Connecting, inspiring and empowering women to lead the way

Larissa Cenan - Head of Legal, Ethics and Compliance at Capgemini Romania

30 May 2023 14:00 | Deleted user

Interviewed by Juliette Gill

Meet our WTP8 Talent Larissa Cenan, Head of Legal, Ethics and Compliance at Capgemini Romania. In this interview, she tells us about her career within the legal field, how important values are for her at work and in her personal life, where these values stem from, and much more.

You have had quite a varied and remarkable legal career, from starting out as a Paralegal, to making court appearances in your work in real estate, to becoming Head of Legal, Ethics and Compliance at Capgemini Romania. Could you walk us through what inspired you to pursue a career in this field, and what led you to where you are today?

It might sound cliché, but I wanted to pursue a career in the legal field because, since my childhood, I have always loved helping people. So, the first and main reason why I chose to enter this profession was because I wanted to interact with people. The second reason was that reading has always been one of my biggest passions and, to become a good legal practitioner, it is essential to read a great deal and to read widely. Besides this, I am quite an analytical person who loves analysing and writing, and I have also always been competitive, even though I do not have siblings. Therefore, I think I have a very diverse profile which fits well with the career that I have pursued.

I am very grateful for how my career has turned out: beginning as a paralegal gave me the opportunity to start at a very early stage working with clients, assisting lawyers in court appearances, and so on. I have had an interesting career, which has brought me to be the role of Head of Legal at Capgemini today.

You mentioned having practised sports for an impressive 14 years growing up and have highlighted its importance for you in terms of the values it instils. In your view, what are the values and skills that one gains from practising sports over a lifetime?

My parents made a very smart decision when they decided to enrol me in swimming classes when I was just seven years old. From swimming I learned motivation and endurance. As a swimmer, you really need to have a strong drive and motivation, for instance when you start a competition, or when you want to reach the finish line first. This really shaped my personality. Another important element instilled in me through swimming was endurance.

Later I dropped swimming classes because I wanted to pursue another sport and so I became passionate about handball. The practice of handball is all about being a team player and being strategic, so my experience as a professional athlete in this sport also taught me these two crucial skills.

Besides that, on a personal level, sports gave me a strong mindset and a strong body. Whenever I find myself in need of releasing stress, I go for a run, and I try to run daily. This really helps me to make progress, and not stay stuck in just one place.

I try to run daily. This really helps me to make progress, and not stay stuck in just one place.

There are a lot of positive skills that can be gained from sports. I try to encourage my family to join me while I am running; I have two wonderful children who are full of energy, and having sports in their lives really helps them to release positive and combat negative energy.

You previously mentioned that participating in WIL Europe’s Women Talent Pool (WTP) programme was an opportunity for you to continually educate yourself. Could you share a moment during your time in this programme which was a particularly eye-opening experience?

I can think about several eye-opening experiences so far on the Women Talent Pool programme The WTP is a great programme that I believe will shape both my knowledge and professional development and will boost my career.

To start from the beginning, with our first internal meeting within Capgemini where it was announced that I would be part of the programme: this was huge news for me. I was on a skiing holiday with my family, and suddenly I saw the meeting in my agenda with all our leaders from the Legal department. I said to myself, “I cannot miss this call because it is definitely something big”. I took the call from my phone, in the mountains, wearing all my skiing gear! When our leaders presented what the WIL, what the WTP programme is about, and the opportunities it provides, I felt special to be a part of it. I knew that it would be a huge opportunity for my career.

In the months that followed, we started to receive the invitations for several different WIL gatherings. What I like a lot about the WTP is its structure: it is so well-planned, and it always keeps you eager to attend the next session, workshop, or meeting with a senior leader in the network.

An eye-opening experience for me has been meeting the various WIL Members, all women with strong careers in different fields, and having the opportunity to talk with them. Then there are my fellow members of the 8th edition of the Women Talent Pool programme, who come from a mixture of cultures, have a variety of experiences, and this constitutes a real inspiration for me. It has only been a few months since the beginning, and I already feel the benefits in terms of interactions, boosting of my knowledge, and of my career.

In 2022 you led a D&I (Diversity & Inclusion) project within Capgemini Romania, where you were in charge of hosting conversations to facilitate discussion on subjects such as unconscious biases, and the impact of diversity on competitiveness. Could you tell us a bit more about what you took away from leading this project?

