Authentic leadership and growing outside your comfort zone

Authentic leadership and growing outside your comfort zone

To celebrate the launch of Women in ICT Asia in Singapore, Channel Asia profiles the leading female technology leaders across the region

Imelda Setijadi (HPE)

Imelda Setijadi (HPE)

Credit: HPE

In life you must be willing to be daring, while also be willing to ask for support.

Looking back over the 25 years of my career, I can say that many of my successes have come from moments when I’ve dared to try something new and embraced opportunities to launch myself into unfamiliar territory.

Being successful in these moments required me to approach the unknown with a confident willingness to learn something new, as well as seek out the support and mentorship of colleagues and senior leadership who shared in my ambition to advance my career.

In hindsight, I know I would have benefitted from being even more aggressive in seeking out new, potentially “risky” opportunities.

That is why my mentees always hear me repeating the mantra, “say yes now, figure it out later”. It’s honestly the best way to build an enriching career.

I started my career in the tech sector, and have held a variety of roles in both consumer and enterprise IT, category management, leading sales and channel partner management. Along the way, I’ve been blessed to have met mentors who’ve advised me and pushed me to take on new projects and job roles.

You cannot grow if you don’t push yourself to step outside of your comfort zone. Sometimes, it has been my mentors who’ve given me the confidence boost I needed to just go for it.

That’s why today I am very deliberate about building a strong professional network of allies, mentors and mentees.

Embracing challenges, working hard and being ever flexible and willing to learn is vital to career progression, but so too is the support network you build. You have to cultivate both - I can’t emphasise this enough. 

Although women leaders are the minority in the tech industry, there have been female leaders I’ve looked up to over the years, and that inspires me now to be a strong example of a female leader for others.

At work, I’m very active in our Young Employee Network (YEN), HPE’s Employee Resource Group that connects employees early in their careers with leadership to offer two-way dialogue, idea sharing and networking opportunities that support career development.

At YEN, I’ve given talks about women empowerment, and seek to share my experiences openly and candidly. While advancing through the management track, I’ve also raised two children.

I tell my mentees that it isn’t always easy, and it takes some strategy and juggling. I don’t sugar coat the reality that it takes hard work. But, having a supportive employer can make a real difference.

Companies who want to attract and retain the right talent need to acknowledge their employees’ personal obligations and work flexibly with these to create a supportive work culture that enables people to manage their home lives so they can be productive and effective on the job.

A quote that really resonates with me on this topic from former Coca-Cola CEO, Brian Dyson is, “you will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls - family, health, friends and spirit - are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered."

I’ve been lucky in this area, because I work for a company that understands this.

At work, I’ve leveraged formal and informal support networks to advance my own career. I’m currently an active participant in an accelerated female leadership program at HPE, which focuses on cultivating female leadership and succession planning across the company.

I find that simply knowing I have a supportive team also invested in my success is incredibly empowering. This is why I try to give this kind of support back into my organisation. I know that it can be individual stories that ultimately inspire others to take a chance on themselves.

All leaders need to inspire their team members and support their individual and collective growth, and as a female leader, I feel an added responsibility to the women in my organisation.

I know that what I share and how I show up for them could change the trajectory of their careers. I always tell my mentees and my own daughter, who’ll be joining the workforce soon, that mentors and role models are a critical part of our career journeys.

I want them to know that, while we all want job security, advancement and financial recognition, by taking some calculated risks and connecting meaningfully with your colleagues, you can also build an incredibly fulfilling career.

I have come to believe that being open and authentic in my leadership style helps me to better connect with and inspire my teams. I try to be transparent about the challenges I might be facing, while also injecting some humour and light-heartedness into our meetings.

I want my teams to know that we’re all different and on different paths, but that when we are open, supportive and collaborate, we all stand to benefit.

Imelda Setijadi is country technology services manager of Pointnext at Hewlett Packard Enterprise Indonesia

Tags Hewlett Packard Enterprise

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