Sylvia Chen is the manager of compensation & global mobility at LafargeHolcim, a company that creates building materials—with a presence in 90 countries around the world. She oversees the company’s compensation, domestic relocation, and international mobility function. “In this position, I develop and direct the compensation philosophy and strategy for the organization and oversee the administration of all our compensation programs to ensure external competitiveness and internal equity,” she says. Sylvia is also responsible for the domestic relocation and international assignment policy and programs, ensuring that employees who are internationally mobile are moved on a competitive basis—and in keeping with the organization’s global talent initiatives and objectives.
Sylvia began her career as a costing assistant and worked her way up to the position of commercial manager for a construction firm in India. “When I immigrated in 2008 to the United States, I could not find a job, other than to sell financial instruments, because my degree and work experience was from India and the United Kingdom. I decided that I could either wallow in self-pity or start over.” Sylvia joined a temporary agency, working in data entry in a company’s payroll department. After a week, she was told that the company would make a permanent position for her if she was interested. She accepted, and soon earned an “Outstanding Achievement Award” at the company. She continued to advance in her career, and decided to also continue her education.
“I enrolled at Argosy University, Schaumburg—and also applied [at my company] for a job of stock plan administrator in the compensation department. I had found my niche. This was a job where I could work with numbers, but there was a human side to it.” After earning her degree, she continued to grow in the field, moving to a new company before finally settling at LafargeHolcim.
Sylvia says that she had to face challenges after moving to the United States—but overcame them through perseverance and earning a degree that allowed her to work in her desired field. When she discovered the program at Argosy University, Schaumburg, she realized that it would provide the flexibility she needed to compete her educational goals. “Most colleges wanted me to complete another three years or more of school [instead of counting my education from abroad]. Also, [other school’s] classes were not flexible enough that I would still be able to work while going to school. I patiently looked around and met with different colleges and assessed my options. That's how I decided upon Argosy University, Schaumburg.”
Sylvia recommends that current students be open and flexible in weighing job options. “Even though you may be majoring in a particular field, keep an open mind to what is of interest to you in a different field. [You may find options] where you can still put your degree and what you've learned to good use.” Today Sylvia is a proud alum, attending Argosy University, Schaumburg alumni events. She also participates in the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, Chicago Chapter events and volunteers through her work. She’s helped to clean up local woods, painted a mural for a community school, and helped at the local food bank. “Back in India, I used to help out at Mother Teresa's Nirmal Hriday (a shelter for homeless people), worked at senior citizen homes, worked with autistic kids, and helped raise money for the poor by heading up newspaper and food drives.”
Sylvia, who in 2010 earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Argosy University, Schaumburg, says that she chose the school because it allowed her to transfer previous course credits—while still taking the classes she was interested in. “The Schaumburg location is also conveniently and centrally located and was very close to where I worked, so that worked in my favor as well. The counselors were extremely helpful in helping me to choose my courses and the professors were real life professionals who were not just academics—they were putting their education to use in real life.” Sylvia mentions that the combination and balance of tests, homework, group projects, and class presentations helped to prepare her for the for real life elements of thinking on her feet, working with and leading groups of people, and managing important functions within her organization.
She adds that having a degree allowed her to take her career to a new level. “The concepts I learned [in school] prepared me for the analytical aspects of my job and the management related courses to become a functional and people manager that I am today. The instructors were able to answer questions for me, not only related to academia, but also as they related to real life application of the theories and concepts that they were teaching.”
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