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Our communications team recently had the pleasure of catching up with Svetla Dobreva to chat about her experiences in our Human Resources Management Diploma program and to learn how her career has progressed over the last couple of years. She also shares the personal values and principles that she brings to her work and offers plenty of insight for prospective human resources professionals.
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us. Could you start off by telling us a little about your career experience and educational background?
My husband and I came in 2008 under the Canada Skilled Immigrants program. As a newcomer, as someone who was just joining the workforce in BC and Canada in the human resources field, I thought it would be really great to supplement my bachelor’s in English Language and Literature with a local diploma in human resources.
With your diverse experience, how did you end up at Ashton College in our Human Resources Management Diploma program?
I did quite good research on the market, on what would be my opportunities to continue my career path in human resources. Within a week of my arrival in Canada, I got a job at Stantec Consulting. That was pretty exciting for a professional who was just joining the force. I am quite grateful to this day for the opportunity I got. I joined as an HR coordinator even though my background was a little more intermediate at the time. I quickly realized that I needed to catch up with local legislation and certain specifics. There are unique circumstances and ways of doing things in the Canadian market.
Ashton College recognized my credentials back home and it was part-time, meaning that I could still work full time and study in the evenings. That flexibility was quite important to me. At the same time, I was expecting my first child. I had to combine full-time work, being an expectant mom and doing my studies. Ashton College was definitely a great opportunity. I really, truly enjoyed it. It was very welcoming and transparent.
That is so inspiring and wonderful to hear. How was your career progressed since completing the program?
It definitely helped me to grow my career within Stantec. I started as an HR coordinator in 2008 and I am a senior HR business partner right now. Throughout the years, I supported different teams as a strategic partner providing guidance on performance management, career development and workforce planning.
Overall, did the program help improve your confidence in the workplace?
Absolutely, yes! It is good to dress your practical experience with theory. I started learning on the job, but I thought I would gain way more confidence if I had local education. There are aspects of the program that help me become more confident on a daily basis.
That is so inspiring for anyone with practical experience, who is seeking theoretical knowledge. What advice would you give to someone in a similar position?
When I was starting my career and looking for opportunities to continue my education, there were quite a lot of unknowns. If I could inspire people who are coming from abroad, I would definitely recommend that they approach Ashton College. It was a great opportunity to build my initial network of people who are developing their careers in a similar area.
Was there anything that surprised you about your learning experience at Ashton College?
The instructors were so close to us. They were mentors, people who had experience and answers to practical questions we would ask. The different components of the class and the practical knowledge of the instructors was a great combination. The interactive side of the program was also a new experience for me.
Speaking of new experiences, did you always know that you wanted to work in human resources?
I was originally looking at more administrative roles. When I applied for a senior administrative role, an HR manager said that my overall personality and passion would be a great fit for their HR team. I didn’t really know what that meant at the time. Back in 2002, HR was just kind of waking up as a profession, adding value to modern workforces. That was how my career started. I ended up being in human resources by accident, but I am so happy with what I do.
How wonderful that a recruiter saw that potential in you. So, what exactly makes someone a good fit for human resources?
You have to recognize how people communicate and try to match their style. You have to be a really good listener, genuine and compassionate. You have to be curious about what people do and understand their struggles, their strengths and what excites them. If you keep on learning and you are curious, these are pretty good basics to help you thrive in a career in human resources.
What was your overall impression of the program? Were you given the tools that you needed to succeed?
The program definitely enriched me as a human resources professional. I really enjoyed that the instructors had practical knowledge. For me, as a human resources professional who already had the experience, it was very important not to just gain theoretical knowledge but to learn from people who were in the business. The structure of the program, I really liked that we could participate in class. We had team assignments and really good textbooks. Everything was laid out pretty nicely with a really good pace and logic for me.
What excites you about working in human resources?
I really love what I do. I consider myself lucky to be surrounded by amazing professionals. I had amazing managers throughout the years and great support teams. One of the most important things is that I have the opportunity to learn, grow and meet amazing people every day.
It is wonderful to hear from someone who loves their job so much. This is not something that we see across the board in society.
I think that starts with education, with getting exposure to different things in the beginning, talking to people in the business about what to expect and getting help from someone, shaping up your own understanding of where you want to be. As a supporter of lifelong, it is never too late to shift gears and change direction.
What are some personal values and principles that you bring to your work?
I am very mindful that everyone has their own story of success. I am a big advocator of finding the best in people and translating that to what it could look like as a career.
Do you have any great books that you are reading these days?
The book that I am reading right now is The Art of Quiet Influence by Jocelyn Davis. I love it because we all have different traits and when people realize their strengths, it is a great opportunity to direct people into the right career path. Human beings are complex and I am specifically quite interested in the psychology behind how we can manage the workforce and be flexible and mindful of all the cultural diversity and the complexity of challenges that people are facing right now in the workforce.
What advice would you offer to someone who is considering taking the program?
You have to be brave and try. Otherwise, you will always regret it. Always stay open and give new ideas the benefit of the doubt. It could turn into something really great.
Do you have any final thoughts to share about your experiences and perspective?
I want to express gratitude and thanks to Ashton College for giving me the opportunity to join the program as a newcomer. I sat for the interview and felt instantly that this was the place where I wanted to get my diploma. I also want to give a shout out to Gerri Tabak, the recruiter who gave me a chance and who believed in me, someone who had just landed two days ago in Canada. She was a keystone for my career in Canada.