Ana Ber is not only an experienced and extremely successful HR and management consultant, but also a fascinating person. She has been working as a partner at InterSearch in Romania for more than 15 years.
When Ana Ber talks to candidates who aren’t sure if they should leave their safe professional haven for a new job, she likes to tell her own story. Because it is a good example of how much courage it takes to make a change and how successful a 180-degree turnaround can be. “It’s never too late to start over,” says Ana.
Building refugee camps
Born during the reign of Nicolae Ceaușescu, Ana emigrated to Israel at the age of 18. She studied health management at Tel Aviv University and joined the army. During a special assignment, she helped Jews residing in Ethiopia escape to Israel. At the time, Ethiopia was in the throes of a protracted and relentless civil war. The resulting famine forced thousands of people to leave their country.
A scholarship eventually took Ana to Boston and the Boston University School of Public Health, where she earned her master’s degree. Her experience with refugees stood her in good stead when UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, sought assistance for a project in Sudan. The job: to set up and manage refugee camps on a large scale.
Youngest female hospital manager
So, at just 23, Ana started at UNHCR as a project manager. Six years later, she left Africa with an impressive track record: she had set up and managed a total of about 600 camps for two million people in Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia. “A fantastic time,” Ana says today. Because no one can ever take this expertise away from her: How do I build up an infrastructure? How do people get urgently needed medical care? Where and how do children go to school? How might refugee flows develop?
“I studied public health because it was always my dream to become the youngest female hospital manager,” Ana explains. A dream that ultimately drove her to achieve even more. Then, when Ana wanted to start a family, she knew she had to go back to Europe. “The conditions in Africa were not conducive to raising a child there at that time,” she says. Initially she was in Paris, working for the World Health Organization (WHO). After returning to Romania, she founded the first private emergency medical clinic there, SOS Medical Group, and built it up over two years.
Know more than clients
After leaving the SOS Medical Group, she looked for an opportunity to continue working in Romania – and happened to land at Pendl & Piswanger executive search, InterSearch Romania. “I had no idea what executive search was and didn’t understand why companies should hand over executive recruitment to another service provider.” After all, she had already searched for and found employees herself in the middle of nowhere in Africa. But she took the plunge and gave it a try. During her first year, she had more than 1,000 meetings, learned the industry from the ground up, and forged a wide-reaching network. In the process, she fell in love with the job and today, more than 15 years later, is still passionate about it. “The best stroke of luck in my life,” Ana sums up.
Why does Ana love recruiting? “It gives me the adrenaline rush I need when I know: I have to solve a practically unsolvable problem.” That way, she says, she can get really creative and explore new avenues. “When excitement and stress levels are lower, I get bored quickly.” In addition: “An executive search consultant should know more than the clients.” That’s why lifelong learning is essential in this job, she says. So it’s the perfect fit for a woman like Ana Ber.