Rising to the role of director of Regional Affairs and Sustainability for Europe in a male-dominated industry was no easy feat. I realized early in my career that women leaders have to exude confidence and ensure equal treatment from male counterparts. It is also important to be aware of your skillsets and value, not because you are a woman, but because you are smart and competent. This way, you will never allow others to underestimate you.
I encourage team members to be collaborative. When everyone is engaged in a project, morale is high and creativity endless. I have a systematic approach to management, ensuring that we are efficient in both our planning and execution. I am also willing to take risks and make difficult decisions.
I am social and consider a good leader to be one that is empathetic and takes time to build relationships. The foundation of a healthy work relationship is trust and shared value. I want to know about my team’s family and hobbies, not just their successes and failures at work. Excellent interpersonal and crosscultural communication with my employees is key.
At one point in my career I was the only English-speaking woman on a team that was 80 percent male. The men also happened to be twice my age at the time. I quickly established an international network of support within Alcoa, looking for guidance from those who were or had been in a similar situation. To overcome this, I set my standards high, noting that I would not and could not be seen as inferior. Ultimately it was a great learning and working experience. I needed to adjust while remaining true to myself. On occasion, we played paintball and watched soccer games after work. The team building outside of the office undoubtedly helped us collaborate and be more efficient.
The following is some advice that has resonated with me over the years: It is ok to say you don’t know. Ask questions—life is a continuous learning process. Don’t introduce an idea as a question; be assertive. Develop a network of people that can help you grow.
Throughout my career, I have been blessed to have great mentors, sponsors, and supportive teams who provided candid feedback. I am thankful to have embraced a profession that allows me to excel and grow.
How has education affected your career?
Education has been an incredible asset in my career. I completed my first master’s degree in industrial engineering because it was broad in scope and I wanted to work in the industrial sector. Soon after I started working, I realized that society needed more environmental professionals. Recognizing the importance of conserving natural resources, I pursued a second master’s in environmental engineering. This degree opened many doors for me and led to my fourteen-year tenure at Alcoa. After ten years of experience in the field, I went back to school for an MBA. Even today I embrace any learning opportunity and encourage my colleagues to do the same.