International citizen CHRO Penelope Hlubi talks about travel, skills and opportunities

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The Alstom CHRO is keen to train more African youngsters in the niche railway transport sector.

Penelope Hlubi, CHRO for Alstom, openly admits that the travel bug bit her early on in her career. Today she is a self-proclaimed international citizen.

“Travelling is the biggest part of my life,” she says. “I have been fortunate to be blessed with travel opportunities, both to domestic and international geographies, as part of my work assignments. At the end of the day it’s not just about globetrotting, but a comprehension of learning experiences and much appreciation for diversity.”

Penny is an experienced head of human resources and seasoned HR business partner, with international experience in the petrochemical, mining, renewable energy and automotive industries, and recently joined the railway industry.

Since joining Alstom in August 2022, she has already opened a new office in Tanzania, which will support the Rwanda and Burundi corridor, and is working on expanding the business in Angola.

This will add to the already impressive list of countries where Penny has lived, worked in or visited in her personal capacity: Australia, Canada, Gabon, Mozambique, Spain and the UK, where she supported operations in the industrial sector for a number of years.

Under her current portfolio, Penny aims to deliver on three focus areas, namely supporting Alstom’s business expansion through greenfield projects by developing fit for purpose people and talent strategies, harmonisation of joint ventures, and amplifying the Alstom brand as the employer of choice.

Passion for the youth

As a result of this forward-looking approach, Penny highlights that there is still a huge shortage of industry related skills in the countries in which the company operates.

“Railway transport education is fairly niche, hence we take pride in incubation of speciality programmes. In March this year our Egypt office opened a railway college and Alstom Ubunye launched a welding school. Both are aimed at upskilling the youth,” she explains.

“We offer bursaries as well, and partner with local universities as part of our solution.”

This passion for youth development dates back to Penny’s career in the oil and gas space, when he interns weren’t being absorbed into permanent positions. So she pitched a postgraduate programme for geoscience to the company, to further cultivate the skills they had built in the interns, as well as to retain them.

Penny, who holds an honours in industrial psychology and a masters in commerce majoring in labour economics, is a strong believer in there being no limits in life.
“My biggest prayer is that I continue to set a quantum leap vision for myself, and pave and create opportunities for the next generation,” she says.

It is this indomitable spirit and willingness to expand her horizons that has contributed to Penny’s sterling track record in human resources. She still has more destinations on her travel bucket list: Croatia and Scotland. “I would love to visit these countries very soon. Then I’m done, although it would be great to visit Thailand again and I’m quite interested in Mexico too…

“I doubt I will ever be done,” she concludes with a laugh.

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