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On April 3, the Business Women Network (BWN) in Shanghai had a fun while thought-provoking lunch session. Organized by Sara Jones, co-general manager of presales China, the lunch session was a meal to the stomach and the mind as well.

Two senior women leaders, Diane Fanelli and Angelique de Vries, were invited to share their stories and offer suggestions and insights on some of the common challenges that women colleagues face.

Diane Fanelli: COO of Platform Solutions Group (PSG),

Angelique de Vries: Head of Global Presales and Customer Experience

Being introduced to the group by Michelle Bai, I was lucky to get the final-minute invitation to the meeting. It was an hour well spent! Just as healthy was the lunch, fruit and chicken salad, the stories of Diane and Angelique provided some wholesome insights into our personal and career development.

Why Not’s

In Angelique’s words, “at SAP, there are always opportunities”. She started reminiscing about an important step she took in her career: moving to a sales role at SAP Netherlands. “Why not?” is what Angelique was thinking when she was making that decision. Angelique believed that it’s always up to us to make the best out of what we do.

Several years later, Angelique found herself asking herself  “why not” again. This time, she was asked to be the Managing Director of SAP Netherlands. As anyone else who has a decision to make, Angelique could say no. But, instead, she said to herself, “Why not? Let me have a try!”

Similar with Angelique’s case, Diane also changed a couple of roles which marked the steady growth of personal and career development. Learning from these two great leaders, every woman professional should never turn away from opportunities, changes, or challenges. Open the eyes and the mind. So if you feel like there is something you might like doing, don’t be stalled by the uncertainties and fear. Go and have a try!

Develop Ourselves

Diane Fanelli attributed her success to one of her traits as a constant and fast learner. She suggested that we should never stop learning; otherwise we will find ourselves restricted in the next step we would like to take. She advised us to pick an area we are interested in, either a solution or a particular market; try to think and learn more.

One other thing we could think about is to find a mentor who we can talk to and who will provide coaching for us. Diane Fanelli also mentioned the important role a sponsor can play in our career development. Different from a mentor, a sponsor is someone who talks about us, to advertise about us:  how excellent we are, what we can do, and what role we can take.

For me, this is very interesting. Keep learning, do our best, get sponsoring, these three things are indispensable from success and complementary to each other. Only when we have equipped with the knowledge and skills that are needed, can we do our job well, and only if we do our job really well, can we get sponsoring and recognition.

Play the Game

Now imagine we are ready to take a next step and we have found a role that that we are interested in and are able to develop into. As a female, we tend to have strong self-awareness. Facing new opportunities, we might fall into the trap of thinking like this: I could do this new job, but I have to do this and that of my current job and so on. Diane pointed out that sometimes we are not as adamant and confident as our male counterparts. In this sense, the self-awareness can be a detriment for us.

"It is a men’s world, and we have to play the game.” It might sound like a joke, but it is true. Be more confident, fight for what we want.