Ana Crespo Parrondo is a Communications and Press Specialist in European and International Affairs. She is currently employed as the Assistant to the Director for Media & Communication at the Council of the European Union (EU) in Brussels.
At this point of my career, I very much value being part of a network where I can learn from others – in this case young talented women - who perhaps encountered the same type of difficulties in their own professional lives and who also want to break the glass ceiling, get a new job or evolve in their careers. I have the feeling that we are empowering, supporting and helping each other through the WTP.
I am a member of several networks that are based in Brussels where I live and elsewhere as well, but I was very much looking forward to applying to this program because I knew that I will have the opportunity to meet incredible European talents.
The WTP is standing out for two main reasons. First, it is an international and crosscutting network dedicated to women talents working in different sectors, whereas the other networks I am part of, are open to male and female members, but are mainly focus on a very specific area of interest. So, the women talent pool offers a broader perspective thanks to the talents who have diverse mindsets, academic backgrounds, and work in so many different fields, and this is for me very enriching.
I for instance work in communications in a European institution but I met emerging leaders who work in telecoms in London or Paris or in other EU institutions in Brussels. This is the added value of this program.
Second, I am attending numerous conferences, receptions and network events throughout the year, and I realized that the content is in many cases repetitive and you ask yourself what was the real added value of this evening. Therefore, what I value in this program is that you get to know your peers and the WIL members and even build a relationship with them. Each gathering is different. This way, you get to have and be part of a community that will last longer than just the duration of the program. You don’t get this by simply attending other individual events.
The Public speaking workshop at Hill & Knowlton in London was one of my favorite sessions. The workshop was very focus, well organized and synthetized in a way that all of us could get food for thought out of it.
I also very much enjoyed the speed dating sessions with the WIL mentors. I had the opportunity to discuss about future career plans and many other topics with my peers and various senior members. You don’t have this opportunity very often, therefore I really appreciated it.
It would be great to have a session to teach us how to be more confident and resilient; a workshop on mindfulness for instance. I also think that another session should be dedicated to improving soft skills such as negotiation or leadership.
I think that personal and professional are mixed here because this network doesn’t really make a distinction. When you meet your peers, you also get to know them personally: where they work and what they do. It is not a question of what they can give you but more about exchanging human values on a different dimension. Thus, I gained a lot of learnings to apply to my professional career and personal live. I also hope to keep in touch with as many as I can through WIL social media outlets and more specifically the LinkedIn group, to start building a real community and relationships that can last for longer.
I currently work at the office of the Director for Media and Communications at the Council of the EU. I’ve been working for that institution for the last 5 years, holding several positions within communications.
This work experience has been tremendously valuable for me. It is a privilege not only to work in the fields of my studies and the ones I’m passionate about, Communications and European politics, but also to do it inside the General Secretariat of the Council serving two of the most political EU institutions: the Council of the EU and the European Council. My work during these last five years has been extremely diverse, from dealing with media relations, analyzing the daily news, speaking to visitors’ groups to publishing press material on the official website or on social media accounts. I enjoy very much what I do.
I have been fortunate to be part of the press taskforce teams covering the last two multilateral summits (Africa 2014 & CELAC 2015). I enjoy very much greeting external visitors (media, citizens…) to our premises and explaining to them what we do and how we work. Those two times were exceptional and a real boost of energy. I remembered running across the corridors to ensure official press from different delegations were reaching the photo opportunities with their leaders. Those moments are difficult to forget you see how their national TVs used their footage on that day.
My main role is kind of “a chameleon”. I need to adjust and adapt myself quickly to the different positions, facilitate the job of my superior and be a team builder among my colleagues. My role is to solve the problems, give information, move things and communicate in the most effective way across all the teams. Be open to new challenges and don’t be shy, speak up your mind.
My motto is to preserve the image and reputation of my institution and my communications service, so I take that as my daily responsibility.
I always say that there is a lot to learn and with perseverance lots of things can be achieved. My experience working with many highly professional colleagues, and especially next to managers, has been of extreme value for my future career. I would like to progress in the field of communications managing projects and specific policy portfolios and those leadership and negotiation competences will certainly help to that end
Be open to change, don’t be afraid of failures. Persevere in what you do. The most valuable thing you can tell yourself is that you have done a good job and that you are the only one who can value and credit that. Never stop fighting to get what you want. And if you fail, always tell yourself that there will be an opportunity standing behind if you keep on working.
