Middle East supplement: Profile – a scientific eye for HR

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Australian Rosemary Fagen joined Qatar Airways from Qantas two years ago as executive vice-president human resources. But she followed a rather unconventional path into airline HR

How did you get into airline human resources?

I come from a non-classical HR background -I have a Masters in biochemistry and used to work in the medical profession. I decided when I was sitting alone at my bench that I wasn't quite the research person that I thought I was. SoI sort of fell into HR and did an MBA.

Because I was a scientist, I was hired into the HR role by the defence and aerospace arm of Australia's AWA to help close the huge credibility gap between engineers and HR that existed in the company.

Following the sale of part of AWA to BAE Systems, the company went through a significant downsizing and Qantas approached me to do a similar role there in the wake of the merger with Australian Airlines.

qatar airways 
 © Qatar Airways

What made you come to Qatar?

I had spent most of my time at Qantas as the "bridesmaid", and while I was discussing my next move within the airline, Qatar Airways approached me to head its HR department. It was a challenging move, working within a growth environment and bringing my airline expertise to the role.

What are the best and worst parts of the job?

Being in a growth environment, coming from an organisation that had been shrinking for the past eight years, at least. It is motivating and challenging all at the same time. Being able to provide a solid base on which to grow is the biggest challenge.

What qualifications do you need for airline HR?

Although I had a fairly unusual path to the role, I did an HR major for my MBA, which gave me the theoretical background.I have developed knowledge, experience and brought in the best practices of my former roles and working with my peers, to the airline industry.

What is a typical day?

The great thing about the aviation industry is that no two days are ever the same. It is highly operational, so you have to know what is going on in all areas of the company. For example, if there is fog in Doha, it affects my department - requiring changes to rosters, people's working hours,and so on.

At the same time, I have to keep an eye on what has to be implemented to move the airline forward -to "fix and operate" all at the same time.

How is life in Qatar?

It's exactly as I expected - The capital, Doha, is a very family-friendly and thriving city, enjoying growth and prosperity. It is an exciting experience working in a city that is constantly being projected on the global stage.