When I first started in my current role at Siemens, I was worried about some gaps in my skills. I wasn’t confident that I could manage a process improvement project as I had no previous experience with it.
However, after an open discussion with my manager, I was given a variety of hard skills training, including Lean and Six Sigma Green Belt, Tableau, and Power BI. I was also given the opportunity to manage a smaller scale process improvement project, so I could learn the ropes before moving on to bigger scale projects.
What I learnt from this situation is that you shouldn’t doubt your abilities just because you don’t have all the knowledge needed for a job, right from the beginning. When you’re fortunate enough to have a supportive employer, they will help you develop the competencies you need. The key is to determine your skill gap early on, and be open and honest with your manager – then you can create a development plan together.
Here is more on what I’ve learned – especially more recently as a working mother – about communicating effectively in the workplace and being recognised for your capabilities, in order to maintain a successful career.
Be open, be honest and remember it is up to you to prove yourself
My first piece of advice is to always communicate openly with your manager, come up with your own development plan and be open to challenges. This will show you are proactive, determined and driven to succeed in your role.
In my first three months in my role, I didn’t know anything about robotics processes automation. After much deliberation, I approached my boss with my concerns and a plan for overcoming the problem. This is crucial: don’t just tell your manager there’s an issue – come up with a solution as well. You don’t want to be seen as someone who needs to be spoon fed. If you present a development plan, you will be perceived as capable and able to take charge of a situation.
In this instance, I suggested joining some tactical training programs to bring me up to speed with the latest tools used in the industry. Then I took on a small project in Malaysia, before taking on some more in Indonesia, and now, I am starting to manage projects for the Philippines and Singapore. Basically, I gradually increased my responsibility, giving myself a chance to learn as I went along.
Another lesson I have learned is that it is me, and only me, who needs to prove that I am capable. I don’t get discouraged when my superior doesn’t feel I can do something. I just think of it as an opportunity to show what I can do.
Work smarter, not harder
Working smarter, not harder, is good advice for anyone, but it is particularly relevant to working mothers trying to balance their work with their home life. You really need to make sure you prioritise tasks based on their criticality and impact.
Siemens understands that being productive does not mean employees must work 9-5, or 8-hour days, every day. It’s good time management and good results that matter. We have flexible working policies and work from home guidelines for all employees, which means we can arrange with our managers to work around our needs. For me, this means I can work when my baby is sleeping, and start and finish working around the times I need to drop off and pick my child up from infant care.
This is a huge benefit for me. I feel I won’t be missing any milestones as I am able to work at the same time as being there to see my kids grow up.
A few tips on communication and teamwork
When managing a process improvement project, I do the following things to ensure it runs smoothly:
- Weekly update meetings with the project team and monthly meeting project sponsor.
- Provide transparency on the progress of the project, including obstacles and suggestions to tackle them.
- Listen and understand the customer’s needs, finding the root cause of the problem by asking “Why?” and peeling away the layers. By doing this, we ensure that the solution solves the main issue.
When it comes to teamwork, I sometimes encounter people who are not willing to collaborate. When faced with this, I concentrate on highlighting the benefits that team members can gain from participating in the project, to keep them motivated and engaged. In addition, I always show respect by setting reasonable deadlines and not forcing people to work or participate in calls on public holidays.
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