July 2019 / News

Careers in Hard Places

In this interview with Charlene Gebhardt, Hart International’s Regional HR and Administration Manager in Kabul, Afghanistan, we find out why every day is a new day and what it’s like working in a challenging environment where anything can happen.

Charlene Gebhardt (far right) with Hart Afghanistan HR team members Mohammad Idriss Amiry (left) and Arman Hussaini (middle).

How did you get into this role?

I worked for other security companies in Iraq for 6 years, also in HR and Administration. When I needed a change,  I went back to South Africa for 8 months and this opportunity knocked on my door by pure chance.

What does your role as HR and Administration manager for Hart International in Afghanistan entail? 

Overseeing all human resource activities for Hart’s operational and corporate support staff. Helping the business recruit, deploy and develop the best security people in the industry.

What is the appeal of working in such challenging environments, when you could be working in Cape Town, London or Johannesburg? 

Someone close to me asked me if I am interested in a position in Iraq, I was 26 years old and thought ‘why the not, let’s do it’. I also thought that I would only do it for a year, well 7 years later and I am still in this industry. Would I do things differently if I could? Probably not. I really enjoy working in these environments. It’s just different. I tried going back to Johannesburg to do a normal 8 – 5 job, and it’s not for me.

What do you enjoy about the role?

The challenges and unique opportunities in people and skills development. Not really to make a difference but to lead by example to ensure the difference in skills, attributes and knowledge my team learns from working with me. This is not seen as a women friendly environment, so to have my team follow my example and learn from my doing is a great achievement.

What’s the best part of your day? 

Going to work every morning, being part of a dynamic and motivated team that support our exceptional employees.

What’s your biggest challenge?

To accept you cannot fix everything and learning to adapt.

What do you look for in suitable Hart candidates?

Candidates who demonstrate several qualities including knowledge, expertise, interest and presentation but most of all candidates who are eager to change and evolve at the same pace as the business.

What is your advice to people applying for roles with Hart?

Sometimes candidates try so hard to prove their value to a company that they forget to be true to themselves. We focus strongly on cultural fit candidates, so just relax and let your true self shine through.

Why do you think people want to work for Hart?

Hart, as a personal security company, is not too large – it is a family owned business where you are not just a number or a body, you are part of the Hart family.

The security market is a male dominated industry. Is there consideration for gender equality in your hiring approach? 

Absolutely! Everyone is considered for the role and gender is not a restriction – it’s about experience, qualification, and fit with the client’s expectations.

Hart has been in Afghanistan since 2004 – what makes it a trusted provider for our clients there?

Our professionalism, integrity and our excellent client relations. This combines with our problem-solving capabilities, where we would go the extra mile to ensure our clients’ needs are always met in a safe and secure environment.

What is unique about the working environment of Afghanistan?

It is a challenging environment but exciting at the same time. Never a dull moment, everyday is a new day where anything can happen.

What surprised you when you first arrived in Kabul?

The driving is a bit chaotic, it still tenses me up after being here for a year.

What advice do you have for people who are about to head off to work in high-risk environments? 

  • Know the risks and the environment;
  • Never become complacent;
  • Pay attention to your surroundings and most importantly;
  • SPEAK UP – you are not alone

What is your personal work motto? 

It’s not about perfect. It’s about effort. When you bring that effort every single day, that is where the transformation happens. That is how change occurs.

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this? 

Probably working with animals.

How do you relax? 

Spending time with friends and family, reading and listing to music. I also love going for a massage for total relaxation.