I came to Siemens as a salesperson 11 years ago, working in Building Technologies (BT) before it became Smart Infrastructure (SI). I really enjoyed working directly with customers and contractors, and still do. As I moved from sales to sales management to managing managers, I found that a lot of my sales skills translated directly into successful leadership. What I mean is having the ability to describe and successfully explain a value proposition and its positive business impact to motivate a staff member (or their team) is the same skill set I used as a salesperson. There are lots of parallels between talking with customers and guiding your team.
Recently, I have been working with our team to embrace the digitalization of how we deliver projects and service programs to our customers. SI work is usually on-site intensive, but my team and I have seen a profound change with customers about digital and remote delivery since the pandemic began. A year ago, we started looking at smart project delivery to figure out ways to execute portions of our scope of construction projects off the job site, instead doing the work in advance in our offices/lab. Usually, if we can take a task off a busy construction site then we can complete it sooner and more accurately. Early in the pandemic, when our customers found out we could continue working off site, they said, “Yes, that would be great!” Project delivery has entered an entirely new age for SI.
The ability to learn from failure is the first of what I see as four key parts to career ownership. The next important thing is nurturing your curiosity.
Indeed, what used to be the old BT world has evolved a lot, and I’ve evolved with it. When I started in 2009, there were not a lot of women in BT leadership, and hardly any in that last mile between the regional branch and our customers. It was an interesting time for me to forge a path, and I was inspired by women whose careers I admired, including Lisa Davis and Sheryl Sandberg.
A key thing that I have learned is that women who are most successful speak with their own voice. I tend to be collaborative and positive, but in my earlier days some people thought the SI team wouldn’t take me seriously if I was too collaborative or too positive. So when I started in a leadership role, I made a conscious effort to be more direct, but that wasn’t more effective because it wasn’t authentic. I didn’t resonate with my team.
Being authentic to oneself is something that Siemens USA CEO Barbara Humpton does very effectively. She communicates in her own voice which gives her message more credibility because people want leaders whom they can trust to be transparent with them, even when that message is tough. This authenticity is, I believe, part of what makes her a very effective leader. Authenticity is necessary for any leader.
Another thing that is necessary for leadership, management, and really every role is the ability to learn from failure. While we all experience failure, those people who are the most resilient are the ones who accept failure, embrace it, bounce back quickly, and learn the lesson it teaches. This ability to learn from failure is the first of what I see as four key parts to career ownership.
The next important thing is nurturing your curiosity. It’s great that you’re good at what you do, but do you understand what other people are doing around you and how their role interacts with yours? Part of owning your career is knowing how what you do impacts everyone else. Understanding the interplay of your role with others can give you a path for continued growth and improvement in your current role, and for the next.
Third, seek out career-development opportunities. Raise your hand, ask for, and take on additional projects to showcase and develop your skills. Make some noise for yourself to get noticed.
Lastly, build a network that goes beyond your current organization. One of the things that helped me own my career is proactively engaging customers or customer representatives, in networking groups and groups outside my specific industry. Talk with leaders from other industries because that’s a great way to understand how they’re looking at things, including your industry.
When you build upon all that to make a major career move, your essential question—beyond title, salary, or commute—must be: How am I going to grow as a professional? A lot of times, people make a career move to run away from something. However, a career move really has to be about what you’re running to—how this new opportunity will make you more developed and, dare I say it, happier.
Published on: August 27, 2020