Choose also what you don't want to do
- Not having a career plan is not the same as not seizing and creating opportunities, not making choices.
- There is no point in changing a job for the sole purpose of change.
- Going broad in self-development and rotating, helps a career evolving just as much.
Follow your heart. Be patient. Learn. Don't deny yourself. Choose also what you don't want to do. Keep your feet on the ground. Dare to take a plunge. Have fun. Be and stay happy with your job. These are advices that were explicitly addressed during the fifth virtual debate that TriFinance held with CFOs on the occasion of the campaign 'Leave your mark' and the publication of its interview book 'Zo maak je carrière in finance - Comment faire carrière dans la finance?’ (How to make a career in finance).
Two of the three panel members were interviewed in the book: Ann Desender of technology company Barco and Els Verbraecken of dredger Deme Group - two global players. The third debater is Maddy Lauwers, Client Partner CFO Services of TriFinance. Her colleague Client Partner Filip Ceulemans moderates the debate. The three panel members did not have a career plan at the start of their careers. Once again, Professor Ans De Vos (Antwerp Management School - UAntwerp) has proven that those who are successful often do not have a career plan.
Not having a career plan is not the same as not seizing and creating opportunities, not making choices. "Choosing also means making choices about what you don't want to do", Ann Desender points out. She opted for listed companies with an international character. For environments where she can learn and change a lot so that she can make a difference. "I get energy from grabbing things and making them move. Having an impact and being able to leave my mark".
Ask yourself once a year whether you are still happy in your job and whether you can evolve sufficiently.
Els Verbraecken, CFO DEME
Els Verbraecken’s driving force is to make Deme Group future-proof and to help determine the company's priorities. Maddy Lauwers adds the home situation as a factor of feeling good in her job. "My husband became a houseman", Els Verbraecken points out. For Maddy Lauwers, the values of a company, the people around you and the ability to learn all the time are three important characteristics for choosing a job.
The top women of Deme Group and Barco have been working for the same company for a long time. Does this not harm a career? “No, as long as a company is sufficiently large and evolving. It is true that changing organizations contributes to the learning process within a career. A new environment is good, but you can also find it within the same company. The most important thing is to be able to continue doing your thing and to be satisfied. It is also advisable to maintain external contacts. Anyway, there is no point in changing for the sole purpose of change", Ann Desender answers.
There is no point in changing for the sole purpose of change.
Ann Desender, CFO Barco
Els Verbraecken advises: "Ask yourself once a year whether you are still happy in your job and whether you can evolve sufficiently. I try to teach young high potentials that professional growth does not necessarily mean getting higher up the hierarchical ladder. Going broad in self-development and rotating, helps a career evolving just as much". Ann Desender adds: "At Barco we express our ambitions. Telling how you see yourself evolving is part of our processes".
Don't switch your mind off at the reception desk of your company. Come up with ideas.
Maddy Lauwers, Client Partner TriFinance
Maddy Lauwers emphasizes: "If you want to grow in your career, you have to dare to question things. Don't switch your mind off at the reception desk of your company. Come up with ideas. Have fun with what you do and make sense of it. Be and remain authentic. Dare to take hold of your career. Surround yourself with the right people. Learn from the things that have gone wrong and build self-confidence from what has been realized. Reflect on that.”
The panel members have the impression that the great attention given to digitalization in recent times has given rise to the erroneous perception that this evolution is completely new. At Barco, they were already making the blueprint of which and how many profiles are needed in the new environment, and where and when those people need to be provided in 2018. "Of course, the blueprint also indicates which profiles we have too many," says Ann Desender. She is in favor of steady evolution without shocks. The CFO of Barco sees coaching and training as the way to take everyone into the movement step by step and as a team. She adds: "Those who are stuck in their job and do not want to go along with the digitalization will not make it in the longer run".
Education and training solve a lot, says Els Verbraecken. "Automation and digitalization must anyway take place in a balanced way. It is true that there is sometimes an issue that has to do with age. However, we must not lose the experience and critical vision of older colleagues. It is a necessity for the success of the company and in the training of the younger workers. Deme Group is a project organization active in 60 countries with many different cultures. You can’t run such an organization on systems alone.
There are other trends besides digitalization. Maddy Lauwers mentions flexibility and being open-minded: following what is happening around you and in the world. She points out that these evolutions have also been going on for some time. She emphasizes that people are increasingly focusing on the meaning of their work. An important element to take into account.
The movement towards more central decision making is something that both the CFO of Deme Group and Barco indicate as evolution. Els Verbraecken: "The world is becoming increasingly complex. That requires more and more specialization - think, for example, of compliance and specific treasury services - for which you cannot provide specialists in every country where you are only temporarily active for the duration of a project. So we are centralizing more and that has an impact on the content of some jobs". Ann Desender explains that at Barco the evolution towards centralization is completed and that they combine the movement with strong teams in the various countries.
The debate has, how else could it be, a chapter on the corona crisis, in particular on the future of teleworking. Barco's CFO explains that she sometimes saw efficiency increase in the first weeks of working from home, but that a kind of 'sluggishness' has developed over the past few months. “Hybrid working - a combination of physical and virtual presence - has been around for a long time and the corona crisis gave it a boost. We will return to that mix. Finishing a task can be done at home, but interaction with people requires personal contact".
Els Verbraecken adds the issue of (mental) well-being to the conversation. "I sometimes have the feeling that virtual working produces results faster, but that the group vision gets a bit lost as a result: everyone looks at his/her own part and tunnel visions are created. Additionally, the separation between work and private life is a major concern when working from home". Maddy Lauwers emphasizes the healthy balance needed between working from a distance and physically working together. "People sometimes miss each other, especially those who work on projects or set up transformation processes. It is hard emotionally and mentally. Time for joint reflection - ParkTime as we call it at TriFinance - has been shattered".
With teleworking you have people who take the lead and others who are rather disappearing.
Ann Desender, CFO Barco
The CFO of Deme Group emphasizes the incredible resilience of her team and agrees: "I experience that some people distinguish themselves by teleworking in a structured way. While others get a little more lost and have difficulty keeping up the direction and efficiency". Ann Desender puts it like this: "Managers are confronted with the aspect of how someone behaves in that situation. You have people who take the lead and others who are rather disappearing. Managers need to work on that".
Finally, we mention Maddy Lauwers' thesis that there’s absolutely no lack of motivation among the over-50s and that they still have growth potential. "They still have 10 to 15 years to go in their careers.” TriFinance's Client Partner CFO Services talks about “wanting to learn” and “broad learning”. According to her, co-creation and working in a team are easier for financial profiles because they think analytically and process-wise.