For the 2021 International Women’s Day, we shine the spotlight on Majorel’s women in leadership all over the world. In this article, we’ve asked six women from Majorel Berlin about their experiences, their positions and for tips for other women aiming for leadership positions. We have talked to Susanna Schmidt, Account Manager for Community Operations, Gissu Firoozmand, the Policy Manager in our project, Avis McKenzie, Senior Manager, Leadership Training and Coaching, Andreea Sereny, Workforce Manager for Berlin with global responsibilities, Magdalena Riffault, our Recruitment Coordinator and Iklim Basdogan, the Manager of our Policy, Training and Quality teams.
Let’s start with Avis, who works with different hierarchical levels and departments in Majorel Berlin and has an extensive experience on building strong leadership teams. Check out Avis’ thoughts on diversity, women in leadership and the words of wisdom for young, aspiring women leaders.
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While all of these incredible women have inspiring paths in our company and have shown amazing professional growth, we’ve asked Andreea, Susanna and Iklim about their story within Majorel, and how they got to where they are today.
Andreea started with Majorel Romania in June 2010, while she was still a student. She thought it was just a summer job, but it turned out to be the first step of her long-standing career. She moved to Majorel Berlin in 2019 for a new role and has been in love with the city and with the team here ever since. While completely different, Susanna´s path also tells one of success and development. She started working with Majorel as a Management Associate right after she graduated from University in 2016. Early on, she had the chance to work with various clients of the banking and tourism industry. Right after she joined the Berlin site as a Project Manager supporting and optimizing recruiting, training and facility related processes. At the end of 2018, she became an Account Manager for Business Integrity & Commerce. 2021 brought a new challenge for her, she is now the responsible Account Manager for Community Operations in Berlin and Casablanca. Iklim, however, started as an agent in May 2016, was quickly promoted to the position of a Quality Analyst in July 2017. She then took over Quality Team leadership in June 2018 and was promoted to her current position of the Quality, Training and Policy Manager in March 2021.
Work in any position can be challenging, so we wanted to know how they overcame the biggest challenges in their journeys. To which Gissu replied that with the guidance of her supervisor and assistance of her great team, they could manage to overcome their challenges by defining structured processes. She says that she was lucky to work with an experienced manager, who could coach her to develop the strategic vision through measuring and analyzing the impact of the team’s work. Moreover, she states that she is blessed with a team of ambitious and solution-oriented people, critical thinkers who work hard to constantly improve the processes. Andreea offers a different perspective. She says, “One of the constant challenges that we face is balancing the team´s needs and the requirements. We carefully weigh all aspects of each situation, since the outcome will be highly impactful for our teams. Once carefully analyzed we take measures to ensure a constant level of motivation, while still fulfilling all the internal and external requirements.” Magdalena adds that the pandemic and lockdown in Germany were one of the biggest challenges she faced with her team: “We had to restructure and adapt our recruitment and onboarding processes to a virtual environment entirely. As a team, we overcame these challenges by setting clear goals, and tasks and ensuring constant communication flow.”
Working in a company like Majorel also means working in a very diverse workplace. We are working with people from more than 50 countries in Berlin and we’ve asked what diversity means to the female members of our leadership team. The replies were as diverse as our team is and show just how great it can be working in a multicultural team like ours. Iklim says, “I see diversity as the only way to bring us forward. Respecting and appreciating the diversity is an essential component of our team culture and highly nurtured by our management teams. The teams I led so far had members from several different groups of age, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, disability, and national origin. Learning from each other every day is a great and an enriching experience.” Andreea explained, “I have a very diverse team composed of 3 women and 6 men, which come from Brazil, Portugal, Turkey, Greece, Poland and Finland, all with different social and ethnic backgrounds. To me diversity means offering equal opportunities and inclusion to everyone, regardless of individual differences.”
A very personal view on diversity is offered by Susanna, “Diversity means acknowledging that each individual is unique, and recognizing as well as respecting our individual differences. Having said that, I am actually proud to work in an environment where I see different cultures every day. One of my favorite initiatives in Majorel Berlin is the International Week, there we celebrate all the different cultures, learn how to be more tolerant and expand our cultural knowledge. I am certain there is still a lot of work to be done before we see equal rights in society. Every single woman or person of color on top management level in leadership positions means we are moving in the right direction. But there is much more to be done and I am happy that this is one the areas we work on continuously improving, as we need to rethink social structures and how we underpay certain professional groups as nursing, day care among others. Again a lot of work, but also good to see movement and diversity among my colleagues.” For Gissu, diversity in the workplace doesn’t just mean hiring diverse individuals, “(…) but also making sure that their participation in teams is equal. This is possible through appreciating differences between individuals and ensuring that each of these varying attributes and characteristics are valued.”
Women in leadership may face different challenges to men. What are these challenges and how can we overcome them? Gissu states that women should work on their self-confidence and female leaders need to remind themselves more often of their self-confidence. “In an ideal world,” Andreea describes, “we wouldn’t need to speak or highlight any extra qualities that a woman should possess in order to succeed. We need to touch upon this point because the dispute over gender equality, despite the improvements in recent history, has yet to achieve its final goal. For women in business and especially in leadership roles, it is a thin line to being labelled as emotional when showing assertiveness, passion and conviction. For a woman to bridge this gap on gender equality, she needs to constantly push herself out of her comfort zone to move forward, boost confidence to ultimately succeed. The recipe to success has 5 ingredients: hard work, passion, ambition, self-confidence and persistence. I would add that one should always have a goal in mind to start with. Once the goal is achieved, celebrate and then repeat the cycle.” Susanna adds that, “ Women should never apologize for being strong, bold, loud and persistent. I believe a woman shouldn’t need any extra skills, they can be themselves and should not be afraid of it.”
To end the series, our leaders have some advice for young women who strive to achieve professional success.
“Invest in yourselves: Learn with passion. Acknowledge your improvement. Embrace constructive criticism.” Gissu
“Achieving professional success is rougher for women in every society. First of all, I advise them to be aware of this fact, speak up and stand strong towards the inequalities that they or others face. Secondly, in my opinion there is not only one way of reaching the success. I advise them not to doubt themselves and the way they think it is right, and embrace their own uniqueness.” Iklim
Working alongside these inspiring, strong and powerful women is a pleasure every day and we can’t wait to see more women grow and be successful within our project, but also above and beyond its borders. There is nothing women cannot accomplish.
If you’re looking for more advice on female leadership, gender stereotypes, work-life balance, or just amazing career paths for inspiration, read more stories on our leading women here.