The Women's Networking Breakfast offers women a great opportunity to listen and participate in the conversation about building successful careers and making an impact in the food industry as a woman.
5 tips for professional success
We gathered some tips for success from the WNB held at Hi Europe in 2016, where visitors gathered to hear the following inspirational women share their experiences and anecdotes:
- Sophia Nadur, Founder &Director Ideas 2 Launch
- Anke Sentko, Vice president of Regulation Affairs & Nutrition Communication, Beneo
- Jewell Sparks, Global Head of Innovation, Scouting & Inclusion – Business Innovation, Metro AG
- Lindsey Bagley, Technical Consultant, Eureka
- Denise Johnston, Vice President of Global Sales, Nemera
- Lu Ann Williams, Director of Innovation, Innova Market Insights
Tip 1: Create personal connections
Today’s professionals know that networking is a crucial part of their job. It opens doors to new opportunities for their business. As an entrepreneur, Sophia Nadur knows this better than anyone. She recalled the time after leaving her position in a big corporation, when she realised that reaching out for connections requires hard personal effort. Starting her own business meant that she needed to open what she called ‘my black book’ to reach for contacts made throughout her corporate career, who could help her ‘get things done’.
“Go to any networking event you can think of,’ Sophia Nadur advised. ‘Especially if you don’t want to, do it, because you never know who you are going to meet. A conversation can lead to something else later on.”
Jewell Sparks discussed how she used networking for getting to know others on a more personal level, which can come in handy for multiple reasons. “I think it’s very important to network and get to know other people on a personal level. I also think that when you first get a job you spend the first 6 to 8 months trying to overcome mindsets that are in place. In my opinion it’s harder as a woman because not only do you have to do your job, you also have to minimize mindsets that exist. Do your work, network, make an impact and then people cannot ignore you.”
Tip 2: Mentoring matters
Having a mentor you can trust and seek guidance from is an important form of support in any profession. Denise Johnston recalled how her mother provided her with a strong foundation to help her face challenges in her career.
“Having a believer, whether it is in your personal space or throughout your career, from my perspective has been key in helping me face those daunting challenges at work and at home,” said Denise Johnston.
Sophia Nadur’s mentor helped her build the courage to leave a high profile position and pursue a career that reflected her ideas of running a business with long-term focus. Eventually that decision lead Sophia to her personal journey of where she is today. “Sometimes you have to make that brave step to go to somebody for advice and take that advice, it can change your life.”
Lindsey Bagley reminded the audience that mentorship is a reciprocal process which benefits both the mentor and the protégé. “Back in the 70s I was mentored by males who actually said to me ‘your way of thinking is challenging our way of doing things’ - that was great and we need to continue to do that.”
Tip 3: Promote yourself
The women addressed the fact that one should have people through whom you can inform others of your achievements. This creates a bridge for others to get to know about your successes without promoting yourself too directly or being perceived negatively. As an example, Sophia Nadur talked about how important it had been for her to develop close relationships with a couple of members on the board of a company who would give her recognition for her achievements during board meetings. “That was a useful way to get accolades without necessarily pushing it,” she explained.
Jewell Sparks talked about challenging herself to acquire the necessary social skills, which helped her communicate with people outside the scientific sphere.
“A lot of the people who were getting the credit or attention for all the hours that they would spend on something, knew how to communicate. As a scientist my social skills were not that great, I personally challenged myself to acquire some of those skills. I realized that it was very important to be able to communicate with others no matter how technical the subject, in order for the average person to understand, so you can bridge the gap. It really makes a difference in the world.”
Tip 4: Be a team player
The panel was very clear about the importance of having a good team in place, especially so when starting your own business. Some women explained that managing is about believing in others and letting them feel support through both successes and failures. Having trust in your team will create a productive work atmosphere.
“If you have a good team you can carve out the areas in your business that you are really passionate about. Focus on making sure that you have a really strong team within the right expertise and within certain areas which you can delegate,” advised Jewell Sparks.
In any business it always comes down to working together as your own capabilities will not surpass the ones of a team.
“It doesn’t matter how good you are, you’ve got to hire the right people. It’s the hardest thing to do as a manager, hire the right people who will perform. It’s all about trust and it’s all about support,” said Denise Johnston.
Tip 5: Be daring
To reach the desired outcome personal perseverance will be what it takes. As some of the panelists said: it is you who must seek opportunities outside your given position to show people that you want to grow. Often, it is about setting yourself a clear focus which is driven by determination that will lead you to a desired position.
Anke Sentko reminded the audience that today women have more opportunities to ask for help when balancing between family and career. Being bold about wanting both a career and a family was key to her success. “My guide through my life is: do what you like. To have both success with family and business, you will have to find that balance. Don’t be afraid.”
Denise Johnston highlighted the importance of taking your professional success into your own hands. Especially as a woman you need to push hard to get noticed.
“You’ve got to speak up, you’ve got to ask questions, you’ve got to get out of that comfort zone. Women tend to take a bit of a back seat in group situations maybe they feel a bit intimidated. Ask questions, speak up, and make yourself heard!”