Ten years ago, I got a call from a recruiter in Capgemini Canada asking me if I was interested to take on an account controller role. Finance is normally considered a “back office function,” and a client-facing opportunity was more appealing to me. However, looking back over the past 10 years, I can’t imagine my life going in any other direction.
As the first account controller in Capgemini Canada, there was not much precedent that I could follow. With support from the account team, I successfully completed multiple commercial contract audits, achieving desired outcomes. In this role, I learned a very important lesson – the most important asset for financial professionals is knowledge of the business. The more we understand the business, the better advice we can provide to them. After three years in the role, I was promoted to Canada Controller, where my responsibility expanded to include the delivery aspect of finance.
On Christmas Eve, 2012, I got a call from China informing me that my mom had been hospitalized and was in a critical condition. I got on a flight next day and ended up trying to close the book for the end of the year sitting by my mom’s hospital bed. When I was struggling with what to do next, Capgemini China opened the door for me in 2013. They gave me the opportunity to manage an operation for one of the largest service lines. In 2015, I had an opportunity to lead a P&L focused on MNC clients. Last year, my small team successfully transformed from a project management role to a client service manager and overachieved our target.
The business environment and the clientele in China are unique in their own right. In the past 3 years, I have been learning the ropes while applying global practice in China. The best leaders are those that can appreciate the differences that individuals bring to the table and understand how to put them to full use. I have learned a lot from my colleagues and our clients that, in turn, reflect in the decisions I make and the team I lead.
The most important leadership lesson I have learned is “Think less about being a perfect fit, rather, demonstrate your appetite and willingness to adapt and learn on the job and tackle challenges you haven’t mastered”. When opportunities arise, look for assignments that will get you out of your comfort zone so you can develop skills that will take you to the next level. My career in Capgemini has spanned from finance to operation and then to P&L – from a supporting role to leading a business. This transformation came from my persistence to keep trying and never stop learning. I may sometimes stumble and fall over but I make sure to learn and reflect from those moments.
In March 2013, Sheryl Sandberg published her book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead”. I have read it four times and it has become one of my favorite books. Women are known to value their relationship with others; in the context of the business, women value the team. I have a weekly call with my team to discuss their priorities and concerns. I give them my suggestions and listen to their feedback. We toss around ideas before coming up a solution. Every month, I send out team performance results and their individual results. We discuss everything – the good, bad and ugly. The most important thing is that we learn and decide on the best solution moving forward. Throughout my career with Capgemini, I have been surrounded by female role models: Alva Qian, Kimberly Lesley, Jane Diercks, just to name a few. They continue to inspire me to be authentic and empathetic.
My work-life balance has always been a challenge. My family lives in Toronto, with my son going to the University this fall, and I work in China so I can spend more time with my mom. With great support from Capgemini China leadership, I have been able to focus on the most important aspect of my life when I need to, whatever that aspect may be. For that, I am forever grateful.
The ‘La Niaque’ spirit of Capgemini is what inspires me most. My career with this great company demonstrates that in both business and life, we must fight for what we believe in.