Indeed, I chose to coordinate this Diversity & Inclusion project in Romania in 2022. It was the first time that I had had the chance to choose a project to coordinate. Normally, given my position in the company, the projects chase me and not the other way around!

In 2022, D&I was at the core of our priorities, and it was part of our Employer Branding strategy. The focus was to get feedback and impressions from our employees regarding how D&I impacts their work. It was a great opportunity to take a break, to see what our employees think of how diversity is handled by our leaders within the company. I also had the chance to work with people with whom I do not get to interact on a regular basis. We had discussions in small circles of people, and we tried to have a mix of different genders, cultures, and religions amongst participants. The idea was to gather them all in one place and create a safe environment in which they could say how they were feeling within our company, what recommendations they might have, what could we improve on, and so on.

During this project I saw that I was missing in-depth knowledge when it came to LGBT+ issues, and this was an opportunity to learn more. I also learnt about what biases we may have, and how we can live with bias in our lives.

Recently we also had a small project within our company to commemorate International Women’s Day, called “Embrace Equity”. Alongside my talented colleagues, I was one of the ambassadors for this project. Hence the 2022 D&I project was not the end of the road for me regarding D&I projects within my company.

I like to be proactive, and going out of my comfort zone gives me plenty of opportunities to do this. I chase projects that I believe in, projects which match my mindset, and D&I is something that has a big impact on my life and that of others.

I like to be proactive, and going out of my comfort zone gives me plenty of opportunities to do this.

At Capgemini, as you say, an important element is to “embrace equity”. You have mentioned in the past that we all still have a lot to learn in the field of gender equality and equity. Could you tell us what you have learned in that respect at Capgemini, and how you integrate this into your role?

Thank you for this question. I love it, both because it can offer so many dimensions in terms of answers, and because it is very related to what I am doing within Capgemini.

To start with a simple answer, when we talk about embracing equity, it is important that we differentiate between equality and equity. Both are important, but they are different in many ways. To explain this difference simply: equality is about giving everyone a shoe, while equity is about giving everyone a shoe that fits.

Equality is about giving everyone a shoe, while equity is about giving everyone a shoe that fits.

My role within Capgemini as Head of Legal, Ethics and Compliance is one that must be filled by someone with very strong ethics, values, and standards that are deeply rooted in their life and DNA. Filling this role has helped me to be a role model in terms of values, principles, and professional standards, and it has also given me the opportunity to be part of Capgemini’s ethical culture and the seven values (Capgemini’s seven Values (Honesty, Boldness, Trust, Freedom, Fun, Modesty, Team Spirit) that we have at the core of our business. Having this position means that people really look to you as a person full of values, and therefore you need to embody this with everything that you say and do in the company.

Since the beginning of my life, values have always been important to me. I try to live and take decisions guided by certain standards and values, to follow my identity and what I believe in. It is a lifetime journey! I am still learning and changing every day, not least because there is so much to take in. Our business is very dynamic, as is the industry. The economy in Romania is changing, like it is all around the world. You must be open to change and be flexible. Maybe it will be over when I retire, and maybe not even then!

You are very passionate about reading, whether that is personal development books or other genres. Could you tell us about a book you recently read that strongly impacted you, and how?

Yes, I am completely in love with reading, and books. I try to influence my children to love reading too, and so far, I think the future looks bright from this perspective!

To be honest, I am not the type of person who reads whatever I can get my hands on: I choose my books very wisely. That’s why if I read a book, it is certain that it will impact me strongly, be it in terms of mindset, career, or in another way. I don’t chase books with my eyes closed, I chase books depending on my mood. If I am in a bad space, for instance, I seek out something to read that will boost my energy or help me look beyond my problems.

There is one book that had a particularly big impact on my mindset: Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke. It was eye-opening, both on a professional and personal level. Thinking in Bets really teaches you how to improve your decision-making skills in your day-to-day life. The main takeaway of this book is that, according to the author, there are two things that determine how our lives will turn out: the quality of our decisions, and luck. This is obviously debatable, but if you have the chance to read this book, please do. At the end of this book, I had learnt to make peace with myself. I learnt that it is okay to not be sure of something. That it is fine not knowing everything, or saying “I cannot do that, I need to improve a skill. That it is okay to not always be okay, and to not always be right.

I read firstly to educate myself, as I still have a lot to learn. I also, read to be relaxed and to feel good, to get the positive energy necessary to finish a hard day.

Video edited by Juliette Travaillé

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