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ZHAW Employees

Denise Castro, HR Consultant, Finance & Services

Denise Castro is a consultant in the Human Resources Department. She deals with all matters relating to personnel in the School of Linguistics, from recruitment to staff appraisals.

Denise Castro works in a team of around 15 consultants and is responsible for some 220 members of staff in the School of Applied Linguistics. Since June 2014, she has been working with the Directors of Institutes and School Management to make decisions on the recruitment of new members of staff, and she also deals with matters related to sickness and maternity leave. She acts as the contact person for employment law issues and supports line managers in the staff appraisal process or in cases of conflict. In addition, she represents the Human Resources department at the monthly induction events for new members of staff.

Alongside her work for the School of Applied Linguistics, she also deals with personnel matters for Information and Communication Technology, where she finds the diversity of profiles she encounters very enriching. “Working as an HR consultant means that close personal contact comes with the territory,” she says. “Each person and each case is different, requiring an individual approach – and that is what makes my everyday work exciting.”

The social component

For the 32-year-old, working at the ZHAW means being at the cutting edge. Lifelong learning is guaranteed, and Denise meets many people who are doing research and pursuing continuing education courses. She particularly enjoys the fact that she can make use of her language skills. Her second mother-tongue is Spanish, and she also speaks English. She emphasises the social component, and thinks that the ZHAW is a progressive and socially aware employer.

Denise can draw comparisons with other workplaces on the basis of her past experience. Until 2014, she worked for five years as a Junior HR Business Partner in a large accounting company where the corporate culture was quite different.

“A cutting-edge workplace”

Denise is now working at the ZHAW for the second time. After her commercial apprenticeship, which included work in the Human Resources field, she began her career as an HR assistant. She remained in this role from 2006 to 2009 and then fulfilled her dreams by travelling round the world for six months.

Preparing for change

During her work at the accounting company, she gained the Swiss Federal Diploma and thus qualified as an HR specialist, having obtained a Personnel Administration Certificate several years previous to this. She will take another big step in her professional development. Since October 2016, she has been studying in the Master’s programme in Human Capital Management at the ZHAW. Her professional toolkit, as Denise puts it, will soon be even more complete.

This on-going development is important, as the challenges and requirements for HR consultants will continue to change. Online tools and digital dossiers will become more and more commonplace in the future. At the same time, the needs and requirements of applicants and employees are changing. The younger generation of professionals in their 20s and early 30s want to be able to work more flexibly, without being tied to a particular time or place. What does Denise think about this? “Individual and flexible working models are the way of the future,” she says.

Gabriela Nagel, Head of the Institute for Financial Management, School of Management and Law

Bookkeeping, accounting, controlling – financial management is not only Gabriela Nagel’s profession, it is also her passion. She is Head of the Institute for Financial Management at the School of Management and Law.

When Gabriela Nagel became Head of the Institute for Financial Management at the School of Management and Law (SML) in 2010, the latter mainly offered Bachelor’s programmes. Over the last few years, she and her team have been progressively expanding other fields of higher education: research, continuing education and services. Gabriela is particularly pleased that the concept for a consecutive MSc in Accounting and Controlling, developed in 2015, has been approved and that students will be offered this programme as of autumn 2016.

Today, 16 people work at the Institute, with mandates mainly focusing on the banking, industry, energy and NPO sectors. Before becoming Head of the Institute, Gabriela even went to work in the Group Controlling department of a major bank to gain first-hand insight into the sector’s everyday challenges. This is only one of the steps she took with a view to developing the Institute’s competence in the banking sector.

A broad spectrum of tasks

“It’s lovely to work in an atmosphere where something new is being developed,” Gabriela says and proudly points out that 2014 was the Institute’s most successful business year to date. Each working day is different for her, involving tasks that include teaching for various programmes, acquiring and managing client projects, chairing team meetings, conducting staff appraisals and job interviews and writing specialist articles and reports. In addition to her role as Head of the Institute, she acts as Deputy Head of the Department of Banking, Finance, Insurance at the School of Management and Law.

During her studies, the economist - who holds a doctorate - discovered her passion for numbers. She thinks there is something down to earth about them. ”To steer a company without knowing its financial situation is like embarking on a blind flight,” she says. Consequently, she tries to convey in her teaching that, only once financial data has been collected and analysed, is the basis for making entrepreneurial decisions established.

The 53-year-old joined the ZHAW as a lecturer in 2007. Before that, she worked part-time as an assistant and lecturer at the University of Zurich while finishing her doctorate. During her doctoral studies, she also managed the financial and payroll accounting for a start-up company.

“Accounting is a crisis-proof field of work”


Practical orientation

Gabriela could have taken over the financial accounting department of a company, but that position did not seem varied enough to her. Now, besides working in an academic environment, she sits on the Board of Directors of various companies, where she gains valuable insight into the “woes and crises of the industry”.  Part of her work is still practically oriented - particularly the services area, which deals with client mandates.

It is her aim to position the Institute for Financial Management as a center of competence for financial leadership in the business world, because the importance of this field continues to play a crucial role. Since globalisation calls for ever more complex regulations, financial management know-how is in great demand. “Accounting is a crisis-proof field of work,” Gabriela says.

