On the afternoon of March 14, 2016, WIL launched the 3rd edition of its Women Talent Pool Program (WTP), in partnership with Microsoft and Osborne Clarke at their London offices. This event was the talents first in-person meeting which started their 18-months’ program.
Following the Welcoming Remarks of Ray Berg, Managing Partner UK at Osborne Clarke, WIL President and founding partner of Samman Law & Corporate Affairs Thaima Samman took the stage with Brigitte Dumont, WIL Board Member & WTP founder and Chief Officer CSR at Orange, as well as WTP 1st Edition Alumni, Marie-Hélène Briens, Director of Programs Office B2B Sales at Orange, and Claire Monné, Economic Advisor for the French Representation to the EU to present WIL network and the WTP program.
Thaima opened the discussion by explaining WIL & WTP’s rationale, which is to encourage women to step out of their comfort zones and make their marks in this professional world. Brigitte outlined Orange’s strong commitment to promoting gender equality in top leadership positions. Diversity is a performance driver and programs such as the WTP are here to help women break the “glass ceiling” to senior positions. For Marie-Hélène, leadership is first and foremost understanding that there is not a single path to success. Therefore, women should start thinking differently and stop following predetermined tracks. Claire Monné shared her atypical career path, first as a vet and then as an economic advisor for the French Representation to the EU. For her, the WTP keyword is “to dare”.
Women must dare asking for a position or making a decision because they are as capable as men to do so. Marie-Hélène and Claire concluded this section by encouraging the new talents to get as much as they can from this program.
Next, Stefania Maschio, Partner at Excellence, Leadership development and Executive Coaching, gave a lively and inspiring presentation on Women and Leadership, the journey starts inside. Stefania explained that Women are not only facing external obstacles when it comes to build their professional career, but they are also suffering from what she referred to as “internal obstacles”, namely mental barriers built by gender stereotypes since childhood. She identified and reflected on four of those obstacles that affect women in particular, and makes it harder for them to reach higher positions. The first one is the “good girl syndrome”: as a consequence of their education, girls are expected to be polite, cute, nice and sweet. Under the good girl syndrome lies the need to be liked, and the inability to say no, which are often incompatible with high responsibilities. The second obstacle is the “imposture syndrome”, namely the constant anxiety to be considered as incompetent in their jobs. It takes roots in a lack of confidence on themselves and their competencies, and prevent them from applying for higher positions. Thirdly, women also experienced the “Power complex”, which is the difficulty of recognizing and accepting their ambition, as power is often deemed as a male attribute and negatively connoted for women. Finally, Stefania Maschio regrets that women are often lacking “proactivity” in their career’s plan. They tend to wait for opportunities to come instead of projecting themselves into a long-term future. Yet, strategic choices must be made within a long term vision.
In addition to the lively coaching presentation, the WTP session included an eye-opening roundtable session moderated by WIL Board Member Marina Niforos, President and CEO at Logos Global Advisors.
The roundtable was devoted to the testimonies of female leaders: Shelley McKinley, Associate General Counsel, Head of Legal and Corporate Affairs for Microsoft Western Europe, Despina Anastasiou, Country and General Manager for Dow Greece and Cyprus, and Wassila Zitoune-Dumontet, VP Group Roaming & Interconnect for Orange. Each panelist described her background, past experiences, challenges, both personal and professional, and shared lessons learned.
They all experienced non-linear career paths: After attending law school in Seattle and Washington, Shelley McKinley took 10 years ago the bold decision to quit an unfulfilled job in a law firm in Seattle to join Microsoft. Despina Anastasiou graduated with a PhD in Chemistry, before taking a radical turn toward the business sector. She then held various positions in Marketing, Sales, changing roles and sectors every 3 or 4 years, and feeling richer from each experience. Wassila Zitoune-Dumontet originally intended to be a lawyer, but “sometimes the plan is not the plan” therefore she ended-up being a senior executive in the Telecommunication industry. For these inspiring women, the path to success is not a straight road, it is about choosing your own journey, making your own choices and moving towards success. According to Shelley, the major lesson learned from her experience is to be opened to every opportunity that rose on your way and be willing to take risks. Daring, and speaking up your own choices are also Wassila’s main takeaways. Success is being comfortable and confident with your own choices, but also showing them clearly to the company. For Despina, it relies heavily on the concept of PIE, asserted by Harvey Coleman: “Success is 10% Performance, 30% Image and 60% Exposure”. To get a promotion you’ll need to perform well, cultivate a positive image and proactively gain exposure to the right stakeholders.
Speakers encouraged the Emerging Leaders not to be hold back by their fear of failing: “Try, fail and learn from it” in Wassila’s own words. Resilience is a key element for professional achievement: failure is not what matters, but the way you respond to it and your ability to move forward. Questioned about their work-life balance, panelists encouraged the talents to find their own balance, “be happy with what you get out versus what you put in”. For Wassila, it had been a tough learning to shut down her inner voice of perfectionism and to let herself dedicate more time to her family. Despina advocated for family balance, and explained that her partner chose to be the leading parent in the family for few years, while she was leading her career.
