Interviewed by Anna Marin
Introducing Nina Foss, Senior Manager EMEA for Channel Enablement at Lenovo. In this interview Nina shares her personal story about starting in tech, her thoughts on how the industry is developing, and why sustainable leadership matters.
You are currently the Senior Manager EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) Channel Enablement at Lenovo. Can you tell us a little but about that role and what it is like working for one of the largest tech companies in the world?
I am responsible for deploying tools and initiatives that enable our customer-facing teams to execute the core-aspects of their job more effectively. This means that I am a part of developing framework and systematic approaches for our channel sellers in EMEA, to engage our partners. We try to gather insights and collaborate with teams to execute initiatives that improve upon existing sales processes. In EMEA we have 16 markets, more than 150 countries and are supporting about nine languages, so it is important to have intuitive and easy-to-use tools for our partners. We are there to support and enable our local teams, partners and distributors.
For me personally, it is nice to see that the work I do is influencing our business throughout EMEA. I know that I make a difference and that I am a part of making everyday life for our sellers and partners a little bit easier. Being allowed to contribute to the strategy for our sales transformation is both exciting and very challenging, and I feel lucky to work and collaborate with incredibly talented and dedicated colleagues all over the world.
Working in one of the largest companies in the world is such a privilege and there is never a boring day! I must say that I love working with people all over EMEA, with so many different teams. Everything from marketing, sales, and IT. But I have missed travelling, because of Covid, so I am very happy to be able to travel again, meeting colleagues face-to-face.
Working in one of the largest companies in the world is such a privilege and there is never a boring day!
It sounds incredibly exciting working in that environment. You have been in the tech industry for many years, during which time you have built extensive experience in marketing, sales, and business. What led you to a career in IT and to Lenovo, and what are some of the challenges you have faced along the way?
I’ve worked in the tech industry for what feels like my entire life: over 27 years now! I started out in the sector by coincidence. I had just come back to Norway after a year in the US, and I got a job at an IT company. There I discovered my passion for sales and started in sales and IT-solutions, after which I worked my way up to different roles in sales, marketing, and distribution. When you work in the tech industry you get to know many people, so I knew some employees at Lenovo before I stared there and got to know quite a bit about the company.
Lenovo has a great culture, good products and loyal customers. Lenovo is also a very large and global company, and I was sure that there would be opportunities for me to develop, get exciting roles and grow within the company. So, when the chance presented itself and I was offered a position at Lenovo, I couldn't say no. And I have never looked back!
In terms of challenges that I have faced along the way: I discovered that you need to believe in yourself. You need to be tough and not afraid to raise your voice.
I discovered that you need to believe in yourself. You need to be tough and not afraid to raise your voice.
In what kind of situations have you felt the need for that, the need to raise your voice?
There have been situations where I have felt the need to speak up, though I am not shy and am comfortable doing so. When I started almost 27 years ago there were very few women working in tech. Back then, you had to work to make your voice heard: there were so many men in the industry who had been there longer than I had. However, as time went on, I gained confidence in my job and started to see things in a different way. I started to make suggestions on how we could do things differently and by doing that I noticed that you are heard when you make suggestions.
Two important pillars of Lenovo’s vision are innovation and collaboration. What do these values mean to you and how do you integrate them into your work daily?
I am proud to be working at a company with this much innovation, where it is so important. It excites me to be involved in how we shape our projects and initiatives around our channel platforms and tools to ensure we deliver the smartest, most convenient, and comprehensive resources to help our partners win with Lenovo. But innovation is so much more than a product, it is also innovation of approach and how we work with each other. The trust and freedom of remote working is one example of that.
When it comes to collaboration, that is key to me. Especially in my work, where I depend on colleagues from all over the world and from different teams and business areas to succeed, to be able to collaborate and work closely is important. I also believe that with collaboration, knowledge is shared. And increased knowledge means we all grow, learn, and become better. In many ways, I guess you can say that collaboration and innovation are linked. I feel really privileged to work with the best people, irrespective of location, seniority, gender, or background.
In terms of how this works on a day-to-day basis: since we are this global company, many initiatives start at a worldwide level. At the start, my team and I sit down with the worldwide team and talk about new projects and if they can work in EMEA. We have lots of conversations on how to structure projects and how we can deliver the message to our partners in EMEA. We also ask ourselves how we can train our sellers to work with the new projects; if and how the new projects resonate with our local teams and sellers: is it what they want? how can they communicate about it? The message needs to fit the needs of the different markets.
I believe that with collaboration, knowledge is shared. And increased knowledge means we all grow, learn, and become better
You talked a little bit about Lenovo being a company that is both collaborative and connected. As the world is getting more and more connected, what do you see for the future of tech and how do you think the everyday people will be affected by it?
As the world has become more connected, technology has become more ingrained in our daily lives, in many ways positively, but also with some harmful consequences. Technology has improved our human connectedness, productivity, accessibility, ease of everyday tasks and many others. But it has also resulted in harmful online behavior, a digital divide, mounting e-waste and many other issues. For the future of tech, I see a gradual convergence between these challenges and opportunities. More and more tech companies are aware of the challenges and opportunities and are actively working towards the sustainability of products and services. Ensuring that ordinary people, no matter where in the world they are, can access technological advances and derive benefits from their use.
Speaking of sustainability, you recently completed an EARTH 51 certification on driving sustainability leadership. Why does sustainable leadership matter and what were your key takeaways from this course?
The business world is facing a turning point where corporates, and especially tech companies, have a responsibility to change the world for the better, and they are being held accountable for this. I recently became the EMEA Focal for Lenovo ESG (environmental, social, and governance) and I am now working closely with the Global ESG teams to help implement our sustainability strategy and ESG framework for the channel here in EMEA. Our goal is to help organisations accelerate their business model transformation around sustainability and enhance their positive impact to solve important challenges. So, hopefully I am playing my own small part in making the world a more sustainable place.
In terms of takeaways, the course really drew attention to the seriousness of the challenges we face. I think most of us have not fully understood or taken in what these challenges mean and the impact for our planet, not the importance of us all stepping up. This is not just about companies’ behaviour, but also what we can do every day, as humans. At Lenovo, it is not just us managers who are getting trained up in these questions: we are planning to have a sustainability experience week in Lenovo for all employees in EMEA. During this week we will demonstrate what ESG means, what Lenovo is doing to become a more sustainable business and how each person’s actions impact on the world and on communities. I am happy and excited to be a part of this.
Is there anything you wished you knew before pursuing a career in this industry and is there anything you would like to say to someone who is thinking about this career path?
As I said earlier, I was very young when I entered the tech industry, and back then it was a very male-dominated industry. I really had to believe in myself and stay strong. But the industry is constantly changing, it keeps you on your toes, and to anyone who wants to pursue a career in tech I would say go for it! It is an amazing and interesting industry, with endless possibilities and so many different positions to choose from. You don’t have to be a “techie” to work in the tech industry! Working in the tech is an exciting challenge.
You don’t have to be a “techie” to work in the tech industry!
Video edited by Marella Ricketts