Magali Theveniault Prevet is Principal Travel & Hospitality at Capgemini Consulting. She participated in the Women Talent Pool 2nd Edition as one the Emerging Leaders.
Could you please share with the Talents of the third Edition what were the main takeaways from this experience?
This experience really benefits me on both a personal and professional side. It helps me feel empowered as a woman in my job and gain self-confidence in my professional skills. In my current role, I feel more empowered to propose and take advantages of many opportunities. For instance, I have been launching Women@CC, the French Capgemini Consulting Women program. Our main objective is to help Capgemini Consulting female consultants to develop earlier their professional network and their involvement in consulting business development.
What did you like the most about the WTP? What sessions would you like to see more? What could be done differently?
I really appreciated both parts of the program.
On the one side, skill development training sessions and the mentoring program we had during the 18-month plan were concrete and helpful to improve my own soft skills. We had lively sessions with inspiring speakers (among those Marta Williams, Founding Partner & CEO at Williams and Associates, Avinash Chandarana, Group Learning and Development Director for MCI Group, Corinne Got-Camard, CEO of Hill & Knowlton and Thierry Derrien, Senior Account Director & Head of Corporate Practice, Hill & Knowlton ndrl), providing us with valuable advices to boost our skills. I also liked the mentoring program. Talking with the role models helped me step back and reflect on my career’s goals more clearly.
On the other side, participating in the regular WIL conferences was an amazing opportunity to have a step back about economic, social and business Key European issues. Great inspiring speakers gave us different points of view to debate and I really enjoyed these moments.
For the next editions of the Women Talent Pool though, I think it would be valuable to get better follow-up our progress in the WTP within our own company. For example, I suggest that once or twice a year, one of the WIL role model arrange a meeting with our manager to discuss about our advancement. It would contribute to make the program more integrated and valuable in the Talent management process of our companies.
You are currently Travel and Hospitality Principal for Capgemini Consulting. How would you describe your current role and what do you appreciate the most in current position?
My job consists in helping my clients succeed in their transformation projects, that is to say I’m responsible to sell and deliver them consulting services to transform their organization, process and IT. It is not only a sales job, but there is an important part about counselling and following up. I’m especially in charge of SNCF Mobilité account (the French Railway operator), and one of the main challenge I’m facing is to get my clients prepared for the upcoming opening competitor market in 2020. It means make them become more competitive, deliver a higher value service on board to their clients. I would say that is what I prefer in my job: making my personal convictions concrete by helping my clients lead their projects successfully. I’m involved in the business transformation of all the French mobility sector.
On the professional level, what are your plans for the next years? Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
I’m about to change job in few weeks, to join Prosodie, which is another subsidiary of Capgemini in France. I will be in charge of developing Digital platforms business for this SME (quite a digital start-up for Capgemini Group!), which is a major business development priority for Capgemini in the next years.
Besides, thanks to the Women Talent Pool, I’ve come to better know myself and achieve self-awareness in regards to my career’s goals and expectations, and for the next 5 to 10 years, I know I want to reach a managing position, and manage a P&L on my own.
Last February, Capgemini Consulting have launched a study in collaboration with la French Tech and La Journée de la Femme Digitale about Career paths for women in our digital world. Could you tell us more about the study? Are there lessons to be learnt and key figures you would like to bring to our attention?
As you know, women are underrepresented in the digital sectors overall. So from 18 to 29 of February we carried out a study to know “Digital women’s” opinion about their career prospects thanks to digital (not only IT sector but also every digital business transformation). 757 women participated in this survey, mainly highly educated (mainly graduated from business schools rather than technical education) and 36 years old on average. What struck me the most is that more and more women consider the digital as a level up for their career. Digital is a matter of business and creativity and not only a technical issue. There is little need to possess technical skills or to be an IT girl to succeed in this field, you just have to understand well your business model and how to develop it quickly to accelerate time-to-market.