Later in the evening, the emerging leaders had further opportunities to discuss with their peers and get professional tips and advice from role models during a speed-dating session which was very much appreciated.
To conclude the afternoon session, Brigitte Dumont took the stage to ask the Talents to reflect on the afternoon’s takeaways and expectations for the upcoming 18 months. Following this vibrant discussion, all the guests were invited to attend WIL-Lenovo’s dinner-debate on Competencies for Success in a Connected World.
Finally, the next morning, WIL had the pleasure to collaborate with Hill and Knowlton UK and Catherine Cross, Director, Media Training, Hill+Knowlton Strategies for a vivid training and valuable insights on Presentation skills that our talents found extremely helpful for their future presentations.
On the afternoon of December 7th 2015, WIL held the Closing Session of the Women Talent Pool 2nd Edition at Microsoft Briefing Center in Brussels, Belgium. The session gathered around 40 participants from emerging leaders, WIL members, and talents of the first WTP edition.
This half-day session’s aim was to listen to the talents feedback, experiences, lessons learned, and favorite activities from the 18 months platform as well as suggestions for the next edition, and to hear from WIL partners’ high-level perspective on the importance of investing in talents and programs such as these both internally and externally.
Shelley McKinley, Microsoft, hosting peer of the event, officially opened the session and genuinely expressed how thrilled she is to host the WTP event. She also explained that investing in cross boundaries networks like this one, and securing the talent’s future is crucial for a company like Microsoft as it is part of its core values to do so.
Shelley gave the floor to Brigitte Dumont, VP CSR at Orange and moderator of the 1st session on “Taking Stock of the Program”. Brigitte echoed Shelley by reaffirming that the WTP is a viable solution to the concerns and challenges faced by young talents who live and work in a very complex environment. It helps them acquire more responsibility and be better decision-makers capable of taking leadership positions and generating growth within their companies and the society as a whole.
Following this short introduction, Brigitte asked Laure, Claudia, Yvonne and Cristina, four WTP 2nd edition emerging leaders, to share their take-aways and lesson learned from the program. Claudia Collacchi, Qualcomm started with Charlotte Wilton (Mayor of Ottawa, 1963) quote “Whatever women do, they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.” Indeed, women are incredible at multi-tasking without too much trouble thanks to one of their key strengths: resilience. The WTP taught her that as well as how to be more confident. Laure Cousin, Account Manager, Orange shared the same analysis. Thanks to the program, she feels stronger and empowered as she found a platform where she can share thoughts and experiences freely –without the impression of being judged – with women who are from diverse backgrounds, countries and work environments. Yvonne Chebib, Business Manager, Microsoft also echoed Laure and Claudia saying that the WTP provided them with soft skills, insights, networking and communication tips, top-notch speakers who offered their perspective and personal experience on several aspects of professional development to help them navigate the paths to leadership and at the same time gave them access to women leaders across the network. Finally, Cristina Cuadra Garcia, EU Commission mentioned that thanks to the WTP she realized that women in the private sector can be confronted to similar difficulties despite working in a different field than hers. She added that she is more self-confident than 18 months ago and better prepared for negotiations or meetings because she knows how to speak up without being afraid of making mistakes.
Moving towards the partners perspectives, Céline Brémaud, VP EMEA, Microsoft, explained that the WTP is a reality check that allows her to refresh her brain and thinking process by learning from others. The program helps a company like Microsoft to better see how the market shifts and launch the right products that younger generations are interested in. It is a win-win platform offering a safe networking environment where she can test herself and see how she resonates with the talents. Véronique Karcenty, Director HR, Orange agreed with Céline by saying that networking is a key to success as it helps to develop our skills and broaden our horizon.
In terms of suggestions for the WTP 3rd edition, Claudia and Yvonne would like to diversify a bit more the network by involving other sectors and by having more executive men presence in the audience; it really adds to the aim of understanding diverse leaders’ perspectives and give them access to women leaders and talents. Laure explained that she enjoys talking to her fellow emerging leaders and would appreciate participating in happy hours that would allow her/them to share personal experience. For Cristina, communication is also what matters the most, so she would love to participate in a mentoring program with WIL members. Finally, Yvonne added that she would also enjoy more connections and alliances with other women in leadership networks in the world.
Coming back to the HR perspective, Véronique Karcenty explained that the WTP is a real investment for a company like Orange. So, they know how much this network will help their talents broaden their horizon and build their confidence. Furthermore, Céline Brémaud mentioned that the WTP is one of the rare Microsoft investments in a network. Therefore, the WTP is extremely valuable to them as it helps Microsoft better understand the market, and gives them access to the latest trends on regulations as well as to academic perspectives on numerous topics. She finished by telling the talents that they should be vocal and do what they want to do with thanks to the skills they acquired in the program.