Diyana Petrova, Head of the Academic Affairs Unit, School of Life Sciences and Facility Management

The planning and coordination of the Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes is in her hands: Diyana Petrova is the Head of the Academic Affairs Unit in the School of Life Sciences and Facility Management in Wädenswil.

Along with her team of 15 colleagues, Diyana Petrova plans, organises and coordinates the five Bachelor’s and two Master’s programmes in the School. Petrova’s remit also includes the running of the Academic Office and coordination of the Master of Science (MSc) in Life Sciences. The Unit is always consulted on strategic matters, she says.

“I create platforms for people to connect”


Petrova is responsible for teaching formats and transcripts of records, and she explores the possibility of running new courses. She arranges collaboration with universities abroad and sits on various committees, where she is the link to the President’s Office in Winterthur. Petrova’s team provides advice to lecturers on pedagogic questions related to e-learning or the use of videos in courses. They also deal with all aspects of student and staff mobility. In short, Petrova says: “I create platforms for people to connect and to exchange ideas. I coordinate stakeholders and interest groups; that’s the main part of my work.”

Studying Economics in post-communist Bulgaria

Diyana Petrova grew up in Bulgaria. As a high school student, she lived through the Wende – which Petrova now describes as “a crazy time”. She studied Economics in Varna on the Black Sea and subsequently worked for several years for the Bulgarian trading company, Vista Oil, and then the Bulgarian Postbank.

Then in 2001, she was one of only 12 Eastern European students selected to take part in an international exchange project at the University of St. Gallen. There, she completed a professional doctorate in Leadership and Human Resource Management. Alongside her studies, Petrova worked as Programme Director of the one-year foundation course at the University of St. Gallen. She continued in this role upon completion of her PhD.

In the summer of 2009, Petrova moved to the ZHAW. She says that a decisive factor in accepting the position was the idyllic location of the Grüental campus in Wädenswil. After working for one year as a project team member with the Dean of the School, Petrova was appointed to her current position in the Unit.

Fascination with research

Petrova is always fascinated to see what students are working on. Whether the project is about how a park can be made more accessible to tourists, how to increase the nutritional value of frozen pizza, or how expanded plastics can be replaced in building construction, “I can see first-hand that the students’ work has the potential to improve our lives, and that we are doing something good for society, ” she says.

Petrova therefore spends one day a week in the classroom teaching business management and organisational theory to undergraduate students. She calls this “keeping her finger on the pulse”. She thinks this is very important since, after all, the Unit is there for the students. “It’s stimulating, meaningful and great fun.”

Susanne Schützelhofer, Assistant to the management of the Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice Unit, School of Health Professions

Susanne Schützelhofer is assistant to the management of the Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice Unit at the School of Health Professions. But this is only part of her work. She is also the contact person for communications at the Centre for Health Sciences.

The Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice Unit organises the non-professional training modules for BSc students in various fields, such as academic work, interprofessional collaboration and health promotion and prevention. Together with Emanuel Feusi, the head of the unit, Susanne Schützelhofer has been responsible for interdisciplinary compulsory and optional modules for the last six years.

Her work includes, for example, planning the teaching semester, processing dispensation requests and enrolment for optional modules. According to Susanne, the organisation for the four theme weeks of the “Demanding Professional Practice and Cooperation” module involves a great deal of work. During these weeks, over 300 Bachelor’s students in their third year meet and develop their social competence and coping skills in various subject areas and in mixed groups. Susanne, who is 47 years old, especially likes the high degree of personal responsibility and autonomy in her work. “I have to set processes in motion,” she says.

Contact person for communications

In January 2015, she had to “put on a new hat”, as she describes it. Since then, about one third of her (60%) part-time workload has been reserved for the Centre for Health Sciences. The Centre brings together the Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice Unit, the Corporate Health Management Unit, and also the new BSc degree programme in Health Promotion and Prevention, so that they are all under one roof. This is where she is responsible for communications – everything from flyers and photo-shooting to the website.

These two activities demand different skills. While her tasks as assistant to the management are well-defined and easy to plan, the work in communications for the Centre for Health Sciences involves many projects running parallel, which are often scheduled at short notice.

She had already acquired marketing and communication skills before she came to this job. After her commercial apprenticeship in Schaffhausen, she worked as a marketing and advertising assistant for various companies, and in agencies as a consultant. Shortly after her apprenticeship, she did also work in an accounting department, she says, but although she was always good at accounting at school, a career in this field never appealed to her.

Constant changes

Actually, this is the second time that she has worked for the ZHAW. The first time was from the end of 2001 to 2008 when she was employed in Corporate Communications. After this, she worked as a marketing assistant for a printer’s for a short time. Then she saw the School of Health Professions’ job advertisement in spring, 2009.

“There’s always something new coming up”


In the total of 14 years that she has been working for the ZHAW, old systems have constantly been replaced by new ones.

“This is what makes my work so dynamic and interesting, and I think that is why I have been here so long,” she says. The most recent change took place at the end of 2015. An assistant pool of three to four employees was created for all parts of the Centre for Health Sciences. Susanne Schützelhofer took over as head of the pool.