Building your career as a junior employee is important, but how can you raise your visibility in the company when you are bogged down in the BAU? Being able to show stand out capabilities and attributes in your day-to-day role lays the foundations for career success and can raise your visibility in the company, particularly with managers and leaders. We asked three everywomanAmbassadors — all senior leaders — to tell us about a time a junior colleague impressed them — and what it told them about their potential…
‘HER RECEPTIVITY TO FEEDBACK AND ABILITY TO RECOGNISE OPPORTUNITY STOOD OUT’ SAYS ANNE MCKENNING, HR DIRECTOR, SECURE TRUST BANK GROUP
I first met Lauren in 2016 when she was working in our call centre. She had qualified for our outstanding achiever’s trip to Copenhagen that year and I talked to her as part of that and in conversation she told me she had a degree in interior design. Given that, I was curious what had made her want to stay in her call centre role and thought she could give me a bit of insight and some reverse mentoring. So, I asked her, and she replied ‘I don’t want to stay, I’m really unhappy. My career is going nowhere.’ She said she would want to leave because she couldn’t see any opportunities in her current role. I noted that if she left to go somewhere else, she would have to prove herself from scratch, whereas she was already an outstanding achiever in her current role — and that she did have opportunities by staying where she was. What impressed me then and continues to impress me is her willingness to take feedback on board, and to act on it. She really takes ownership of her career. Often, at that level and life stage, it’s easy to just think the grass is greener, and in conversation you can hear a lot of ‘yeah, but…’ But she was willing to recognise there were options and to take a slightly different path. I don’t think she stayed just because I told her to; but she was willing to have her assumptions challenged. I thought, if you’re willing to give this another try, you’re obviously someone that’s of real value to this organisation.
After that conversation, I agreed to mentor her, which I have done now for six years. During that time, she also went on maternity leave, but even through that period she continually looked at how she could progress her career. She’s a tenacious individual and one who is willing to not always take the easy path. She’s also been resilient around setbacks too; she applied for one role she really wanted and didn’t get it and although she was disappointed, she took ownership and asked, ‘What do I need to do differently?’ Since then she’s gone on to become a project manager and gain a competitive bursary for one of three places on a junior programme on personal development and impact. The General Counsel, the CEO of our retail finance business and I interviewed her for that opportunity and afterwards, both senior leaders said to me, ‘She’s so much better than she realises she is’.
‘HER PROACTIVITY, CREATIVITY AND CARING IN CHALLENGING CIRCUMSTANCES SHOWED IMPRESSIVE EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE,’ SAYS YUKIKO MASUDA, VICE PRESIDENT, LEGAL EUROPE, FEDEX EXPRESS
Wei Wei was one of my team members in my previous role as APAC legal MD for labour and compliance. A talented lawyer, she first really stood out for me when she covered my maternity leave in 2020. That coincided with the pandemic hitting and I had a team of five at the time, some of which had had short tenure at the company, and it was very tough for some of them to have to work from home. Wei Wei made a tremendous effort to connect and engage with them 121 on a weekly basis and team meetings. But what really stood out for me was that she started weekly ‘nonsense calls’ every Monday lunchtime so the team could talk about all kinds of things, not to do with work — from the weekend to what Netflix videos they’re watching. I’ve seen photos with everyone wearing pink and members showing their musical instruments and favourite toys. And she did this on top of her daily role — because covering someone on maternity leave is already a high workload, let alone in a pandemic where the normal way of working doesn’t work, Wei Wei’s creativity and genuine care showed me just how resilient, proactive and emotionally intelligent she is.
I have also seen this through her work in the diversity and inclusion space. Before I became her manager, Wei Wei had had a fall, ending up with 31 staples holding her scar together and she took several months to recover. Because of that experience she is passionate about promoting D&I on the disability front and volunteered herself for our company’s D&I disability pillar. That job is normally taken by a Managing Director, so she has a lack of title — and that is quite significant in Asia. She overcomes this through being able to articulate a compelling vision and influence people with her own story and through her ability to support other team members. This really shows her empathy, kindness but also her ability to live in her own value. In both cases, she has taken on challenges with an amazing can-do spirit.
In today’s world, where nothing is certain and change is constant, what we look for in leadership is someone who can be creative, positive and active and can lead team members. It doesn’t matter how good you are as a leader — unless your team is good too. She demonstrates her strength and ability to become a great leader, and actually, although she may not have the title that I have, she’s already a great leader.
‘STEPPING FORWARD CONFIDENTLY IN A DATA-DRIVEN WAY, SHE CHANGED THE WAY WE LOOKED AT A PROJECT’, SAYS NAOMI BEGUM-INGLIS, MANAGING DIRECTOR, ACCENTURE
Earlier this year, we were doing business development around a client that had a particular challenge. A junior colleague wanted to use her past industry experience in the financial services sector to work within the team and approached the client account lead about the opportunity. She didn’t get much of a response back, so she went away and started to research the account and do market analysis and pulled a pack of factual and data-led information together. She then showed her leadership and asked if they could support her so she could have a qualified conversation about it.
As a result, she was invited to a meeting to have that conversation and I was one of the senior leaders in the room. In meetings at this level it’s usually the senior people who have the most experience and do most of the talking. She listened and eventually said, ‘I have something to add. Do you mind if I share my screen?’ A bit of polite ‘Who is she?’ rippled around the room. Then she presented her information: ‘That is what’s happened in the market; this is what’s happened in the past; these are the movements that we’re seeing; and this is the way we can move forward’ — and the whole dynamic shifted.
What impressed me most was that she’d put the client at the heart of her conversation and done her due diligence. Then she had put herself into the client account lead’s shoes and asked, ‘How would I help that client if I were you?’ She was quietly driven and knew where she wanted to go. Because she was quite junior, she didn’t understand what else we had in the firm that could complement her approach and she was very open about that, but what her approach did was to transform us and the way we were looking at it. For her it was about asking, ‘How can I be part of this — and how can I give them confidence and trust in me?’ On the back of this, she got a mid-year promotion and is now part of the team. I think she has a massive future ahead of her. Afterwards she told me she’d enjoyed the experience but thought perhaps she wasn’t supposed to be there or really have a seat at the table. I replied that it was absolutely the opposite — she had absolutely proved her legitimacy and that she should be part of the team.