Following a lively networking break, the second session, which tackled the topic of “Sustainable Job Creation & Social Innovation at the heart of Inclusive Growth” began with moderator Elena Bonfiglioli,
Ishreen Bradley started by explaining that the biggest barriers that people face, women particularly, in the workplace are managing profile and personal/career development. Therefore, developing and keeping with the network is absolutely key in someone’s career as well as building long term relationships out of it. Ishreen insisted on the fact that most of our strengths are focused on delivering results. So, it is essential to use a high level of emotional intelligence and focus on doing a good job, great results and getting notice.
Ms. Bradley explained that the way we behave is driven by our purpose and passions and very often those two can be invisible to us so we need to find them in order to be successful. She shared the following tools and technics to do so:
First, the “Mountains and Valleys” process can help us determine our top 5 values by creating a life timeline with up and downs and define what values were missing during our “down periods” and which ones were helping us feel good in the “up moments”. Second, it is important to understand what we are not available for and be clear on that, and know what we care about and motivates us at work. Additionally, we have to determine who is empowering and motivating us and who is not contributing to our success.
Therefore, Ishreen Bradley described 5 strategies for success:
Strategy #1: Getting to know our authentic purpose
Ishreen’s purpose is to make sure that all the human beings have great opportunities and women in particular to get to be successful as they can be and aware of their opportunities. That is her work.
Strategy #2: Branding ourselves
It is essential to understand and communicate out our authentic brand to the stakeholders by following the 3 C rule. Our story needs to be Consistent in all areas where we can be seen; Congruent with who we are and Consistent with our personality and brand. Thus, it makes it easier to move forward.
Strategy #3: Picking your battles
We tend to fight for fairness that can sometimes take us down a blind alley which can be extremely bad for our career. So, we need to choose the causes that are worth to put effort in and let the other complaints go by mastering our emotions to be successful.
Strategy #4: Getting a virtual board
We need influencers and mentors with specific skills who have an impact, experience and can guide us and help do the job.
Strategy #5: Apply strategies used by successful women
Successful women manage challenges and are successful. Therefore, we should hold on to challenging projects, understand the bigger picture and avoid any unproductive situations. Besides, Ishreen encouraged us to take roles outside of our comfort zones, learn on the job and become trusted advisors.
Finally, in order to be successful, we need to visualize ourselves as leaders by focusing on roles that play to strengths, understanding our teams’ assets, weaknesses and aspirations, and managing conflicting priorities.
On the afternoon of June 5th 2015, within the context of the Athens Bi-annual, WIL held a dedicated, lively and informative Women Talent Pool Session for our Emerging Leaders, WIL Members and guests.
Following a networking lunch, WIL Emerging leaders Virginie Battu-Henriksson, Advisor to the Director for Media & Communication, Council of the European Union and Yvonne Chebib, Business Manager Public Sector MEA, Microsoft took the stage with WIL President Thaima Samman to wrap-up the morning sessions. Virginie Battu-Henriksonn provided her insights into the first session, sharing that the keywords we should retain about “Fostering Inclusive Growth in Europe” are trust and vision. Trust to be established between the public authorities and private sector, and visions of determined entrepreneurs that enabled thanks to a clear regulatory framework. She left the floor to Yvonne Chebib who shared on the second session, social innovation at the heart of inclusive growth. She described the impact of digitalization on job creation and knowledge sharing with SMEs as the core of this process.
The Women Talent Pool Session officially kicked off with a lively presentation by Avinash Chandarana, Group Learning and Development Director for MCI Group on “New Leadership Skills in a Competitive Environment”. He outlined that leadership is not as much about charisma as it is about promoting a cause or a company taking advantage of the right parameters in a competitive environment. Mr. Chandarana shared eye opening statistics about the changing demographics and environment of the workforce setting the tone of how leadership is adapting and changing as we move into the future. He discussed three concepts leaders have to deal with this decade, which are globalization, demographic evolution and the social-digital revolution. Mr. Chandarana went on to explain that now-a-days a good leader needs to keep up with technological progress, as adaptation to new technologies is becoming an obligation (a must have) rather than an option.
For Mr. Chandarana new leadership skills needed in this digital era include: influence, virtual management and quick execution, which is all linked to the management and leadership of the new generation of employees, the “millennials” who have “digital in their DNA”. Outlining how digitalization and globalization are quickly and constantly changing the nature of traditional working relationship, he explained that more and more leaders are forced to empower team who are working on the other side of the globe, which means juggling time differences and trusting individuals (more responsibility and less oversight). New technologies are blurring the distance and making us all more connected and capable to work. Another thing Mr. Chandarana stressed is that increasingly “work is a thing you do, not a place where you go”, but virtual interaction will never replace a face to face meeting. The last big leadership trend for the future we discuss was the emergence and increased importance of “boundary spanning”. Boundary spanning is the ability for a leader to cross traditional barriers to achieve an objective and to follow a cause, like working hand in hand with a competitor, or sharing revolutionary information within the sector and with competitors in service of a higher vision or goal (ex. Tesla technologies).
