Interviewed by Hanna Müller
Time to be bossy, girls: As part of our Women Talent Pool programme, Elizabeth Villa Covarrubias, Global Learning & Talent Development Manager at Rexel, discusses her career path in digital learning and shares her advice on how women can achieve success in male-dominated workplaces.
You have been working for Rexel for the last six years, including three in your current position as Global Learning & Talent Development Manager. Can you describe us your role at Rexel, and explain how you got to where you are today in your professional career?
Being born and raised in Mexico City, I had the opportunity to study abroad in the US where I developed a keen interest in international affairs and foreign cultures. Upon my return, I began working as an organisational psychologist in Training and Development at Yves Rocher where I was responsible for about 400 employees. At that moment I fell in love with French culture and started to study the language. For me, French society embodies female empowerment and freedom of speech. That is why I decided to complete my Master’s degree here in France. I finally stayed. That was eight years ago.
After working in digital learning at L’Oréal, I joined Rexel, an international supplier of electrical parts and services. My current role as Global Learning and Talent Development Manager includes connecting our Learning Managers around the world, implementing the Learning Management Systems at global and local levels, and developing our leadership programme.
During your career you have had several roles related to digital learning. How would you define “digital transformation” and what does it really mean for today’s business leaders?
Digital transformation is an experience; I keep in contact with my friends online, I celebrate birthdays with my family online, and I do my shopping online. In this way digital transformation is not about technology, but an opportunity to be more human in our personal and professional lives.
For the last six years I have been working in a complete virtual way. I start my day at 8 AM connecting with teams based in Australia and in the evening, I have calls with collaborators from the US or Canada. Digital transformation connects us, brings us together, and helps us to be more human.
Digital transformation is not about technology,
but an opportunity to be more human in
our personal and professional lives.
COVID-19 seems to have suddenly pushed digital transformation much further ahead. How are companies like Rexel coping with this?
What is certain is that the future of digital learning must be human-centred and it is directly related to employee development. Thankfully, at Rexel we did not start our digital transformation journey last year but about five years ago when we started to implement our global digital learning strategy. When the COVID-10 crisis started, our collaborators were already prepared. Today, digitalisation has become a way of life at Rexel. The current pandemic has just confirmed our way of working for the last few years. We had the opportunity develop our digital skills early enough.
What is certain is that the future
of digital learning must be human-centred
and it is directly related to employee development.
Considering your experience in Talen Management, what in your view are some strategies that can help women achieve the success they want in their workplaces, especially in male-dominated roles or industries? And what has helped you build confidence?
Building confidence is a life-long process. I have been doing a great deal of introspection, questioning myself about my personality, my self-concept, and the role I have as a woman in our society. Here is some advice I would like to share with other women:
- Speak up for yourself and defend your ideas. Trust yourself, stand up, and fight for what you believe in.
- Women are very empathetic, which is indeed a very powerful tool. Try to analyse the possible impacts of your decisions on others beforehand.
- Define your values and make sure you follow them in your daily life inside and outside of work.
- I cannot tell you how many times in my life I have been called a bossy girl. Today I am proud of myself and glad to be following my passion for Learning and Development. Embrace your bossy side. Let go of fear and become a leader.
You are part of our Women Talent Pool Programme this year. In a few words, can you tell us why you wanted to participate and what you expect from it?
For me it is not only a pleasure being selected for the Women Talent Pool Programme, but it also is a responsibility. I expect to develop my personal leadership skills and build a network of women who support each other. I would love to share my own experiences and try to be an inspiration for other women of younger generations.
We always conclude our interviews with a question from the Proust questionnaire: Who are your heroes in real life?
I am glad to have a lot of people around me who inspire me every day. The first hero is my Dad who is an incredibly intelligent man. He has been working on digitalisation for almost 40 years. My second hero is my Mom because of her empathy and kindness. And the third hero I choose is my brother, who taught me how to communicate and to build strong relationships with others. Then, there is my partner: his professional values push and empower me hugely as a woman. And my last hero is my female network: my friends, my former managers, and my colleagues who are there to support me every day.