The everywomanWorld series goes intercontinental, catching up with Damascus-born Malak Mousleh, as the Global Account Manager for Roche at EMC Computer Systems AG touches down in Zurich, fresh from a business trip to San Francisco’s Silicon Valley.
In the beginning
My father ran a successful textiles business and when I was 18 he took me on a gap year. We travelled all over the world and I shadowed his every business move. I observed him in negotiations and client meetings and afterwards we spent hours debriefing. Why had he said that particular thing to that client? Why had he only listened and said nothing for half an hour? I learned the value of good communications and the power of silence. At the end of the year I moved to Switzerland to study, and Lausanne has been my home ever since. Though I grew up speaking Arabic, French now feels in many ways like my first language, though of course I speak English in my professional life.
My career path
After graduating in civil engineering, I took further studies in computer sciences; given the direction the world was going in, I thought this would open up more opportunities. Though I work in technology, many of my roles have been more business focused – strategising, negotiating, selling, and building relationships. That said, I strongly believe my technology education has given me an edge. Before taking on management of the global account for healthcare providers, Roche, I worked for many years on the Luxury and Swiss Famous Watch Makers accounts. My technical know-how meant I could ask the right questions to customers, and imagine what they were experiencing without having to wait for them to come to me with a problem. That knowledge, combined with a determined character, is what’s behind my success at EMC. I’ve been awarded both Best New Hired Employee & Best Account Manager of The Year for Europe South. On receiving those awards, I sent my father a nice memo of appreciation!
My average day
I spend my days trying to look at life from my client’s point of view: what issues are they facing? What would ‘ideal’ look like for them? Do they have any concerns about their account? In what areas do they need me to fight for them? I aim to get out and meet my clients as often as possible. Trust is so important too; the key to building influence is saying what you’ll do and doing what you say.
As well as the day-to-day client management, I’m looking at the long-term strategy for every account – what do we want the relationships to look like in two years, five years, ten years? Once we know the answers to those questions, it’s my job to align my teams around our objectives.
Roche is an international customer with stakeholders spread globally – a new challenge for me as my previous clients were entirely Swiss-focussed. This means that as well as understanding their technical needs, I must figure out which cultural approach they respond best to. My Spanish stakeholders, for example, are very emotive and relational and are more responsive when they can regularly meet face to face. The Swiss way is probably a bit more distant and matter-of-fact. And when I’m in the US, the way of doing things is different again. Everything happens so quickly over there; the thinking tends to be focused more on short-term revenue growth.
The global aspect certainly adds a layer of complexity to account management, but at its is simply finding out what the customer wants, which approach will work best for them, and then delivering it.
The other key difference between my past clients and my current client Roche is the way their businesses are structured. Past clients were more traditional and hierarchal. Roche’s focus on creativity and freedom to innovate means its structure is relatively flat – I deal with customers from research level right through to senior management. Keeping tabs of what each client across the organisation is up to can be a challenge!
Technology is changing rapidly and it’s crucial that my team stays on top of the latest developments. Sharing information is a big part of life here at EMC, and we’ll also scan technology magazines, always keeping an eye out for content relating to the areas our clients are interested in.
On work-life balance
Now that my children are grown, true work-life balance for me comes in loving both my job and my social life. The extensive hours and long-haul flights are doable because I’m so passionate about my work; I give myself fully and with total commitment. Since taking over the Roche account I’ve focussed on building a global network, so that when I’m travelling I can count on those relationships, not just for doing business, but for after hours drinks and dinners. Jetlag is the only real downside – if I could find a way to cure that I’d be very happy!
On women in technology
Women in this sector have to go above and beyond to prove themselves. If you have a young family you have to demonstrate that you’re committed and determined to achieve. At the everywoman Forum: Advancing Women In Technology 2015 on 17th March, I’m looking forward to hearing about how other women have navigated this tough path.
Find out more about the everywoman Forum: Advancing Women In Technology 2015, including how to book tickets.
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