Building on this energizing workshop, we launched into a great panel session on Inclusive Leadership moderated by Thaima Samman, WIL President and Partner at SAMMAN Legal and Corporate Affair, and featuring Senior Leaders such as Craig Shank, Vice President and Associate General Counsel, Microsoft, Maria Pernas, Senior Vice President, Group Legal Department, Atos, Shawn A. Covell, Vice President, Government Affairs, Qualcomm, Viktorija Smatko-Abaza, Principal Adviser, DG Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, European Commission. Craig Shank opened the panel by sharing his experience of working and leading Microsoft’s global legal corporate affairs. He explained that he has to manage people working in 15 different time zones, who speak several language and all have different backgrounds and cultures. According to him inclusive leadership is closely linked to the notion of diversity, and diversity is not only about gender and race but also about seniority and cultural background. For Mr. Shank leaders needs to adapt themselves to multicultural work environments and as mentioned by Mr. Chandarana to technology that links global teams. He also asked the participants “How will you use failure to your best advantage”? Understating that there is a valuable lesson to be learned behind every failure, as this is part of the process of becoming a leader.
Maria Pernas went on to discuss how women are still underrepresented in the ICT sector, but encouragingly their number are slowly increasing. She took the example of her experience as Head of Atos Diversity Program to illustrate this. In Atos 30% of employees recruited under 30 are female, however, more still needs to be done. When discussing diversity at Atos, Ms. Pernas mentioned that she does not position it as a ‘women’s issue’ but an issue of company performance, as it has been proven through various studies that more diverse leadership teams and companies in general have a higher return on investment and better performance. In this regards, diversity initiatives can be strategic to company development and assigned indicators can measure their contribution to the company. Ultimately, diversity within a company, and especially at the leadership level, is just good business.
Viktorija Smatko-Abaza, provided the European Commission perspective to inclusive leadership and mentioned the men-women quotas proposition from the Commission to be implemented at national level. In appliance to the subsidiary principle there is no uniform legislation for quotas, but mentalities are evolving and companies are willing to fix internal objectives to promote women in leadership. Within the Commission there is definitely work to be done in promoting women in leadership, Ms. Smatko-Abaza said, continuing to explain that leadership programs exist but do not targeted women specifically. Lastly, in relation to work-life balance, Ms. Smatko-Abaza mentioned that the Commission should foster more workplace flexibility in order to enable women (and men) to pursue successful careers, but not at the price of their outside lives. Shawn Covell went on to share how she advocates for women and women’s promotion at Qualcomm where like any ICT company women are still underrepresented. She encouraged women to take ownership in their careers, as leadership is not only about working hard but about owning your successes and self-marketing. She also urged everyone in the audience, emerging leaders, guest and WIL members alike to take advantage of every learning opportunity available to them, like online management trainings etc.
After an afternoon of examining the many components of inclusive Leadership under different perspectives and learning about the future of leadership, Béatrice Delmas Linel, Managing Partner, Osborne Clarke closed the session by thanking the remarkable speakers from the morning and afternoon. She concluded that as women we need to take ownership over our careers and to put in practice all the knowledge acquired during this session, finding our own paths to a fulfilling career without limitations.
Emerging leader Claudia Collacchi, Senior Financial Analyst at Qualcomm, participated as a moderator for the first time at the WIL Bi-Annual in Madrid, where she led a great tete-a-tete session with WIL members Pinuccia Contino, Head of Unit Communication and Relations with Stakeholders, DG for Translation at the European Commission and Mary Honeyball, Member of the European Parliament.
Based in Rome, Claudia has been working for Qualcomm for 13 years, making her way from Associate Financial Analyst to her current senior level role. She is responsible for the forcasting of cash flow positions, manages the preparation of the company’s budget and outlooks, and conducts several other finacial research and analyses. Prior to joining Qualcomm, Claudia gained experience working for Credit Suisse Italy at the Private Banking office.
WIL caught up with Claudia to ask about the experience of moderating her first session, and to learn more about her experiences working in the ICT sector and future aspirations.
WIL: You’ve been working at Qualcomm for 13 years now. What has the experience of working at one company for a long period of time taught you?
Claudia Collacchi (CC): Working within a US based Multinational Corporation for such a long period I have seen many changes in the regulatory and reporting landscape, particularly with the fallout from corporate scandals during the last decade. The integrity, brand, and ultimately shareholder value of a business is underpinned by having a strong internal reporting and compliance framework, so keeping pace with that environment whilst supporting a fast moving industry has been an interesting challenge for me. Such an experience has taught me to constantly look to improve on all fronts, strive to add value in my everyday activities and adopt a resilient attitude.
WIL: Before joining Qualcomm, you worked at Credit Suisse Italy. How is working in the banking sector different from working in the ICT and what makes the latter more attractive to you?
CC: In Credit Suisse Italy I used to be in direct contact with the customers, mainly Italians, whereas in Qualcomm my main customers are internal ones: my colleagues in Europe and the US. This represented a big cultural change for me and was quite a challenge.
As for the ICT, I have always found this sphere extremely attractive. It evolves rapidly and keeps up with the times, trying to adapt to the tastes of its customers and simplify their life.
