For me, it started with understanding myself. Spending time and asking, what is it about my abilities that enable me to give my best contribution? What I have tried to do throughout my career is to align my uniqueness and strengths with business needs and opportunities. It is about the alignment between what I want to create for myself and organizational goals. I needed to spend time with myself, not an easy feat in today’s fast-paced world, but oh, so necessary. Of course, this approach does not absolutely guarantee success, but it opens me up to move in the direction I have forged. For me, it also ensures that I am in the right environment.
Another strategy that has served me well is that early on, I started drafting what I thought my career vision would be – my goals – and answering questions like, Do I like doing the work I do? Do I want to be able to manage people and lead people in the future? So I started developing a path, adjusting it, refining it and owning it. This has been a compass for me. I had a draft and I had this path, and I paid attention to it. I never waited for someone else to tell me what my path should be. So where I saw an opportunity, I raised my hand. That helped me grow.
For me, it has always been about setting goals. It was about deciding what I wanted, what I envisioned and why I wanted it as a professional – and to understand the value that I will get from every work experience. Of course, what happens once the goal is set is not necessarily linear, but it brings you closer.
Another strategy that has helped me is to have a mentor, someone you trust, who helps you reach your goal and tells you when you are moving away from it. I am a Systems Engineer. Early in my career, my plan was to be an IT Director in a multinational company. I was fortunate to find a mentor for my entire professional career. One of the things he told me was not to restrict my path, but to widen my horizon, and never lose sight of the goal.
He said if you want to be the director of a transnational company, do not put a last name to that title. And that’s exactly what I did in my career. I have gone through different functions, always giving my best, and always learning, which is itself a valuable strategy.
For me, I think one of the most important strategies, whether you’re female or male, is to focus on building strong cross-functional relationships. As a leader, I think effectiveness is dictated by our influence and the followership we can create. I feel very strongly that this approach has to expand outside of your own personal organizational structure. I think creating those mutually beneficial partnerships and relationships with your peers helps you to grow your influence and have others recognize your value.
Once you let people see that you’re approachable and you establish a rapport, the relationship takes on a life of its own. I’m not talking about being friends with everybody. I’m talking about building bonds with those who you have to depend on, and with those who depend on you. When you build these relationships, it lightens the weight significantly.