Please find the English translation of the article “ Donne carriera expat, I consigli per farcela davvero” by Eleonora Mauri
Professional Women of Italy: it’s time to join forces! From now on, we hold the power in our hands! At least, towards an ever-wider reality. Having had enough of being just the “angels of the home”, the Italian women who have (re)discovered the importance of having ambition and career progression, face each challenge with vigour and confidence. They are the ones who choose to go abroad to fulfill their dreams (the expats), who become workaholics and who strive to prove their value in male-dominated work environments. So many challenges, but all of them can be overcome. How? The best tactic is…to ask for advice from those who have already done it! We talked with Marta Paiar who works in Vodafone Group in London.
As a professional in a competitive field, which are your strategies to make yourself known and recognised by new customers? The strategies I use to become known both to external and internal customers of the company are quite simple:
- Analyse each situation and understand what you have to do,
- Communicate to both internal and external customers what will be accomplished,
- Work hard and diligently, showing professionalism and integrity so as to achieve what agreed,
- Assume the responsibility of my (and my team’s) actions /outcomes and communicate them,
- Respect promises and commitments made
- Always be positive.
It happens that you work in predominantly male environments in particular. How do you cope? Simply, I always try to be myself, work hard and passionately, analysing the situation and achieving performance beyond expectations. But, above all, I do my best to stay positive. Moreover, I am kind of used to working in male-dominated workplaces since my first professional experience. The last few years, in particular, I’ve had the chance to make new female friendships and meet some role models, both within and outside the company, who have advised and helped me on a daily basis on how to move successfully in male-dominated – and very competitive – sectors. The pieces of advice they have given me are always very specific, sometimes aiming at making me reflect on how to approach the situation in a more strategic way, or sometimes how to manage a specific task. A piece of advice that I would like to share with other young ambitious professionals like me, is that you should not only dedicate yourself to your career, but be a well-rounded person, cultivating your own interests and maintaining a balance between private and professional life. You have also had much experience abroad. What are the advantages and disadvantages as compared to Italy? Firstly, being abroad gave me the opportunity of seeing new things and meeting new people, exploring every day various ways of approaching life and work. This teaches you to be more flexible, see things from different perspectives and find solutions to a problem using various methods, which guarantees a higher chance of success. Secondly, an international workplace is characterized by a strong dynamism, following models of “learning by doing”, promoting thus the direct contact with the supervisors and managers. Thirdly, [being abroad it gives you] the opportunity of having a wider understanding of the context, of the world around you. I believe that the main disadvantages are: the actual difficulty of adapting to a life in a different country with totally different language, practices and cultures and the risk of loneliness, since your loved ones, your own traditions and of course the beauty of Italy (and Italian cuisine!) are far away. Have you ever felt uncertain about this change of life? How did you overcome the difficult moments? Yes, of course I felt uncertain and, like everyone, I’ve had difficult moments. I have managed to overcome them thanks to clear objectives and my determination to achieve them. The moral support of my family, my partner, my friends and mentors, though, were equally important to me. Which are the soft spots that make you ditch everything and take a new path without second thoughts? There are four key factors. First of all, the curiosity of seeing the world and to learn from new situations and people. Then, the strong will to throw myself into the game and take the risk. Thirdly, the determination of seeking the opportunity and striving for a better future. Last, the affection and support of my loved ones and my friends, which, for me, is really important. Having someone who supports your decisions, who always cheers you up, who always believe in you no matter what, provides you with the necessary energy to move forward, even when you are not entirely sure about your own choices. You are very young, but you have already laid out a great career path. Which is the success strategy that brought you here? What are the thoughts that led you here? To be honest, it’s not a single strategy which has defined my choices: during my studies, I studied and worked hard; I tried to see the world, to learn different languages as well as learn on the job through field experiences (interships etc). Furthermore, out of necessity and in order to avoid remaining too much on a theoretical level, I had to experience very concrete jobs, like working as a waitress, which encouraged me to continue working hard and concentrating on my studies. I have tried to learn through various experiences, while still being very young, probably due to my impatient character along with my healthy ambition and curiosity. Nevertheless, at the very bottom of everything, it has always been my willingness to excel at my job, bringing value to the company and to the customers. Certainly, the fact that I encountered people from whom I could learn helped me a lot. Those people were [and still are] role models, mentors and people to whom I could talk openly and who helped open my eyes to life. Finding one of the best mentors in whom you can confide: this is a piece of advice to give to all those twenty-year old girls who desire to progress both on a professional and personal level. What do you suggest to those who, like you, are looking for good mentors? It’s difficult to meet people in whom you can confide. My piece of advice is to trust your instinct. Myself, I tried to find mentors with whom I felt I had many characteristics in common and whom I admired. In order to earn their support, I summoned up my courage and asked them, in the most direct and honest way possible, to become my mentors. More often, women (me included) are afraid of being rejected and this is what stops them; nevertheless, if you do not find the strengths to ask for help from other people, you will never get it. What I would suggest thus, to those looking for mentors, is to follow their own instinct and not to be afraid of asking for help from people who could be their potential mentors. Which is the strategy you will apply in the near future to achieve your own goals? Continue working diligently and never stop asking for advice from people I respect. Personally, I do my best to coach and mentor the younger people who ask for my advice. Above all, not to be afraid to risk as well as try and believe more in myself and my abilities. In your opinion, is it possible to combine an ambitious career with family life? How? I believe, from my own experience, that it is possible, if you have an understanding and flexible partner that stands by you. For more than ten years now, I have had a fantastic partner, Cornelius, who, despite the ups and downs in every relationship, has always supported me, advised me, encouraged me and who has accepted the fact that, when working hard, sometimes it is necessary to place my work before our private life. Besides, I have always tried to combine my career with our common life together with the same determination I show in achieving my goals at work. I have never meant to give my relationship with him for granted [and I still do not do it]. Moreover I try to avoid as much as possible the routine, giving him his space and equally taking mine. I do not have children, but I know some women (that I admire) who are able to combine having children and a career. I do believe, therefore, that it is possible, but of course, with some sacrifices!