- Anne Houtman, Lecturer at Sciences Po, former senior civil servant at the European Commission
- Sarah de Carvalho, CEO at Happy Child International Foundation
- Thaima Samman, Partner, Partner, SAMMAN Law and Corporate Affairs
The objective of the session was to discuss the ways and means to successfully manage career changes in a constantly evolving world. 16 female talents from WIL’s Women Talent Pool program participated in the workshop, moderated by Anne Houtman.
From left to right: Thaima Samman, Sarah de Carvalho, Anne Houtman
Insisting on the importance of transmission, Thaima Samman, WIL President, reminded the audience that the WTP program is for its member the opportunity not only to networkwith peers and senior women but also to provide them with a broad picture of various careers. This way, they are encouraged to open their horizons on how to transform career changes into an opportunity.
Anne Houtman, Lecturer at Sciences Po and former senior civil servant at the European Commission, Thaima Samman, Partner, SAMMAN Law and Corporate Affairs and WIL President and Sarah de Carvalho, CEO at Happy Child International Foundation shared their own testimonials with great transparency and modesty. They also gave some useful advice on how to manage both expected and unavoidable career changes.
According to Anne, we need to be opened and see where are the opportunities, while keeping in mind that anything offered to us is the chance to have another experience that will enlarge our skills and make us more capable for the future. Not only diversity of our experience is an asset for our career by enabling to build the skills needed to be a leader, but it also brings freedom “to innovate, be yourself, create, think out of the box”. Anne went further saying that she was very lucky to fail many times since it brought her to places she would never have gone otherwise. Adding to that, she quoted Pasteur: “chance favors the prepared minds”. Indeed, you need not only to be prepared to be successful, unlike a lot of people who miss career opportunities because they think they don’t have the adequate skills, but also to be prepared to failures since we don’t have control over everything but still we can always rebound. While she was a mathematics statistics assistant in Louvain, she had to teach statistics and realized the importance of pedagogy, a key skill in a career according to her, both in the private and public sector. Indeed, it is important to “know how to motivate your people” because it gives meaning to work.
Like Anne, Thaima emphasized on the importance “to be open to opportunities” and the fact that each experience will provide you with valuable skills for your career. For example, she was chosen by Claude Bartolone to be his assistant although she did not have the adequate diploma nor was part of his political spectrum. Another piece of advice she gave to the audience is the necessity “to move out of your comfort zone to progress”: for example, when she entered the corporate world to be a business lawyer, she was identified for skills she totally ignored and had no guarantee that she was doing the right thing. However, her past experiences enabled her “to think differently and to bring a fresh perspective” to her new employers. Like Anne, Thaima occupied different positions in both the public and private sector: each of those experiences gave her knowledge and soft skills useful for what she is doing today. Breaking choices such as when she left Microsoft where she had a well-established position, to create her law firm, were not moments of pleasure. But they were necessary and were the cost for what she is today, the successful leader of a recognized public affairs and law firm. She concluded asserting that “Weaknesses can be your strengths once you identify them” and that the key for success in life is finding “a balance between being opened to opportunities but also having the right to make choices”.
Sarah explained the incredible work she carried out with her charity that rescued over 11000 children, and the lessons learnt from being a leader in both the corporate and the third sector. She first exposed her motivation for changing her career and working in the charity sector: having seen what it is like on the ground for children in Brazil is what motivated her to try to make a change. She made a parallel between her leadership experience in the third sector and in the private sector: “it is all about service delivery”. As head of an NGO, Sarah is still a leader across geographical and cultural boundaries but this time the service delivery is targeted for vulnerable children and communities. The challenges of a CEO in a charity are the same as the ones in the public and private sector. She defines herself as a social entrepreneur. Leading her charity was challenging at first, but thanks to her MBA and experience in communication she gained confidence to go through. Digital disruption had a positive impact for her charity, by making a global impact possible: the campaign itsapenalty.com has so far delivered its key messages to over 519 million people worldwide. She gave the audience useful advice for career development: “Advancing in your career is about creating and forging relationships.” Mentors, role models, feedback providers and coaches can help us connect, gain support, develop and excel in our careers.