Renu’s life, Renu’s rules!

Arranged marriages were widespread for girls in India when Renu Hanegreefs-Snehi was a teenager, but she left home at 16 (without telling her parents) determined to have a career. She certainly succeeded and is now VP, corporate communications, PR and reputation management at The Rezidor Hotel Group. In this interview she describes how she got there and explains why she is proud to live by her own rules.

What did you want to be when you were a teenager?

As a teenager I was already working in the Indian fashion industry – I love being surrounded by creative people. But as a child, I wanted to be a doctor. When I grew up, arranged marriages were absolutely the norm in India. Girls were judged by whether or not they could attract a wealthy husband and become a good wife and mother. But my auntie was a doctor. She was a strong, independent woman, opinionated and ambitious – and I wanted to be like her.

Would your teenage self be pleased with the way things have turned out?

I hope so. I made some bold, unconventional decisions. I left home at 16 without telling my parents which was tough, because I loved my family.  So I hope younger self will take pride in the life and career, I have built and settled down but on my own terms; not the ones laid down by a society. My life, my rules! I hope more women would have the courage (and support) to follow their dreams, around the world.

How did you get your first break?

I met two truly inspirational men: my amazing husband, Hans, and Kurt Ritter, Rezidor’s legendary president for 23 years. Both are passionate champions of women, who supported my career development and personal choices every inch of the way.

What is the best career decision you have made?

Loyalty is a big thing for me – in every relationship. So I know I made a good decision to stay with Carlson Rezidor (for 15+ years) – even when the company went through some periods of challenging changes.

Any career regrets?

I am not the kind who ever regrets. I live, I learn and I move on. Although I’d love the time and resources to run even BIGGER, bolder campaigns…

Why Carlson Rezidor?

It’s a company and a brand built on very high ethical standards and respect for people. The company’s Scandinavian heritage promotes a very flat organisational culture – we don’t believe in massive layers of organisation charts and bosses over bosses. We are a very lean and effective team. We are also multi-taskers, so when push comes to shove, we all stand together.

People at every level are encouraged to use their emotional intelligence to connect with customers on a truly human level. People travel for many different reasons, but every guest appreciates inspirational stories about where they truly belong – and Rezidor understands that.

We have a very strong focus on design and innovation, which resonates with my personal background and lifestyle.

What are the greatest challenges of your present role?

Consistency is one of the biggest challenges in communications. Carlson Rezidor connects with customers in more than 80 different countries, so our challenge is to ensure the quality and consistency of communications across every market, at all times.

Finding the right talent in communications is also a difficult task. While New York, London and Paris continue to attract the top communicators and agencies, secondary capitals like Brussels have to put in that extra effort to attract truly international communicators.

Social media can be a friend, but also an enemy, when used incorrectly. Often people express their views, feelings, information about other in the most unintelligent and irresponsible way, which can cause a lot of damage to a person, wellbeing and brand reputation.

What advice can you give to others in the communications industry?

My biggest piece of advice would be to show respect for – and learn from – your seniors.

Being an effective communicator requires real creativity, patience, dedication, a passion for humanity – and a 24/7 commitment.

As the Dalai Lama says, when you talk, you are only repeating what you know, but if you listen, you learn something new. As communicators, you need to master the art of speaking eloquently, writing effectively and listening carefully. 

Finally, taking risks is part of life. So forget your fears and seize the moment. If you don’t take the chance, you miss the opportunity…

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