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Up the ranks: Malaysia Airlines' Claudia Cadena moves to independent consulting

Having spent the last 21 years in Malaysia, of which the last three have been as the chief human resources officer, at Malaysia Airlines Berhad, Claudia Cadena is making the foray into independent consulting.

Cadena's contract with Malaysia Airlines concludes on 14 December 2017, post which she will take a short break to visit her family in her home country Colombia. She will return to Kuala Lumpur by the end of December, to focus her efforts in developing the consulting offering in early 2018.

In an exclusive conversation with Human Resources, Cadena shares more about her new path.

Q. What kind of solutions would you look to provide in consulting?

I want to launch an independent consulting practice that intends to support companies and their leaders to effectively manage human capital matters in the areas of change / transition management, culture transformation, employee engagement / communication, talent management, succession planning and leadership capability development, while they undertake business transformation efforts like restructuring, mergers, acquisitions, divestment, etc.

Q. Which markets would you cater to, and would you continue to be based in Malaysia? 

I will be based in Kuala Lumpur, and would like to serve not only Malaysian corporations but organisations in the Southeast Asia market, with special focus on countries like Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia as they experience continued economic growth and development.

Q. Do you have any immediate plans to grow your team?

I would like to work on a business model that builds, develops and draws resources, knowledge and expertise from the local markets that I intend to serve, in conjunction with association with other like-minded individuals who are currently working on their own and who have knowledge, skills and experience that are complementary to the services I intend to provide. I strongly believe in the importance of building local HR talent and content as opposed to importing into the assignments a large number of foreign talent.
I strongly believe in the importance of building local HR talent and content as opposed to importing a large number of foreign talent.

Q. In terms of 2018, what would be your biggest priority?

The priority in 2018 is to crystalise the consulting offering in the early months. I also intend to develop a professional network and build my knowledge and understanding of the business realities and needs of the countries I am interested in expanding my consulting practice in prior to beginning intense business development activities. I want to also further enhance my own professional capabilities. I aim to become a certified professional coach.

I also want to make time to write a book around the human capital aspects of business transformation to draw from my experiences and share my knowledge with a wider audience.

Q. Your fondest memory working with Malaysia Airlines Berhad?

There are far too many good memories! If I have to choose one, I will say it has to be the development of open and trusting relationships between the newly set up employee consultative infrastructure called Works Council, composed of employee representatives from eight different workgroups (i.e. pilots, cabin crew, engineers, technicians, airport services - above and below the wing, support functions in East and West Malaysia).

The Works Council was set up almost two years ago, and has enabled the identification, discussion and resolution of many employee-related issues and organisational matters, that otherwise would have been left unresolved, or resolved through the usual disruptive and confrontational approaches previously practiced by the old Malaysia Airlines. I  will truly treasure this effort as it brought to life many positive outcomes.

One of the latest achievements, was the creation of a comfortable rest area called i-snooze (jokingly sometimes called i-snore) for pilots and cabin crew who land in KLIA in the very early hours of the morning in order to allow them to have a safe place to have a few hours of rest before proceeding to go home.

Art Direction: Shahrom Kamarulzaman; Photography: Azhar Ariff – Fotomomo Studio 

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