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March 8, 2021 | 11 Mins Read

Wise Words from Women in Service on International Women’s Day 2021

March 8, 2021 | 11 Mins Read

Wise Words from Women in Service on International Women’s Day 2021


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

As I thought about what to write about for International Women’s Day this year, I realized how incredibly fortunate I am to be surrounded by intelligent, brave, strong women. On the world stage there were numerous women I was in awe of this year, including Stacey Abrams and the sacrifice she made for democracy as well as witnessing Kamala Harris sworn in as the United States’ first female Vice President. At home, I am lucky to have a diverse set of family and friends that support me (and that I support), that share struggles I know well as well as many I can learn from, and who I am thrilled to do life with. At work, I am continually impressed by IFS’ desire to see women thrive and also by the women I work alongside across the globe that are so inspiring. I also truly enjoy talking with the women we feature on the Future of Field Service podcast and decided this would be a great opportunity to share a summary of some of the wise words shared this year.

While there are many positives to reflect on this IWD, this year has also made me think extensively about the work yet to do to eliminate gender bias and reach equality. When you look at some of the examples of how women, especially women of color, have been treated this year, it proves just how far we have to go. Further, the impact of COVID on working moms is something that makes me incredibly sad. I think about how hard I’ve worked for my career and how much it means to me, and I realize how privileged I am to still have it – many moms who have worked equally hard and have just as much passion for what they do have had to let it go due to the circumstances of the pandemic and the ways women have been disproportionately impacted.

I say all of this because it isn’t right to celebrate the good without acknowledging all the work that still needs to be done. I know that the women whose voices I’m sharing here are fighting hard every day to advocate, mentor, challenge, and change – and I’m doing the same. With that said, here is a complication of some of the amazing women we’ve had on the podcast this year and their thoughts on a variety of leadership and service transformation topics:

Madhu Karnani Oza, Director of Technical Services for Electrophysiology business at Abbott for Asia Pacific, Episode 98, on the mindset of service. “When it comes to service a common theme is that a lot of the hurdles we face are internal. A lot of the hurdles we face are internal culture, which is the mindset of the folks within your organization. Do they believe in what service can do? If the internal hurdle is high, then you want your service organization to be front and center. You want that message to be out there that this is important and it’s going to be part of whatever is the most central organization for that product. It may be operations and it may be commercial. If you want to send the message that it’s important, you’ve got to put it where it shines and not tucked away.”

Emilie Giraudet, Regional Digital Hub Lead at NS BlueScope and formerly the Head Of Customer Service Business Support & Sales Steering at GEA Group, Episode 95, on change management. “I understood early that it’s not enough to have very high position and ask your people to do things, you really have to engage them and to motivate them. To me, there are three main dimensions to succeed in implementing change. The first one is about motivating people. We are human beings, so we need a certain level of excitement and enthusiasm to get things done. I believe it’s crucial really to find a way to motivate people around your project. The second one is about showing the direction, so being able to create a vision to make it compelling enough to be able to start the change and to motivate people to act. The third dimension to succeed in change management is to be able to slice the elephant into actionable and achievable steps to reduce the complexity and encourage continuous success. I really believe that being a leader is not about giving people instruction, but motivating people, understanding their needs, designing and communicating a compelling vision, and executing plans with clear steps and milestones. All these dimensions are crucial.”

Bonnie Anderson, Global Manager of Talent Acquisition and Future Talent at Tetra Pak, Episode 85, on hiring during and post Covid. “One thing that I think is really important at the moment is to remember that it’s a super tough time for candidates right now. It’s a tough time for all of us and having that empathy for our candidates and providing a great candidate experience when you’re talking to them is really important. Sometimes they might’ve lost their job. They may have lost loved ones. As hiring managers and recruiters, we really need to be mindful that all of us have other things happening in our lives that could be out of our control but could be impacting our state of mind in a given moment.”

Linda Tucci, Global Sr. Director of the Technical Solutions Center at Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, Episode 83, on making mental health a priority in service leadership by leading by example. “For my team, I felt it very important that I shared my story, my struggles, and how I responded to it. When I did my midyear global updates, a series of town halls, as a check-in, I shared openly how I’d used our employee assistance program at work and how beneficial I found that experience. And I invited everyone, if they were struggling in any way, to find someone to talk to. It didn’t need to be their manager, but to know of the great tools that we have here at Ortho for them. I received heartfelt responses from individuals around the world, and a few even told me that it gave them the courage to open up to have conversations that they were struggling. And I’ve encouraged my managers to do the same with their teams, to make sure that they’re caring for their people in the context of their present state. It was important for me that I modeled that behavior.”

Sonya Lacore, Vice President of Inflight Operations at Southwest Airlines, Episode 80, on building your confidence. “I was just a very, very shy child. I grew up in a very small town in Louisiana. As much as I love where I came from, college was not really pushed. It was get married, have children, and so that’s the path that I took. So, because I didn’t have a college degree, I felt like something was lacking in me. I never just got the chance to accomplish that. As a result, I began to look at everybody else like they were more competent, especially if they had a degree. And if they were in other roles, I would think, “Wow.” I always wanted more, and I’d look at them and wish that I could be that. Then one day, I just realized, “Okay. I’ve got some strengths. I’ve got strengths as it relates to talking with and encouraging others, and just people strengths.” And I thought, “Okay. It’s time for me to turn my cup upside down, pour out all of the things that I don’t believe about myself. Fill it back up with things that I do believe I can accomplish.” And I slowly started on that path. I think that Southwest does such a great job of developing leaders, and the path is there for any employee, if they want it. I took advantage of those variety of classes and some of them were hard. Some of them are, how do you stand before a big group and speak? And they critique you and tell you things you shouldn’t say and do. It’s not an enjoyable process. But once I got through it, I think I really learned a lot about myself and leveraging my strengths.”