WIL: Your professional activity is related to the ICT and financial sectors. As studies by the European Commission and the Financial Times show, both of these spheres are largely male-dominated. In your view, what could be done to attract more women to these sectors?
CC: First of all, it would not be very correct to say that ICT companies lack women since gender equality is more or less respected in such departments as marketing, HR, finances etc. However, it is true that men usually prevail in pure engineering activities.
Recently I had an opportunity to discuss this issue with the Executive Vice-President (EVP) of Qualcomm. We talked about shortage of women in leadership positions in general while mentioning that this problem existed at Qualcomm as well. The EVP assured me that it was a topic of an open discussion within the company. He also underlined that this phenomenon was due more to cultural traditions than to the reluctance of ICT-companies to attract women: according to him, even when he was studying at the university, one could already notice the smaller amount of female students in class.
At the same time, I believe that we are living at the time of cultural and generational evolution. Things are changing slowly but surely. On the one hand, management within organisations is starting to have a more modern outlook, and on the other hand Government influences companies to ensure equal opportunities. Personally, I can think of two solutions that would work for any sector willing to attract more female workers. First of all, firms in the ICT sphere should pay more attention to the development of the child care as this is a very important factor for some woman when choosing her job.
Secondly, I am assured that we need more examples of women in leadership to show the way and open the path for those coming up after them.
WIL: Claudia, at the last WIL Bi-Annual you did a great job moderating a shot tete-a-tete session. What are your impressions from this experience, what did you learn? Is there something you would do differently next time?
CC: The preparation for this event was quite stressful, partly due to the emotions that such an experience involves, and partly because English is not my mother tongue. The idea itself of holding a microphone on stage was scary for me.
I prepared a bunch of introductory phrases which I was planning to use to attract the audience’s attention. However, what helped me the most was few minutes of meditation before the session. I realized that being relaxed is more important than having a list of ready-made phrases that often sound empty and trivial anyway. If you know the topic well enough and have thought of several things you could say in case you lack inspiration, the improvisation will pass smoothly.
Next time I will have a greater belief in my capacities and I am going to work more on psychological aspects of such an exercise.
WIL: Where do you see yourself in 5 years, what would you like to achieve?
CC: Even though my job consists in planning and preparing forecasts, I am not as good at making plans for myself. Today’s Claudia differs dramatically from Claudia at University (who, by the way, was a linguist). Life offers plenty of marvellous opportunities which we cannot even imagine sometimes. I am trying to be a chameleon and adapt in order to “catch the train”.
Anyway, I hope that in 5 years I will still have a fascinating and challenging job and be a mother.
WIL: What and/or who can you call a source of your motivation?
CC: I bring passion to everything I do and it is the atmosphere at work and at home that inspires me the most. I learn mainly from people around me: I observe how they do things and deal with problems to follow their example. It helps me to improve my way of doing things and gain a better control of my emotions. It is a unique privilege for me to have joined WIL’s Talent Pool Program, as this experience is giving me the opportunity of meeting great women and taking inspiration from them. I was particularly impressed by Catalina Hoffman, her achievements, the experience she has gone through and how she has managed to move forward. Her enthusiasm and humility represent for me an important lesson.
On the morning of September 12th, 2014, WIL organized an insightful Women Talent Pool Session for its Emerging Leaders, WIL members and friends, in the framework of the Bi-Annual meeting in Madrid, Spain.
The day kicked off with an energetic and interactive coaching session “Resilience: What is it? Have you got it? How to get it!” by Marta Williams, Founding Partner & CEO, Williams and Associates. Using rubber bands as a metaphor of resilience, Marta urged everyone to stretch their band as far as possible, as a means to demonstrate that resilience is the capacity to go back to an initial state after having reached one’s limits.
For Marta Williams, the projection of your feelings is of the utmost importance. If you project an image of a resilient and confident person it will help others to believe in you and in the achievement of positive outcomes and better results. She also underlined the importance of analysing people’s feedback about your behaviour. Even though you cannot force anybody to change their perception of you, it is often based on actions, and you can change your actions to re-form their perception - ultimately the way people perceive you is within your control if you embrace it.
A considerable portion of the session was devoted to the discussion of the “silent rules of the game” – unspoken standards of behaviour in the work place that are, according to Marta, shaped by men and not always explained to women and/or understood by them. Regarding these “rules”, Marta gave some practical advice to the audience as to the manner of introducing oneself, with confidence, and how to give an assertive handshake.
Marta also had the audience self-reflect on the concept of ‘sustainers’, who are very hard workers that are timid and often feel they are victims of the system, versus ‘achievers’ who are hard workers that are self-assured and specifically draw attention to their achievements. Marta urged everyone to evaluate themselves and determine whether they currently identify as a ‘sustainer’ or ‘achiever’, as well as to define first what they want to be, and second how they can achieve it.
Concluding the session Marta quoted a famous line from Yoda, a Star Wars character, who said “Do or not do, there is no try”.
