was at the 5th year student of the translators faculty of the University of Languages, I started to work in the Parliament of Azerbaijan Republic (Milli Majlis) as Interpreter /Translator. It was a great experience for me, a young student in 1992 to have a chance to do translations on the state level for the experienced politicians of that time. The highlight of the year was my trip to New-Delhi, India to attend Inter-Parliamentary Assembly meeting as an interpreter for Azerbaijan delegation. I felt honored to be able to represent my country at such a young age.
The one day I’ve got a call from a friend who informed me that a foreign company has arrived in Baku and is looking for people who can speak English and ‘knows computer’ (which meant to be able to open Word, type, save and close ). So I expressed my interest to work there, it was Amoco, got interviewed and was hired as Office Assistant. This was a start of the so far 25-year journey.
Q: What do you think is the key to be successful in oil sector?
A: I think regardless of the sector, area you work, the key to success is to work hard, keep growing and enjoy what you do. When I am asked about what is the ‘formula of success’ I always say it is ‘doing what you do as good as you can, stay alert for new opportunities and grab them as they come up’.
Q: Working as a HR VP demands to be in touch directly with employees and to be highly sensitive during the recruitment processs. Does your national identity and the fact that you are working with mostly foreign people cause you a problem in any stage?
A: One of the reasons why I enjoy my job is that it gives me opportunities to work with people from different countries and cultures. I don’t think that there may be any problems coming just from the fact that someone is of different nationality. On the contrary, the more diverse the organization is, the more successful it will be. The problem comes when people are inconsiderate and disrespectful to each other because of their personality not nationality.
Q: Each company has specific questions during recruitment process, and over time, these questions are updated and adapted to the requirements of the time. Do you have any specific tests, questions that you use during choosing the right employee?
A: There are 2 sets of questions: technical & behavioral. Technical questions are specific to the job requirements, which help to identify whether candidates experience and skills fit the role and behavioral ones help to identify whether candidate has the values which we expect to see in our company. BP has a strong set of Values & Behaviors. They are Safety, Excellence, OneTeam, Respect, Courage. All HR questions encourage candidates to demonstrate understanding of these values
Q: What is the role of HR in maintaining brand loyalty of BP?
A: HR has a big role in developing employee’s loyalty to the company. Employees will be loyal if the working environment is healthy and harassment-free. Strong HR department through proactive engagement with the employees shall always keep a finger on the pulse of the organization and ensure that employees can speak up about the things which concern them. When employees are engaged in the life of the organization and feel their own ability to continuously improve and positively impact it, their loyalty will increase.
Q: Can you talk about your careers before you reach this stage?
A: My first role in HR was Benefits Advisor (back in 2000). This was soon after BP and Amoco merger and the merged company taking single operatorship of the AIOC, consortium of foreign companies. One of my 1st HR projects was to harmonize terms and conditions and benefits for employees coming from different companies. Later similar experience was required in other BP locations and I got opportunities of working first in Pakistan and then in Russia. I got my first senior HR role in 2007 and after three years was selected for the job in Houston, US. Doing different jobs in different places helped me to develop different HR skills which helped me to be successful in HR VP role which I started in 2013.
Q: You have worked in Pakistan, Russia, and USA. What those countries have contributed to you?
A: Opportunity to live in different countries was one of the best things which happened to me in my life. When you go out of the environment, culture which you are accustomed to and feel comfortable in, you grow significantly both professionally and personally. Also it is opportunity to know new people, make friends. The diversity you live through makes you the better person and widens your horizons, vision of the world, life.
Q: What would you recommend to those who wish to pursue career in human resources?
A: Go for it! I started in HR 18 years ago and never regretted about it, not for a day! Strong HR department means strong organization as having right people in right roles is an essence for the success.
Q: This is the most classic question that you can get during the recruitment process: Where do you see yourself after 5 years? It would be interesting to know your answer to this question. Where do you see yourself after 5 years?
A: I need to share a secret with you… This may sound very odd from HR VP, but I am not very good in planning my career…! I would like to tell you that in 5 years I see myself in certain place/role, but I can’t because who knows what opportunities may come up in this 5 years?! All I can say is that I hope that I will be in the role which I feel excited about!