I noticed that half of the respondents work or wish to work in a start-up: Do you think this kind of structure offers further opportunities for women to grow in the digital sector?
Start-ups can be considered as glass-ceiling breakers for some of the respondents. When women are not allowed to meet their career’s aspirations within their company, they rather grow outside the company and start a business on their own than being stuck in an unfulfilling position. It also has to do with the working environment: young women (like most of Gen Y people) wish for more autonomy in their jobs, they prefer working in small teams with more collaborative management conditions (no more silos management). These working conditions could be difficult to apply in highly structured companies. That also means that to stay time-to-market with Digital, and be attractive for young talented women, big companies need to restructure their management process and organizations!
What piece of advice would you give to the Talents to help them take the most of the program?
My advice would be: make sure to attend all sessions! Do not find yourself excuses not to come, because all of them are important. You have to get involved in the program to take the most of it, that is to say to attend the session but also involve yourself in each session, be as active and responsive as possible.
On the afternoon of June 27th, WIL members and Emerging Leaders gathered in Brussels for the second in-person meeting of the Women Talent Pool 3rd edition, which was held at Microsoft Executive Briefing Center in Brussels.
Prior to beginning the session, the audience received a copy of Dr. Carol Dweck bestseller, “Mindset: changing the way you think to fulfill your potential”. The book was introduced by Elena Bonfiglioli, WIL Board Member and Senior Director Health Industry EMEA at Microsoft, who drawn attention on the power of the mindset to succeed: the attitude you adopt profoundly affects the way you lead your life. Elena encouraged the talents to train their minds in order to adopt a growth approach instead of a fixed one to fulfill their potential in their professional and personal life.
After these words of wisdom, Elena Bonfiglioli opened the floor to the Talents, who were invited to give their feedback on the first months of the WTP program. A vast majority is appreciating that the program is giving them the opportunity to share experiences, hopes and doubts with their peers and senior women managers from various backgrounds and sectors. Additionally, they particularly enjoyed the speed dating session with senior role models, which helped them realize that these outstanding women experimented the same issues and obstacles they are facing themselves in their career. Generally speaking, emerging Leaders feel more empowered, encouraged to think “out the box” and to dare more taking some risks.
Afterwards, the Talents were invited to a demo tour at the Microsoft Executive Briefing Center to discover the latest technologies produced by Microsoft. It was a cheerful moment of discovery and amusement as they had a unique opportunity to test leading edge technologies.
The second part of the session was dedicated to Sigrid Marz eye opening presentation: “Ready for the future: what are the competencies that you will want to keep learning to stay relevant in times of fast organizational and societal changes.” As Senior Client Partner at Korn Ferry, Sigrid Marz shared with the talents the key competencies needed to help them develop their leadership style. Because of the various barriers women are facing, externally and internally, they tend to get stuck at lower management positions.
Following Sigrid’s vivid presentation, Roberta Cocco, National Plans Development Director at Microsoft Western Europe took the stage to talk about #Makewhatsnext, an inspiring project initiated
by Microsoft to close gender gap in the fields of STEM. The European #MakeWhatsNext campaign runs 55 events and organize trainings in 28 countries, to inspire and provide the tools for girls to dispel the stereotypes that surround STEM and take opportunities in the ICT industry. To do so, #MakeWhatsNext has built partnerships with public and private actors, including the United Nation Women, which was represented during the session by Caroline Petit, Deputy Director at UNRIC, United Nations communications office for Europe. On May 26th and 27th Microsoft invited girls from across Europe to attend the flagship event in Venice, Italy, which brought together a set of international speakers, cutting edge researchers and technology start-up, to discuss how girls can innovate and achieve more in the STEM fields.
The WTP afternoon session closed with remarks from senior professionals Elena Bonfiglioli, Emanuela Palazzani and Roberta Cocco, who stressed out the importance of role models and mentors in professional careers. They advised the Talents to find themselves different role models from various backgrounds, in order to broaden their horizons as much as possible.
The Emerging Leaders were then invited to enjoy a Cocktail to close the WTP Brussels session on a pleasant note. It provided opportunities to discuss furthermore with the role models and network with their peers.
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.
© European Network for Women in Leadership 2018