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If you ever feel especially comfortable in your position, it’s probably because something is wrong. That is the philosophy that has guided Ricardo Pravda throughout his career, from his first position as an HR analyst in Argentina to his current role as Catalent Inc.’s chief human resources officer. Never looking to rest on his laurels, Pravda constantly seeks to challenge himself and learn from previous experiences.
“How you get to your current position is always just a series of your own experiences, and I was able to make the right decisions when it comes to those experiences—because I wanted to learn from every single interaction that I had,” Pravda explains. Whether he is at job interviews, in performance reviews, or simply meeting someone new, Pravda exerts himself to pinpoint what he could be learning or doing better. “Even when I’m just talking to my boss, peers, colleagues, and teams, I always ask people for feedback and advice,” he says.
According to Pravda, that commitment to learning and gaining new experience was what opened his eyes to the “world of HR.” While working at Nabisco International (now Mondelēz) in Buenos Aires, Pravda secured his first international assignment, which required him to “pack everything he had into a suitcase and jump on a plane to Canada.”
Despite the tumult, he found his experiences in Canada incredibly rewarding. As he points out, “You may think you know how to do HR work, but what about in a different culture? In a different language?”
“You may think you know how to do HR work, but what about in a different culture? In a different language?”
Pravda continued to expand and hone his expertise in HR roles at Philip Morris Argentina, BellSouth International, and the Gillette Company before coming to Catalent. And as he moved from one company to another, he witnessed a complete reversal in the perspective that many business leaders took on the HR function.
“HR as it is today is a critical component of any business,” Pravda says. “But for a long time, it went unexplored. Now people understand that HR helps the business improve and be better: the most distinctive characteristic of any business is the people that are behind it.”
Struck by the potential of the “uncharted territory” within HR even from the beginning of his career, Pravda has found a wealth of new territory and opportunities at Catalent.
Catalent is “extremely dynamic—it’s growing constantly and it’s growing fast,” Pravda says. While that growth sometimes translates to a bit of a shortage in terms of staffing, it also provides “opportunities for everyone, including opportunities for advancement,” notes the CHRO.
Known for its diverse business footprint, Catalent is the world’s premier partner for drug development, delivery, and supply. But the company also touches on biologics, health and beauty products, animal health, and gene therapies, Pravda explains. “Catalent is moving forward, and moving into some very exciting spaces, but at the same time, the company is extremely cautious,” he says. “Catalent as it is today is a combination of all that—growing in exciting spaces with cutting-edge technologies, a good business environment, and constantly trying to improve the everyday lives of patients.”
Pravda himself has found a number of opportunities to grow and expand within the company. In addition to leading a team that comprises more than two hundred HR professionals, Pravda heads Catalent’s diversity and inclusion department, serves on the executive leadership team, and operates as the executive sponsor of the company’s Latino employee resource group (ERG).
As Pravda notes, those positions allow him to play a key role in the company’s cultural transformation. “About three years ago, the emphasis on diversity here at Catalent became purposeful,” Pravda says. “I’m trying to keep those programs and initiatives going in a direction that will help them better serve the objectives of the company but also promote the development of all our employees.”
The development of all Catalent employees is a priority for Pravda, but on a more personal level, he feels driven to promote the development of the company’s Latino employees. The first Latino to serve on the leadership team at Catalent, Pravda says that he definitely feels a sense of pride and is deeply appreciative of the honor.
“I’m trying to keep those programs and initiatives going in a direction that will help them better serve the objectives of the company but also promote the development of all our employees.”
“But I also feel a sense of commitment,” he notes, “commitment to advocating for the development of more Latinos within the company. That is the same reason I became the executive sponsor of our Latino ERG.”
Following through on that commitment—making a positive impact on the people around him while adding value to the company—is what has marked Pravda’s career thus far, and it’s something he has every intention of continuing in future. “I want to have made a difference,” he says. And knowing that, knowing exactly what he stands for, provides a great sense of clarity, Pravda shares.
“Whenever you feel confused, look back to the essence of who you are and what you believe in,” Pravda advises. “That will most likely get you out of any situation and provide you with guidance for your decision-making.”