Beatrix Praeceptor, Chief Procurement Officer at Mondi, a global leading packaging company, has built up quite an impressive career in male dominated industries and carved her way to leadership by what she described as ‘being bold’. We sat down for a chat to discover more about her journey and how aspiring leaders can create their own opportunities to enhance their careers.
“Yes, it can be embarrassing, you might have to fix things, you might have to say sorry but at the end of the day we are all human and making mistakes is part of our learning journey.”
Q1: Beatrix, you say that being bold is important to you. How do you define being ‘bold’?
A: “It’s about making decisions and sometimes making them quickly and that’s not only for leaders, that’s for everybody. Even if you don’t have all the information, be decisive and make a decision based on what you know at the time and live with the results.
“The other part where I think boldness is required is in standing up for others. Sometimes I think it’s easier to stand up for others first and then over time learn to stand up for yourself.”
Q2: Has there been a time when you made a bold decision but it didn’t work out for the best? How did you react?
A: “First of all, that happens. There is nothing bad about making mistakes and the majority of us don’t work in fields such as medicine where a mistake can be fatal. Most of the time, mistakes can be taken as learnings. What’s important, and perhaps also takes a bit of courage, is that you analyse why this decision was wrong and then next time you have experience and knowledge to make the right decision.
“I had an interesting experience with one of my coaches who asked me: ‘what’s the worst thing that could happen if it does go wrong?’ and I answered. Then she said ‘Okay, and if that happens, what's the worst thing that could happen then?’. Asking yourself this can take away a lot of the fear around making a bad decision because yes it can be embarrassing, you might have to fix things, you might have to say sorry but at the end of the day we are all human and making mistakes is part of our learning journey.”
Q3: How did you come to learn that you needed to be bold working in male dominated industries?
A: “I recognise looking backwards that I have always been rather bold. Already as a child, I learned that you need to step up if you want something to happen. Being one of four siblings growing up in a very conservative environment with clear assigned gender roles I was forced to be bold and go my own way.
“This continued in the industry. In the early 90ties, women were basically looked at as ‘nice to have' and if they appeared in business then it was to assist the male colleagues. But I never wanted to work behind someone. It takes courage to challenge hierarchies and to speak up when you think you can do something better than how it’s currently done. I was very fortunate because my first boss at Phillips was a great mentor and wanted me to be bold and succeed. From him I learned:
1. Never be afraid to state your opinion
2 Be reliable in delivering what you promise
3. Respect your colleagues in order to build trustful relationships”
Q4: How can women who perhaps aren't so naturally bold or adventurous tap into that part of their personality?
A: “If you want to grow your career then tap into your curiosity to learn new things and/or take a step outside of your comfort zone whatever that might mean to you, because that means something different for every individual. At least have a willingness and curiosity to try new things with a certain interest. That is something that I would recommend everybody to look for that feeling within herself. That is the basis for the next step.
“In order to have more confidence in the workplace, look for people who give you this energy. It won’t come by itself but I think it is so important to have a few safe places or people in the work environment, where they give you the energy you need to have this self confidence.”
Q5: I think it’s interesting that you said not just only creating opportunities but creating your own opportunities. Can you tell me more about what this looks like?
A: “The beginning of my career was built on ideas and projects where within my daily work I saw that there was something that should be done differently. The fact that I actually spoke up and sometimes went to four or five people and said, ‘Look, guys. we should work on that and this is how I think we should work on that.’ That gave me a certain visibility. Don’t have the mindset of ‘Okay, I will do that if I get more pay’ but, do it as an investment because then you can say ‘Hey, this is what I did already’ and then other opportunities will open. Perhaps even promotions because people are aware of you as a person who has ideas. Maybe they think: ‘I've talked to this person about this topic, she could be the right person for the job.’ If you have a chance to bring in your view or ideas, then do it.”
This interview was conducted as part of our leadership spotlight series, in which we aim to demystify the path to leadership for aspiring leaders by sharing a variation of journeys and defining moments.
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