We had a candid conversation with Lean In Melbourne member – Laura Segovia-Pinacho. Laura has lived and worked in five countries, built her skills and sought out coveted opportunities in the hardest of times. Laura shares her unique journey and how she adopted a growth mindset that allowed her to thrive in both her personal and professional life. We felt that she is the embodiment of resilience and asked to share her learnings with the community.
You have a wealth of knowledge and experience that you’ve gathered from living and working in 5 different countries (Spain, NZ, Japan, Singapore, and Australia) – a lot of this whilst you were juggling establishing a family, motherhood and building your career and experience. How did you balance the responsibilities that come with each role in a way that maintains your mental and physical health?
Taking family decisions sometimes comes at a price for one’s career and in my case that was exactly what happened. Moving to a country like Japan where I could not speak the language, meant that I had to put my career on hold. My advice to others is to set your own intellectual challenges if you are in a situation when you cannot work, and your family takes centre stage. Understand that you are your children’s role model so you don’t neglect your drive to achieve your own goals.
In my case I set the goal to learn Japanese and pass the official language exam while I was living in Tokyo, so once I was able to return to work, I was mentally ready and confident to face the challenges ahead. When I moved to another country, my career became a priority and my husband supported me in this and picked up the rest. In a way I was ruthless in making sure everyone in my family understood that I had to dedicate my time and focus on returning to work and I needed their contribution. This was my time and I was not going to look back.
You mentioned that you are achieving more now than you were when you graduated despite the added responsibilities and roles – what inspires your resilience and determination?
I grew up in a household where my mum was very dyslexic and therefore, she could not contemplate the idea of going to the University despite everyone around her being graduates. I always saw in her the drive to achieve in her own right as she was perfectionist in what she knew she could do well. I think that I have the same determination to succeed that is propelled by the natural energy that Spanish people have. What is very clear is that I was always very goal oriented and fearless but what I have acquired with time is direction and visualisation of how to use my strengths in a more effective way. Those two ingredients have been very positive to reach further distances.
You are the Key Account Manager at a Fortune 500 company and you have a diverse range of experiences working in various multinational companies. What helped you to make and be confident with transitioning to new companies to progress your professional growth?
I returned to Australia in 2008 at the peak of GFC when big companies started to reduce staff and cut costs. That meant that as I was the last employed, I was one of the first to be let go. To that business I represented a cheaper redundancy than colleagues who were underperforming but were there for much longer. It was a numbers game. I learnt that in some circumstances it doesn’t depend on your performance to be the chosen to leave. Although painful, I always took it as an opportunity to ensure that in my next role I was adding layers to my trade, not just replicating what I had done before in a similar industry, and by doing that I was expanding my portfolio of skills. I saw it as an opportunity and kept looking ahead.
When looking for work it was always important to me that I select a business which was a market leader in their field and well known by the Industry. By being selective I was not only driving my career, but I was learning lessons on how to handle the clientele that only leaders have and therefore I further developed my very high standards. This aligned to my character, but it is important to align your values as well. If you misplace your talent in a company that is publicly known as unethical, that can become poison to your hard-built resume. It is important to understand that when you apply to work in a leading company, you don’t apply for a role, you apply for a career. They want to develop you as one of them. You have to be prepared for it and accept that sometimes what you do there is just a steppingstone, a skill development ground.
Mentors play a significant role in career progression and give guidance when you meet hurdles. You did not have a mentor in your early career and many women are still very limited in their access to a mentor seeking guidance. How and where did you find your drive to push on by yourself?
We live in an environment that is ever changing but more importantly, the speed in which the changes are imposed, has exponentially increased. It is comforting to have a sounding board to discuss your thoughts and get an outsider’s view so we can guide our steps with more confidence. Also, mentors are supposed to push us outside of our comfort-zone so we can stretch and develop a growing mindset. I did not have a mentor until recently, but since I got one, others have seen more senior pieces of work coming from me. To have mentors also takes you out of the insularity of the company to the broader stage, where you can interact with professionals in other industries. Mentors are truly important when you want to elevate your career to a different level. It is very difficult to find a significant professional who got there without the support of others. The higher you go, the more political the game is and the more reflection, guidance and sponsorship is required.
A network like Lean In was not common when you were completing university and embarking on your career. This has changed in the past decade or so and, now, you are a strong Lean In supporter; what are the top 3 things that you have learned from being a part of Lean In that you wish the younger you knew?
These are times where collaboration is the norm and the key for success. Lean In is the perfect vehicle for professional women to network and to be confident in doing so. Men know the power of network very well as they have been practising it from the beginning of their careers. Many female professionals haven’t been confident in continuing networking, so once family priorities come along, a lot of us have had to give up our professional growth. By doing this we put ourselves at a disadvantage and when we want to return to the forefront of our careers, we have to start from a lot further back than if we had kept a professional network.
There are three things I learnt by participating in Lean In Melbourne: firstly it should be a priority for a professional female to network as a way to reinforce professional assertiveness that sometimes doesn’t come naturally. The second lesson is to have a space where you can open up about your vulnerabilities in a safe environment, this helps to liberate ourselves of the burden of inadequacy; and thirdly is to experience that leadership comes in all styles and therefore you can become a leader/role model for others.
Inspired by these stories, we wanted to know more! So naturally, we asked Laura some quickfire questions to help you draw from her contagious energy.
What motto do you live by? Get ready
Favourite Lean In Melbourne event you’ve attended so far? Towards Global Citizenship. Megumi’s (the speaker) point on being aware of the power games in a group to understand their approach to the ones who represent the minority within the group, was quite an eye opener.
What is the best advice you’ve gotten? It’s also my favourite quote: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Your favourite movie that you would recommend everyone to watch? “The Untouchables”. It is all about looking deeper into others. It is about the unlikely friendship that blossoms between a French fully disabled millionaire and his helper, who comes from the opposite end of the French society. They both grow by not looking into the outside -the disability- but looking into what was possible. I have that movie on my mind constantly.
Tina Brunet is a social justice advocate, manages Customer