Before becoming COO, what was the most significant business challenge you faced?
I have been my most significant challenge. I was always a smart, promising over-achiever, but I went through periods of time when I thought staying within my comfort zone would be better for me; that “settling” would be less stressful; that doing what everyone else is doing and being liked by most people would make my life easier and more meaningful. How naïve, right?
“Why are you trying to fit in, when you were born to stand out?”
I decided to be honest with myself. I wanted a career, I wanted to be the best, I wanted all that high paced decision making and multitasking. I wanted long hours and all the challenges. I wanted the constant learning and growing. I wanted all of it. Once I had that inner dialogue, things became easier. I stopped apologising for wanting a career or being good at my job. I stopped apologising for wanting to keep advancing and keep learning. I stopped apologising for earning more and I stopped apologising for putting my career very high on my priority list and for creating a life I wanted for myself. I stopped apologising. It was liberating and it was the best thing I ever did for myself.
If you had to give advice to future women leaders in the Energy sector, what would it be?
Women often lack confidence and that has nothing to do with the industry or sector, but by women’s inability to realistically recognise their strengths and weaknesses. A lot of women I work with worry too much about how they will be perceived; how they will come across; how people will perceive them and so on. What they should really worry about is how much knowledge, experience and most importantly – ideas – are they bringing to the table, how much value they can add. No one will take us seriously until we take ourselves seriously and not only perform outstanding work, but have the ability to own it. Be proud of ourselves, use our words and express ourselves in a very clear, confident, competent voice.
Women often shrink to console the mediocre others around them; they make too many compromises for friendships or relationships, they settle for second best because they think that will give them some illusion of balance. They should really follow their dreams and goals. Putting your career first is sometimes the most empowering and satisfying thing a woman can do for herself. Not settling for second best can be hard or it can be liberating, it depends how we choose to look at it.
The best lesson I was given in my thirties was, “Work for free or for a full price, but never for cheap. Make sure you are the very best at what you do. Being mediocre and settling for the second best version of yourself is a death sentence.”
It is not just about the money. It is about recognition, respect, power, your position in the business world and the impact all that has on your professional growth and development. It is about accountability.
Us women, we have greatness within us; we should not let it go to waste. We should not be afraid to fly. We should not be afraid to be great.
What business policies / practical changes would you implement in your country to improve inclusion (not only gender, but religious, racial, sexual, etc)
This is an issue that can’t be solved just by a business policy or practical changes. The real change will have to come from the top – the Government; and from within – the society. Change is powered by knowledge, knowledge is powered by information but more importantly by critical thinking. The Government has the power to influence the level of critical thinking in a society. The society, in return, will grow to the point when inclusion becomes natural and something that happens daily, in all walks of life, in all industries, and in all circumstances.