As a female business leader, I am often asked by other younger team members - how did you achieve the role you have today?
Unfortunately, there is no quick formula. What you may value and want today, will be very different to what you care about in the future. Business career and aspirations, shift and change.
But I do have life experiences to share. In keeping it simple, it comes down to three Rs.
I come from a family of hard workers. We like putting the miles in, as there are usually good rewards at the end. But sometimes there are not. Sometimes you can be working your heart out, and you missed "it".
As one manager shared with me: "you are like a girl scout, Cath. Always executing…but missing the point". And she was right. By working so hard, I had missed a step in my career that I thought was "mine".
I had not understood the need to be innovative, to think differently, and I had not forged the relationships I needed.
Being the busiest bee, meant that I missed the honey.
Luckily, I took a deep breath. I thought about new opportunities for the business and approached my disappointment from a new angle. I gave up on the career goal I had originally targeted, and slowly recognised that there were other paths.
Another boss had consistently told me that "in chaos there is opportunity". And I kept that mantra as I carefully planned and taught myself a new skill set. Within one year of what had, at the time, felt like a crushing blow, I achieved the promotional goal and a major inter-company business award.
By staying focused, and pivoting I learnt a great lesson about being resilient.
From this perceived draw-back, I realised I had also missed an important connection - relationships.
It is easier to have working relationships early in your career especially when there are many other women with you on the same journey. But for different reasons, a number of my female co-workers opted to not go on with their careers.
So mid-way through my work journey I found myself alone. As one of my male colleagues pointed out prior to an executive meeting: “Cath, how does it feel to be the last woman standing in the room?”
I danced around the answer, but in my heart, I was genuinely lonely.
Today, I try to make a conscious effort to develop relationships across the whole organisation. It is easy to seek out other women quickly, as 20 per cent of us are "still standing".
So I always enjoy the camaraderie that comes with working with other women.
However, I know I have to consciously make an effort with my male counterparts - take an interest, care, and really forge trusting business relationships.
Most recently, I have had the great pleasure of doing so with the head of strategy and CFO at a previous company. These are outstanding male business leaders that I know I could quickly reach out to for solid business/sounding advice.
Through building these relationships you not only benefit, but most importantly the business benefits too – and this is where the diversity that comes with having women executives has a very great impact.
Staying abreast of change, and be willing to learn something new, every day is important. I read lots of different books and am conscious of being up to date with technology and market movements.
But I cheat.
I love summaries. And have found an app - BlinkList which gives me a new book every day to read in 15 minutes.
You can do this at the gym, on the plane, and really come up to date fast on the latest developments or recent topics of interest. AI, blockchain even Alexander the Great’s military tactics are all just 15 minutes away.
I also make an effort to teach myself. Previously, my team sold Facebook business solutions. However, we did not have a local business speaker for the seminars and webinars of our solution.
So, I taught myself. I played with the tools, sat with lots of other 20+ year-old social specialists and soaked it up.
Did I know it all? Not one bit, but I could present it, share stories about how businesses use it, open up a conversation and then hand it over to a specialist who could close the deal.
So, my advice is just be willing to read/learn something new. Change is constant.
Finally - another R word: Radiate Optimism.
There are too many naysayers in business and in life. So make things happen with a smile and a laugh. Despite the wrinkles, it makes you feel so good. Radiating optimism is my secret weapon.
P.S. - here’s some worthwhile reads:
- Good to Great by James C. Collins: an oldie but great lessons that are still applicable today
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni: perfect for understanding the power of a team
- Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell: I loved this, good lessons in seeking opportunities and mastering a skill
- Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson: a 12 minute read. Great for times when you are frustrated with the pace of change
- Lean In by Nell Scovell and Sheryl Sandberg: I got a little bored half way through, so watched the Ted Talk instead
- The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Suggested application: BlinkList, which includes everything from Dalai Lama, Stephen Covey, Ted Talks, biographies etc.
Cath Hodgson-Croker is vice president of Business Development and Marketing across Asia Pacific and Japan at Oracle