Throughout this pandemic, business continuity across the board has been tested in ways that I don’t think we have ever fully imagined. Siemens has found and continues to find ways to respond effectively. We will get to the other side of this new crisis, although we will likely arrive at a landscape changed in ways we can’t yet predict.
I started at Siemens in 2008, right in the middle of the financial crisis, as part of a team of eight people in Siemens Financial Services Inc.’s (SFS) newly established Corporate Finance Group. We weathered that recession, incubated a new business line for SFS—Corporate Lending—and have seen years of sustained growth and, more importantly, success.
In this current crisis, SFS faced two challenges: ensuring the safety of our employees and ensuring that we remained operational. In the name of safety, we immediately put all the internal COVID-19 protocols in place: Remote work. Health monitoring. Frequent check ins. We’re still doing all that. In order to be operational, SFS leadership made sure that we fulfilled our commitments to our clients to get them their money, when and how we promised. To that end, we have passed this critical test. Our infrastructure has held up nicely and our IT colleagues have been working around the clock to ensure minimal disruption.
If there could be any benefit to this pandemic, it would be in the ways in which we have come closer together as a team.
The SFS leadership team, comprised of myself, Chief Risk Officer Doug Maher, and Chief Financial Officer Stephanie Marinello, also quickly realized that we had to create a regular rhythm of communication, both formally and informally. We have used various tools, including MS Teams, Circuit, and the Call-Em-All app, to help us transfer information. In some ways, however, our most valuable communications tool has been Yammer because we have learned so much about our SFS colleagues— the gardeners, the artists, the chefs. We’ve all been putting up pictures and comments that are funny, poignant, and inspirational. If there could be any benefit to this pandemic, it would be in the ways in which we have come closer together as a team.
I am so proud of how responsive SFS has been to the demands of our customers and the needs of the business in the past several months. We had teams working 24/7 over the Easter/Passover weekend to meet tight timelines for customer requests. We started teams working on six different strategic initiatives to ensure our success into 2021 and beyond—all virtual teams, across all business segments and functions in the U.S. and globally. And we had a quarter-end close, too!
That’s resiliency in action. To me, resiliency is a mix of three things: Passion for success. Commitment to excellence. And a “can-do, will-do” mindset. We’re seeing that elevated now across all of Siemens USA. It’s happening team by team, and person by person. Just as we’re growing the business despite the stresses, individuals can’t let up on their own career growth even as the business terrain is shifting under their feet.
When you’re performing at a high level—meeting new demands successfully while doing everything else you’ve always done—you don’t always have the time to take a step back and assess where you want to go next, and how. Just be aware that opportunities often come in times of change. In my nearly 30 professional years, I’ve faced all sorts of change, and I’ve learned a lot about owning one’s career.
First, I volunteered for every project that I could. This gave me exposure to senior managers and helped me to understand the critical initiatives that drove a business, whether those were acquisition integrations, system implementations, or development of new markets.
In addition, I took roles in functional areas to complement my work in sales and sales management, which helped give me a broader perspective on how a business works. You really come to appreciate all the “little things,” and “not-so-little things,” that are necessary to driving success.
Third, I asked for advice—and I took it! Mentors, either formal or informal, really do work. So do hallway conversations. Seek whatever advice you can get. Many leaders are generous with their time, more than you would imagine.
Finally, don’t try to time a career change perfectly, because business moves on with or without you. When I look back, one of my biggest mistakes was when I was offered an opportunity but said “Now is not the right time.” When the time was finally “right,” the opportunity was gone. That’s not to say there aren’t legitimate reasons why the timing truly doesn’t work for you and it’s o.k. to say no. In my case, I just talked myself out of it. I assure you, I only did that once.
Published: June 24, 2020