Irina Konstantinovsky (IK): My career path was anything but linear, and human resources was not a consideration for me after graduating from the University of Buenos Aires. In fact, my original plan was to go into education. I was accepted into a Ph.D. in Education program at Cornell. While at Cornell, I realized that I wanted to do something broader than teach. The Industrial and Labor Relations program caught my attention and I ended up shifting from the Ph.D. program and getting two master’s degrees (adult education and human resources management). It was during this process that I realized there were a lot of parallels between education and being an effective HR leader. Upon graduation from Cornell, I was accepted into GE’s management rotation program where I got firsthand, practical human resources experience. From there I joined Towers Watson (Towers Perrin at the time) where I spent 15 years consulting to business leaders and learned how to manage transformational change as well as how to develop talent solutions to drive business success. This positioned me well to then join Baxter Healthcare as the global vice president of talent. Five years later I was recruited to Horizon as their chief human resources officer.
IK: Horizon is a fast-growing company with a strong sense of purpose. The company has grown exponentially over the past few years, as it continuously refines and develops medicines to treat rare conditions. This has created an exciting HR challenge: to hire, develop and engage hundreds of new employees, while maintaining the agility and entrepreneurial culture that has defined Horizon since its inception. What is exciting for me is that the entire leadership team is committed to going above and beyond industry best practices when investing in people and culture.
IK: When I moved to Chicago in 2005, I wanted to become involved with the human resources community. That’s why I joined HRMAC. From the beginning, I volunteered because I was able to learn more and give back to the profession, while also meeting local professionals and expanding my network. It was a win-win! Eventually, I ended up leading two different committees: the annual Summit and the Leadership Series. From there, I was invited to join the Board where I was not only able to play a role in driving HRMAC’s mission, but also got the opportunity to partner with some of Chicago’s top HR leaders.
IK: Before the COVID-19 pandemic, my vision was to refresh programming, elevate offerings for chief human resource officers and increase membership. While these items are still moving forward, we had to be agile and adapt to the challenges many HR leaders are facing during this time. HRMAC’s core has been the education and networking opportunities we offer to local professionals. This is hard in a remote environment. Instead, we’ll put an emphasis on maintaining connectivity and dialogue on current topics, driving discussions on remote work, COVID-19 leave policies, racial justice and many more. It is important that we remain relevant and work differently to elevate our members and continue to be a valuable, and uniquely local, resource to HR professionals and leaders in the Chicagoland area.
IK: The best career advice I’ve received was to always be open to new, different and challenging opportunities, even if on the surface they appear frightening or were not part of “the plan” that I had in mind. This could be a career switch, moving to a new geography or volunteering for an organization you’re unfamiliar with. While it is important to have a sense of where you want to go, I’ve learned that careers are not straight paths and can be viewed almost like rock climbing: while the goal is to go up the rock face, sometimes you need to take small steps, sometimes big steps, sometimes go sideways and sometimes you need to reach over a large – and frightening – gap.
Always be open to new, different and challenging opportunities, even if on the surface they appear frightening or were not part of “the plan.”
IK: While I quite enjoy a number of local restaurants and venues, my favorite place in Chicago is the lakefront. Chicago is unique in that it is one of the few cities in America where you can live, work, play and enjoy the outdoors without having to leave the city.