In addition to the lively coaching, the WTP session included an honest and eye-opening roundtable session moderated by WIL Board Member Elena Bonfiglioli, Senior Director Health Industry, EMEA, Microsoft. The roundtable was devoted to the testimonies of resilient female leaders: Catalina Hoffmann, Founder & CEO, Catalina Hoffmann Holding Group, Ourania Ekaterinari, Deputy CEO, Public Corporation S.A. and Kristin Schreiber, Director, Directorate B Governance of the Single Market, DG Internal Market and Services, European Commission. Each panelist took the floor to describe their career path and background, current activity and one particularly hard experience they went through where resilience was key. Each speaker candidly expressed their challenges, both personal and professional, shared what they learned from their experiences, and explained how their journey helped them to become more resilient as women and as leaders.
According to Catalina Hoffmann, it was the force of her dream that helped her to carry on. She had worked very hard to start her business and improve the lives of the elderly and she was determined to keep working to preserve the fruits of her labours, regardless of the challenges. Ourania Ekaterinari explained that she cared passionately about people she was working with and felt responsible for her team and strong enough to continue fighting to protect them, even when the economic outlook for Greece was dim. For Kristin Schreiber, it was the encouragement of her colleagues, family, friends and network, but ultimately her inner voice, that allowed her to make a crucial career decision and move forward. Summing up the unique situations and challenges of each panelist, Elena Bonfiglioli drew upon their testimonies to provide an overarching story of resilience as the composition of self-awareness, courage, humility (the ego makes one week, not resilient), and above all the belief in your dreams and yourself.
Line Gustafsson was recently promoted to product manager at KMD, Denmarks largest software solution center, after only 8 months with the company - she joined KMD in January 2012. She is currently managing the development of the largest mobile business app in Denmark, SmartCare, with more than 90.000 users and is an active participant in the second edition of the Women Talent Pool program. We had the opportunity to interview Line about her quick advancement with KMD, career path and future goals.
WIL: What inspired you to pursue a career in the digital sector?
Line Gustafsson (LG): Digital sector is of the utmost interest for me as it offers plenty of opportunities! You can work across different domains and meet challenges of various industries whereas in other spheres you are almost always limited to the problems of one particular sector.
WIL: How have you managed to unite your career in the digital sector and your degree in physiotherapy? When you took on this job, were you specifically looking for something that married the two?
LG: No, I wasn’t – actually, a lot of my career is due to coincidence. After school I was tired of studying and chose physiotherapy which I perceived as an alternative to the long studies and something that would have suited my needs better. After getting my diploma I actually had different jobs in the health sector for 5-6 years before switching to the digital and such a background is an advantage in what I am currently doing. Contrary to some of my colleagues who specialize only in digital sphere, I know what happens in the real life too.
WIL: After only 8 months of working with KMD, you were promoted from a consultant to a mobility manager. How did this transition happen?
LG: This transition was a result of initiative and motivation. I had an idea for a new business area and talked about it to my new director who asked me to do a presentation on it, sort of a business case. He liked the idea and gave me an opportunity to work on the initiative. So I had to fight in order for this transition to be possible but I also received support from my director who encouraged me to carry on with my vision.
WIL: How did you find the quick transition from the position of consultant to mobility manager and your new role and do you have any advice for people making a similar transition?
LG: My tranisition was due to a project I believed in and a project I was a part of creating. In these cases It didn’t feel like something which needed a lot of adjustment from my part. I actually felt it like me being given the opportunity to prove my instincts were right. My advice to others in similar situations would be to choose something, you believe in and feel confident about. If you do, you sometimes won’t even feel the change, just embrace the possibilities.
WIL: In your work, you deal with two quite different spheres: production of a product and the strategy of its promotion. What is the secret of your success in both of them?
LG: The challenge is to not separate the two, but to align both areas. If you focus only on production, you will inevitably abandon the strategy and have difficulties selling the product. On the other hand, if you concentrate exclusively on promotion, you will lack knowledge about the product itself.
In the company I wear two hats: I talk strategies to directors and talk to users of the production. I also have great colleagues who support me in this work.
WIL: How do you view your role in a large company such as KMD?
LG: I am probably not a typical KMD employee, I sometimes feel that I am swimming against the stream. Big companies often have a conservative, kind of “we have always done things this way” approach whereas I try to have an innovative attitude.
Sometimes it seems to me that it could have been easier to work in a smaller company, but at the same time they often do not have sufficient resources to support projects that I am passionate about. So I am quite happy to work at KMD and I find it encouraging to be a part of the largest Danish IT-company: it tries to be innovative and the desire to stick to one strategy is only natural and quite understandable when you have so many people to manage.
LG: I find Elena Bonfiglioli a very inspiring person, as well as the whole Women Talent Pool Program is very encouraging. I am happy to participate in it as, unfortunately, in Denmark the separation of leadership is not such big of an issue.
There is also a quote by a Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard which really appeals to me: “To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself”. This saying strongly motivates me.
LG: I don’t have any precise career plan. My motivation is to work with things I’m passionate about, as I am a sort of ‘black and white’ worker: I am either engaged in a project or not. I hope that in 5 years my experience will give me the possibility to face even greater challenges, explore new fields and work in new sectors or even new countries.
