Sometimes asking a question can lead to telling a story that ignites change. Natalia Oropeza Gutierrez, Chief Diversity and Cyber Security Officer of Siemens asked me if I would #tellmystory with the hopes of improving openness and impact of diversity and inclusion as our organization and people transform every day.
Here is my story….
“Let go, let flow” is one credo that I live by. Meaning continuously seeking knowledge but being prepared for where life takes you.
From a young age I was taught to follow my passion. Musician, actress, scientist, and businesswoman are some adjectives that define me. Creator, innovator, solution finder, orator and connector is who I am.
My values gave me the drive to face the challenges of a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) world. To follow the open doors. Ironically in my case though, this is easier said than done.
I do not fit into the corporate mold. I am viewed as a “Triple Threat,” 1. Woman, 2. African American, 3. In most cases, a foreigner. My potential has often been overlooked despite an exciting 13+ year career at Siemens. In many teams I have been labeled “young” although I have had a global career in which I’ve held senior roles that ranged from divisional to functional roles, from strategic to operational, and that spanned from the Americas right to Headquarters in Germany. With such an exciting Nomad resume you would assume that I am part of a top talent or corporate rotation program at Siemens. The answer: No, I am not. I have had to pave my own road.
The only time I have thought about leaving Siemens is because of the closed doors. I have stayed with Siemens because its purpose matched mine – “making real what matters as we transform every day!” Values like resilience, accountability, and openness were key in opening some of the doors that were closed. Know your value and live your values.
If you have a dream, goal, or desire, share it with everyone that will listen. Eventually, someone will.Chanel Washington
I am thankful for at least the quality of my work being acknowledged, even if it takes extra activities next to normal responsibilities to get noticed. For example, I was selected by head of Americas strategy for a short-term delegation after a vigorous interview process. Unfortunately, my director at the time tried to refuse and even delay my selection. If it wasn’t for the courage of my manager and HR partner, my future may have looked very different as this was the opportunity that opened the door to an international career at Siemens. By being prepared to take risks, I quit my job and changed my contract at least 3 times globally in Siemens, each experience building upon the last. I believe it is important to take on challenges where you either grow or sharpen your skills. This is why I actively drive topics in new ways of working, competence development, agile, and digital transformation.
Sharing my purpose and experiences enabled not only personal but also business impact. Music is my life, but how does that connect to business? Music is a unifier. It’s an icebreaker for idea management workshops were cross-business collaboration is needed to reach company targets. Music brings together team spirit an allows reflection, even in a corporate strategy review. We break down the walls and show the best of our self.
I encourage everyone to not limit yourself by your environment, transform it!Chanel Washington
Diversity and inclusion as an enabler to customer-centric profitability and growth
As of October 1st, we stated as new chapter as Siemens AG. According to our new CEO Roland Busch, “Siemens creates technology to help our customers transform the industries that form the backbone of economies, technology that transforms the everyday.” We are to act as empowered employees that overcome uniquely challenging moments as we create technology with a purpose. This means “every colleague feels empowered to ask questions and take risks while being accountable and upholding the highest standards of conduct, still remaining agile and creative” to create customer-centric value.
My wish for Siemens new chapter is that we not only have a growth mindset but an inclusion mindset – at all levels of leadership. When it comes to true inclusion, we have a long way to “grow” in mindset and in practice. In my international experience, “global-localization” has been a “miss-used” opportunity. I’m sure this is true in many companies. Although we are a global company, local operating mentality is integrated in the fabric of our global business strategy, sales rights, ownership, and even culture. We are in our comfort zones. No surprise the same operating mentality is a hindrance in the career development of employees who don’t fit the mold but have a world diverse experience to offer.
How to apply inclusion for strategic growth
With the implementation of agile methods and teams, diversity of skill has slowly become more and more accepted in business. Inclusion across regional boundaries and know-how from the local workforce has great potential to create customer-centric value, and as a result, increased market share and profit. Although global organizations have the major stake in risks and sales rights, the local organization have the best impulse for customer needs. To tackle “uniquely challenging moments as we create technology with a purpose,” here are some observations and lessons learned from my experience.
1. Growth mindset starts with self-reflection. It takes courage to consciously taking action to include ideas and perspectives that are different from your own. It’s one thing to include a team or employee from a diverse background on a project, it is another to implement their ideas.
2. Empower people. Accountability is a two-way street. Actively cultivate the potential of your team. Everyone has a skill to offer. Take the time to look behind the curtain of middle management. Promote those who actively contribute to the company’s success. If you don’t, your most dedicated employees will eventually disconnect, burn out, or leave.
3. Customer impact is best made when we include all partners along the value chain. This includes the regions, sales, R&D, engineering, manufacturing, SCM, the customer and other relevant partners. What is the customer’s purpose? What are key elements in their experience? What economic, geographic, and social challenges do they face? What is your customer’s footprint? It is critical to keep the customer in the center of a value proposition analysis to avoid missing opportunities. Put internal challenges in the parking lot. Once you’ve identified all the roadblocks, including internal ones, set a course to eliminate them from the root!
4. Technology with a purpose is personal. Siemens is in a unique position to transform the everyday. We are the end users of many of the products we develop. The people in the regions work hard every day to create customer value and provide feedback to the company on new verticals and solutions. It’s up to those in power to listen and apply instead of denying ideas that don’t fit the mold or comfort zone of the Business even though they could be market game changers that start local and go global. Be open to incubate new technologies or methods that could potentially be rolled out on a large scale.
A tremendous opportunity to shape the future
“We” are a tremendous opportunity for the future.Chanel Washington
Transformation every day starts with including the region in a global board on topics like culture, new ways of working or technology. Don’t be afraid to learn and grow from a diverse and inclusive team. Our joint challenges transcend market or manufacturing types. Representation matters – whether it be people, skills, footprint, or market share. Including the whole person and the whole customer will only strengthen us as we face the challenges of a disruptive world, together!
Let’s break the mold!