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IWD 2024: Lessons in empowerment, authenticity, and preparation
Fri, 8th Mar 2024

I have been working in STEM for more than 30 years – first at environmental engineering companies and later in the software industry. Today, I lead of team of seasoned sales, marketing, partner, and presales professionals. Throughout my career, I've been fortunate to have encountered several mentors who have significantly influenced my approach to work and professional growth. Among them, two individuals stand out, shaping my perspective and guiding me through pivotal moments.

In my early thirties, I found myself working for a software company under the leadership of an exceptional boss. He imparted a profound insight early on: "My job isn’t to know how you do your job – it’s to create an environment where you can do your job." With this mantra, he fostered a culture of trust and empowerment within our team. Rather than micromanaging, he championed autonomy, allowing us the freedom to take risks and infuse our work with creativity. His approach wasn't about dictating tasks but about enabling us to thrive.

He offered guidance, removed obstacles, and ensured that our efforts were recognized. His wisdom extended to hiring practices, advising me to seek individuals who excelled in areas where I lacked proficiency and providing them with the platform to shine. This philosophy, of empowering others and celebrating their successes, became a cornerstone of my leadership style.

In contrast, I encountered a less enlightened manager later in my career who operated under a different ethos. He appropriated his staff's ideas as his own, dismissing their contributions as subordinate to his authority. The repercussions were immediate, with morale and productivity plummeting in his wake. This experience served as a stark reminder of the importance of authentic leadership and the detrimental effects of ego-driven management.

My second mentor, a pioneering female engineer in a male-dominated industry, taught me invaluable lessons through her example. Initially, our interactions were fraught with disagreement, leaving me frustrated and disheartened. However, upon reflection, I realized that her resistance stemmed from thorough research and a comprehensive understanding of the broader context.

She demonstrated the power of preparation and foresight, navigating challenges with poise and intellect rather than confrontation. Her approach not only elevated her own contributions but also served as a powerful tool for success in a competitive environment.

Over the years, I've endeavoured to embody the principles instilled by these mentors. Their guidance has shaped my leadership philosophy, emphasizing empowerment, preparation, and the value of collaborative excellence. I see the power of creating a work environment where people feel secure enough to take risks and put a bit of their own special personality into their work. While the individual lessons my mentors taught me have been invaluable, it's their collective influence that continues to guide my journey towards professional growth and fulfilment.