On the 2nd of July WIL Europe conducted a webinar for our Emerging Leaders with WIL members, Odile Arbeit de Chalendar, a policy officer at the European Commissions Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport, Unit C3 Intelligent Transport Systems. Via Micrsoft Lync videoconferencing Ms. Arbeit de Chalendar presented practical and physical exercises rooted in chi kung, of which Ms. Arbeit de Chalendar is a practicitioner. She showed the participants excercises in three areas; the reducing stress, the of increasing concentration and body language and first impressions.
In order to reduce stress, it is important to remember that the human being is a tenant between the Earth and the sky. There are several tips to help maintain this link and to reduce stress. First, it is imporatnt to be conscious, and to try not to use closed positions such as crossing your arms and legs. To better connect yourself and reduce stress one should try planting both feet on the ground, putting your hands straight on the table and leaning back on your chair while imagining stress going down through your body and into the Earth. These actions and body positions naturally help your bodies ability to release stress and is subtle enough to do in any environment.
To strengthen concentration, Ms. Arbeit de Chalendar explained that one should, first of all, drink more water in order to better conduct electricity to the brain. There are also several exercises that help you to connect the left and the right brain hemispheres, which ultimately increases your cognitive and concentration abilites. Some of these excercises include focusing on the centre of an “X” or tracing the curve of the infinity symbol with your eyes. Both excercises can be conducted either using a piece of paper or by visualising the symbols with your eyes closed.
In terms of body language and presentation, several key areas where discussed such as: the eyes- and the importance of making eye contact and visually engaging, the hands- laying your hands on the table as an open gesture and the arms- whether they are crossed as this sends a signal that you are not open to your interlocutor’s suggestions. Moreover, emerging leaders were taught how to breath more quietly and sit or stand calmly (do not fidget as this displays uncertainty) so that their posture is both convincing and reassuring. When entering a room, Ms. Arbeit de Chalendar reminded us that your 'first' impression begins before you say a word, therefore the way in which you enter a room can speak volumes and so your personal confidence and body languague are of the utmost importance. Aside from body language, one should always mentally prepare themselves, recognising negative barriers and clearing them from your mind in order to best succeed.
The session was both relaxing and highly instructive. Emerging leaders were able to take away several simple excercises that will enable them to better cope with stressful moments, boost concentration and ultimately become cognisant of the imporatance of body language and non-verbal presentation in all scenarios, including business settings.
WIL kicked off the second edition of the successful Women Talent Pool (WTP) program on March 4th, 2014 at the Microsoft France offices in Paris. Emerging Leaders and WIL role models enjoyed a day of skill building and networking headed by WTP Lead Elena Bonfiglioli, Senior Health Director EMEA, Microsoft.
WIL was honoured to welcome Delphine Batho, Deputy of the French National Assembly and former French Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development, and Energy; and Céline Brémaud, Vice President Small, Mid-Market Solutions & Partners, Microsoft EMEA, for a high-level lunch session, where they both provided enthralling testimonials of their careers. The two outstanding guests candidly shared their experiences, displaying the different types and paths to leadership, sparking a lively discussion with the audience which was moderated by Thaima Samman, WIL President and Partner at Samman Law & Corporate Affairs.
Adding to the excellent day, two high-level coaching sessions were conducted which engaged our emerging leaders in interactive learning and self-discovery. Esteemed coaches Corinne Got-Camard, CEO of Hill & Knowlton and Thierry Derrien, Senior Account Director & Head of Corporate Practice, Hill & Knowlton, armed the talents with tools for speaking in captivating manner and communicating effectively, while Avinash Chandarana, Group Learning and Development Director at MCI Group delivered a compelling session on the varying cultural approaches to business, management and communication.
Offering the talents an opportunity for development and helping to build a strong and supportive network, emerging leaders met with role models Claudine Schmuck, Director Global Contact; Marina Niforos, former Director General of the American Chamber of Commerce in France; Maria Isabel Pernas Martinez, Senior Vice-President and Group Deputy General Counsel at ATOS Group; Corinne Got-Camard, CEO Hill&Knowlton; Thaima Samman, Céline Brémaud and Elena Bonfiglioli, during a speed-dating session where they shared their considerable wisdom and expertise.
WTP is the WIL’s key programme for supporting woman to become well-rounded, impactful leaders. The successful launch of the 2nd Edition reinforces WIL’s commitment to continue the WTP journey with so many excellent emerging leaders from across Europe. This of course is all possible thanks to the dedication of our wonderful WIL Members, our partners Microsoft and Orange, WTP sponsors Qualcomm and Capgemini, and knowledge partners Hill & Knowlton and INSEAD.
On the 5th of December, at the Palace of Westminster, WIL conducted the closing session of the highly successful Women Talent Pool program (WTP). The event was hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Entrepreneurship in one of the impressive House of Lords committee rooms, which mirrored the ambitious aims of the WTP program. The session gathered more than 60 participants from emerging leaders, WIL members, talents of the second WTP program and members of the Pink Shoe Club and GlobalWIN networks- WIL’s partner organisations. The WTP session’s aim was to discuss women’s access to leadership positions, share experiences from the WTP program and to share lessons learned and favourite experiences from the 18 month mentoring platform.
