What a company! Last year Siemens hired me after I had taken a 17-year break from my career and the corporate world. Three weeks after I started, the company allowed me to take a sabbatical. Upon my return, the global CEO asked me to join him for a day of job shadowing. Could you have a more unusual start into a new job?
I have been lucky in more ways than one. Initially, I had been hired on the “Return to Work Programme” – this is specifically run in the UK to help people like me get back into working life after significant time away. When the pandemic hit us all, the company allowed for my six-month sabbatical so I could home-school my children. And the job shadowing… well, it felt as if it came out of the blue.
How I accidentally ended up job shadowing the CEO
I was just half listening to our CEO’s podcast ‘Roland Unplugged’ while checking my emails. (I am a big fan of Eric Clapton, so I thought the title of the podcast sounded interesting.) When Roland asked employees of Siemens to share ideas on how to own your career, I started typing away. As I have a recruitment and training background, I am passionate about learning and career development. So, I sent in the following tip:
“Never just perform within the limits of your current role. Aim to perform at the highest level and the widest breadth as it provides an opportunity to show your hidden abilities. Work as if you are in the job you want and not the one you are currently in. Use all your skills and talent because that’s where you find your greatest growth potential. Nobody minds if you do more than is expected. It can only benefit the company and your career.”
At the time I didn’t realise that I had applied to shadow Roland on his first day as CEO of Siemens. When I later found out, I thought to myself ‘there’s no way I’ll win that – and I don’t think I even want to’. I forgot about it.
“What on earth am I getting myself into?”
On the next podcast show I heard my name – Julie Williams. That is when the fear set in. Coming back into the working environment after so long out and in a junior role (which wasn’t even in my previous specialism), I had been suffering from imposter syndrome. With the added pressure of meeting our CEO on top, I froze. All over Christmas, I was thinking ‘What on earth am I getting myself into? I can’t do this’.
My diary began to fill up quickly for February 4th – the day on which the job shadowing was supposed to happen. Every meeting that popped up in my calendar increased the sense of fear. How was I going to contribute to these meetings about our IoT strategy, or our approach to communications, or a workshop about growth mindset with colleagues from the Middle East? And the day job didn’t stop because I was doing this, so there was added worry about letting my fantastic team here in the UK down.
My biggest fear: the one-on-one
What I’d been fearing the most, was the 1:1 with Roland himself, the global CEO of Siemens. But we found a great ice breaker for ourselves: we swapped book recommendations. I’m looking forward to tackling Roland’s current read, “The Machinery of Life” by David Goodsell, which explains the building blocks of life, our cells – a guide to biochemistry for a non-specialist. And of course I will check in with Roland to see whether he managed to tackle “The Daily Stoic – 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living” by Ryan Holiday which helps you to focus on what is in your control, eliminate false and limiting beliefs and take more effective action, one of my recent favourite reads.
What did I take away from this day? More than anything: prioritisation. Having seen Roland’s diary and how he doesn’t get into a blind panic every morning, looking at what he’s got to achieve, my own inbox and tasks feel much more manageable. I did also ask Roland how he manages his work-life balance. He explained how he doesn’t distinguish between the two (which I don’t suppose you can when you’re the CEO). But when you look closely, Roland also has “me-time” – every morning he takes time to enjoy breakfast and a workout. So, if Roland can find time for exercise and wellbeing, so can I!
And what happened to my fear? Surprisingly, most of it has gone. Big challenges are rarely comfortable. But I’ve found that if tackled in a safe environment, with the support of people around you, a frightening challenge turns into a growth experience. I fully acknowledge there are things I don’t know and skills I don’t have – yet. But the job shadowing day has given me confidence that I can move beyond my fears and grow.
“If you’re interested in hearing more about the job shadowing with Roland Busch, listen to this podcast episode of #RolandUnplugged where I had the pleasure to be his guest.”