Katie Hunt, Service Operations Leader at APi Group, Episode 78, on knowing it’s OK to say no. “I’ve learned it’s okay to say no, and it’s okay to push back a little bit. Make sure that you look at all the perspectives, you hear everyone’s input, but ultimately, you can say no, and you can push back a little bit, in terms of what your final decision is. And you’re never going to make everyone happy. I think with a project this large, that was a tough lesson because I love for everyone to get along and work well together and collaborate. And there were people upset at different points in the project. And it’s not personal. It’s really just what’s best for the business and what’s best for the organization overall.”

Sophia Williams, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Telecom and Technology Business Unit at NCR Corporation, Episode 79, on the value of teamwork. “I reserve the right to get smarter and I will tell you that as I tell my team, I’ve got a leadership team of about 14 people, we are 14 times better than any one of us individually because we all have different experiences, we all have different points of view, et cetera. I set the strategic priorities on our customers. Customers are everything to me because we don’t exist if not for our customers. Then I hear from everybody and then we align on that. Talent sets you free. Bring in the right people and then take care of them and be a sponge.”

Cindy Etherington, VP, Dell Technologies Education Services at Dell Technologies, Episode 79, on making sure your voice is heard. “For most of my career, and in particular earlier in my career, I was the only woman. One of very few women in the room whether that be within the company that I worked for at the time or I was in sales for a good portion of my career as well or with our customers and partners. Making sure that I found a way to have my voice be heard was a challenge. It was definitely feeling like one of the crowd, one of the group, equal playing field was certainly a challenge but it was also an advantage that I had at the same time. It’s almost like your strength is also your weakness in some cases where I could use the fact that I was different and I had a different way of thinking of things to give myself a platform and to be heard.”

Mita Mallick, Head of Inclusion, Equity and Impact at Carta, Episode 68, on having courageous conversations around race. “You have to stop being color blind. I had a leader years ago say to me “Well, I don’t see color.” And I was like, “So you don’t see me as brown? What do you see me as?” And it is this idea that we live in a utopia, everyone is equal. But it’s not. And I do think it’s something that many of us were raised on that we have to unlearn now and there’s so many things that we have to unlearn or relearn or learn for the first time. And, so, this idea that you would look at me and say, “I don’t see color;” my brownness has defined me from the moment I’ve entered this world. It defines me when I walk into meetings. People see that before they even hear me speak or before I sit down or before I present. And so, I think it’s also a privilege to claim colorblindness. I don’t know many people of color who would say they don’t see color. I could be wrong, but it’s just thinking about too is who is the person that’s actually saying they don’t see color? Because it’s not something I would say because it’s defined my existence since the day I was born. And it’s defined, it’s actually that you’re not acknowledging that persons existence or identity or what they might have been through in their lives. So, I think it’s so important. I don’t think you can have a courageous conversation on race if you don’t acknowledge that race exists.”

Marlene Kolodziej, VP of Centralized Services at RICOH USA, Inc., Episode 67, on avoiding burnout. “Be more human and kind to yourself and take the time to take a step back and realize that it’s okay to get in touch with your needs as well, and not to try and be everything to everyone during something so dramatic as what we’re going through today. It’s unprecedented. And I think that we all need to take care of ourselves and our needs, whether it be a career or family or time or whatever that is. Even from a health perspective that I think folks need to really take a step back and take that personal inventory and make sure they’re doing well for themselves, as well as others in their life and in their work.”

Reihaneh Irani-Famili, VP of Business Readiness, National Grid, Episode 63, on measuring based on value versus time. “Right now, we’re not an 8:00 to 5:00 business, so expecting people to have set times that they would do things and then assessing them based on how many hours they sat in the chair and did something, becomes irrelevant. And I’m glad that it is becoming irrelevant because it’s a better way of working. You need to replace that 8:00 to 5:00 mentality by a deliverable-based mentality and a value-based mentality. And it’s both for the leaders in the companies as well as for those employees. Because as an employee, if before my success was I spent eight hours in the office, now that needs to be replaced by this is the value that I have created in the hours that I was working or being productive. And so it became really obvious for me very early on that the more clarity you can give on the outcomes and the value that you’re trying to drive and less about how they would get to that, it helps people be more productive.”

Nicola Buckley, EVP, Park Place Technologies, Episode 62, on building a team that balances your strengths and opportunity areas. “I grew up playing team sports. I know exactly what I’m good at and I know exactly what I’m not good at. And being hyper aware of your strengths and how you build a team that compliments your strengths and your opportunity areas, it really helps the team feel empowered. So, I give stretch projects to team members a lot and they execute and hit them out of the park. It’s just making people feel valued and empowered and everyone works very well together and in an environment like that.”

This year’s IWD theme is #ChooseToChallenge. The website says, “A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. From challenge comes change, so let's all choose to challenge.” There are many ways to challenge – what’s most important is that you are looking for the opportunities to push against gender bias and inequity, that are acting as an advocate for women, and that you are taking real-word, everyday action. Challenge can feel uncomfortable, but it is so incredibly important. As the late, great Ruth Bader Ginsberg said, “Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.”