The honourable Baroness Howells, hosting peer of the event, officially opened the session and genuinely expressed her excitement to see an initiative such as WTP taking place. The session, moderated by WIL board member and WTP Lead Elena Bonfiglioli, Microsoft Senior Health Director EMEA, took off with Ms. Bonfiglioli giving the floor to Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, CEO 20first, for an exciting presentation on how and why women mean business. Based on the two books she authored “How Women Mean Business” and “Why Women Mean Business” Ms. Wittenberg-Cox delivered the key message of how to empower women in business and leadership, stating that we need to stop fixing women and start focusing on the real issue: the dominant male majority. While external women’s organisations help to push forward action aimed at gender issues and equalising policies, more needs to be done inside organisations and businesses to spark change. This includes a change of strategy towards the inclusion of men in the cause of gender equality, especially within companies and organisations.
After moderating a lively and friendly debate, where many emerging leaders and WIL members shared their opinions, Ms. Bonfiglioli turned the stage to the Hon. Julie Brill, US Federal Trade Commissioner and Dr. Antoniya Parvanova, Member of the European Parliament for insightful role model speeches and question periods.
Ms. Brill presented her experience and path to a successful career in leadership. Her recommendations tied in with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s three part advice on how to be successful in business and family (Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, 2013). Ms. Brill also mentioned being good to oneself as a key factor to success, as human need is the base for every impulse and innovation. Moreover, she explained that one path to success is to become an expert in a field and that often pursuing ones professional passion locally, as opposed to globally, can offer equivalent success and fulfilment. Her final words urged everyone to always listen carefully, recognise mentoring moments and to embrace experiences, expertise and communication, which are the drivers to a great career.
The second role model speech, delivered by Antonyia Parvanova, provided a glimpse into her recipe of success. Her counsel was to never hesitate and go for the power, as it will never just be handed to you. Being ambitious and straightforward will make others follow your lead. She continued, giving interesting facts and figures about women in leadership based on current reports, exposing that women may be on the road of empowerment, but that top level ranks are still largely dominated by men. In view of this, her advice to empower yourself became even more relevant. Many questions and discussion were brought up in response to both role model testimonies, which led into the much anticipated emerging leader sharing session.
Moderated by Ms. Bonfiglioili, each emerging leader from the first WTP edition was given the opportunity to share their experience, take-a-ways and lessons learnt from the program, as well as their suggestions and words of wisdom for the new talents present. Generally, the tone was highly enthusiastic and the talents shared a panoply of cherished WTP experiences. Several mentioned that the program gave them more self-confidence and inspired them to fearlessly reach for their dreams. Learning to be able to draw from herself and create things according to her own definition was something that marked Cristina Hoffmann, Design Lead at Orange’s Design & User Experience division (D&U) during the WTP program. Racha Abu El Ata, Cloud and Hosting Partners Team Lead at Microsoft and Blandine Avot, Competitive Intelligence Manager at Orange, testified to the benefit of a better work-life balance thanks to the program, which taught them to retain non-negotiables in their self-management.
Networking and meeting women with similarly high ambitions also proved to be an important aspect of the WTP to many participants. Sharing experiences was perceived as positive aspect of the program by Myriam El Ouni, Alliance Manager at Microsoft, and Marie-Hélène Briens, Sales Manager at Orange Business Services, as both mentioned how leadership can sometimes be a lonely path. To be able to network with mentors that became strong supporters, was something all talents felt was the crux of the program, especially Pénélope Roux, Operational Director at Microsoft Innovation Centre Brussels, who greatly appreciated this aspect of the program. Overall, the mentoring aspects of the program and the elaboration of soft skills was perceived as the programs essential value and the interaction and sharing with experts and experience leaders truly made the program unique.
WIL was ecstatic to close the session with the debut of a special video pioneered by Isabelle Roux-Chenu, General Counsel at Capgemini Group entitled “Women at Capgemini”. Thinking about the persistent gender inequality in her sector, Ms. Roux-Chenu decided to invest in a video exposé which collects high-level statements from some of the most male dominated industries, testifying on the topic of gender diversity and the need for equal female representation at all business levels. The video project aims at changing the corporate mentality and convincing both male and female leaders to engage in the promotion of gender equality at all levels of Capgemini.
Following the inspiring sequence of the WTP closing session, all participants were transferred to the London Skype Offices, for a wonderful evening reception held with our partners GlobalWIN and the Pink Shoe Club. Brilliant opening remarks were given on behalf of Skype and Microsoft by David Burrows, Managing Director, EMEA Government, Worldwide Public Sector, Microsoft and a heartfelt keynote speech by Joanna Shields, Chief Executive Officer, Tech City & UK Digital Ambassador brought the day to a close before the evening moved on to lively networking.
© European Network for Women in Leadership 2018