Swinburne alum Anoop Chaudhuri’s career with Ford started when his father bought him a one-way ticket to Australia from India, just after graduating from an automobile engineering diploma.
“One piece of luggage is all I had when I came over to Melbourne and to Ford,” says Anoop.
His career with the global automotive company now spans more than thirty years, three continents and 14 roles.
Anoop’s first role at Ford was on the factory floor working in quality assurance.
“I loved every aspect of it…but I quickly realised I wanted to do more in my career,” he says.
From engineer to HR professional
Anoop’s zest for learning and new experiences has taken him many places within Ford – from product engineering to e-business to IT to manufacturing.
These diverse work experiences helped Anoop realise his interests and passions were suited to the field of human resources.
“I have always had a thirst for knowledge, learning and doing things differently, and understanding what makes people do their best work,” he says.
“While I was still an engineer, I talked my way into HR and convinced people they should give me a transfer.”
Anoop then went back to university to study industrial and employee relations, where a subject on innovation and entrepreneurship sparked his interest.
This brought him to Swinburne to study the Graduate Certificate of Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
“I think, for us to be successful, we have to think about how to stay abreast of what’s happening…the moment we stop learning, we stop keeping pace with the societal changes underway,” says Anoop.
“I had a wonderful time at Swinburne and the cohort was fantastic. They were all practitioners either running their own business or from established companies like myself. The subjects were really hands on.”
After graduating from Swinburne, Anoop spent the next 12 years working for Ford in Thailand, India and the US.
Anoop spoke at a Swinburne panel event on the future of leadership alongside two other high-profile alumni, Rachael Powell and Tristan Sternson (pictured second and third).
‘The hero within ourselves’
Today, Anoop is the Vice President of HR across Australia and New Zealand.
He says one of the ‘red threads’ throughout his career is his philosophy on helping individuals and teams thrive.
“I think everyone gets up in the morning and wants to do their best work. The processes and the systems in workplaces can either be enablers or impediments for that,” says Anoop.
He calls this philosophy ‘the hero within ourselves’ - the idea that if organisations can enable their employees to bring out their ‘inner hero’ then everything else takes care of itself.
“What this looks like is people feeling like they belong, like they are being heard, like they can do their best work and are leaning into their areas of strengths.”
To enable this, leaders should make the time to get to know their people and what makes them tick, says Anoop.
“If leaders can find a way of connecting everyone’s purpose with the organisation, you’ve got a space where magic can happen,” he says.
Anoop’s leadership has been recognised in many ways over the years, including being awarded the Australian HR Leader of the Year by the Australian HR Institute in 2022.
Under his leadership, Ford was also awarded the AFR Best Place to Work in 2020, the Australian HR Institute Inclusive Workplace Award in 2021 and the Employer of Choice for Gender Equality Citation by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency in 2023.
Anoop is passionate about helping individuals and teams thrive and enabling his team members to bring out their ‘inner hero’.
A day in the life
Alongside a focus on people development, Anoop believes two things are integral to an HR leader’s role.
The first is managing tactical issues, operational challenges and day-to-day business needs.
The second, he says, is “keeping one foot in today, and one in tomorrow.”
“By that I mean taking on a strategic mindset,” says Anoop.
He says HR leaders must be able to discern how issues, trends and changes across the world affect their organisations.
“This is where it really makes a difference, understanding what this means for my company or organisation and transforming that into a set of strategic outcomes…without that, any company will be left behind.”
The ripple effect of good leadership
Anoop’s own experiences of leadership have shaped the leader he is today.
“I have personally seen examples of great leadership and poor leadership,” he says.
“The ripple effect we have as leaders is huge…I made the commitment to myself never to repeat the bad examples and always to repeat and continue developing the good examples.”
Ultimately, Anoop says his humanitarian father is his biggest influence.
“He’s 85 and still working, running one of the largest not-for-profit organisations for underprivileged children in India,” says Anoop.
“That’s definitely had an impact on me in terms of how I try to give back to society and help others. You can still get a lot done and be a decent human being.”