by Laurence Guihard-Joly
IBM General Manager, Global Technology Services
Dear young Laurence
I was invited to think for a moment about a thing or 2 I could share with you, a thing or 2 that might make you feel good today and in the future.
Writing to you now, it is just striking me that I am writing to you in English and not in our beautiful French language… then you know something is wrong here… or right may be 🙂
Then first, I will reveal to you: Yes! You will go to USA someday, yes you will go to the West, yes you will cross the Death Valley, and ride a horse in Arizona, and yes you will wear a cowboy hat and boots that day… Ah! Now I know I got your attention and you are going to read the following…
You are now 8 years old and you wonder why you are “just a girl”.
You wish you would be a boy, not a girl. Because boys around seem to be allowed to do everything in life. At school they can play football — in a country where only boys can play football — they can run and yell, they can play cowboys and Apaches. They wear jeans and ask for huge ice creams, and they do not have to wash the dishes. You are so frustrated when you are not allowed to go play ball in the field. You sometimes feel different, climbing trees instead of playing dolls.
Believe me; you will have as much fun being a girl. I encourage you to listen to your Mom and Dad and when they say you can do exactly what you like doing, and just go for your dreams, and always find a way, not give up and do not care so much about what the others say. Enjoy everyday, every minute that they will be there to encourage you in every step on the way. That is their wonderful gift to you.
Now you are so young, and it will look like science fiction at your age but anyway, here are some more simple tips you can add in your “Tips Treasury Box” and might hopefully save you some time & stress:
You will be 25 years old, and working hard, and you will wonder when you should have a baby…..
If you just look at your job, and care about your career for such a big personal decision, you could wait forever for the “right moment”… And it will never be the right time. There will always be something about the job, the next opportunity, the client etc. etc… Of course you are 25 and you believe this is SOooooooo important to choose the “perfect moment” to please your employer, your boss, your clients… That it will be SOoooooo defining for your future professional development.
Fact is that “there is never a perfect moment in the working life; this will never seem to be the right time, so just do it when you want, and that’s it!”… That is the best piece of advice that a manager gave me someday. Very seriously. And it served me well (of course, my Mom had given me exactly the same advice… but as much as we love our Mom… we take some pride at 25 to always do things differently…)
There will always be many reasons to wait and wait. Truth is that you should just trust yourself to feel when this is your “perfect time”, and let it be. Trust me on that one. And when the baby is there, then anyway, everything will look so different, so great, and you & the father, your family, your friends, your colleagues… will make it work!
You are 27 years old and you wonder why IBM is keeping you busy on the same Client Account for 5 years….
You feel impatient; you do not understand why some colleague of yours, a guy, has already moved to the next job. Not you. You have fun and enjoy the job, but you also feel a bit stuck there and wondering.
Believe me, do not worry about this, be patient and learn, learn, learn in this first experience for you. Come on… you know nearly nothing about real business, so enjoy the opportunity to learn in depth. Believe me you will benefit from every single experience, it will give you strength. Get deep skills, learn the job, learn an industry, get content, and learn enough to innovate, learn how to establish long term relationships and trust, build your own expertise and confidence. And get good valuable scars.
Work on every job as if it was the job you will do forever. Never think about any next move, before it is time to move on. And you will love the journey.
You are now 35 years old and you wonder if you could ask for a brand new job opportunity
One day, a mentor — you should always have a mentor — will send you a Harvard Business Review, and it is a defining moment that you will always remember, it is called “Nice Girls Don’t Ask” and its says that women are often socialized from an early age not to promote their own interests and to focus instead on the need of others. Also that women have a tendency to work hard and believe that they will be rewarded naturally for that, without asking. I can tell you that it is not the way it works in many working environments. If you want something and believe you will be the best at it, you have to create your opportunity. And first simply let people know what you want. Ask for it.
When you feel it is time to move on, to contribute differently, to share new experiences, to experiment a new idea, to jump into an “out of comfort” zone, so, go and ask for it. In your environment some people, will tend to try keeping things status quo that is more comfortable. So you are allowed to ask, you must feel in charge of your future, it is your responsibility. Go and ask for it. That is the best chance to get it!
You be kind with everyone
Finally, I would repeat again & again that “being kind” is a formidable strength in all your life, in everything you do, with everybody you love, you live with, and everybody you will work with. So do not listen to people who think that kindness is a weakness. They are just brainless. You will see, you can get that silly comment a lot in the working place — I got it in the past –but stick to your position, fight for it: be competitive, be enthusiastic, be demanding with you and others, go for the top performance, but above all : be kind!
Kindness is strength, it is very demanding, it is caring about people, it is looking at the half glass full, and it is a unique source of energy to work hard on making the world better. And it is how someday you will not just be willing to walk on the water… but instead you will freeze the lake and get your teammates cross the water with you! And of course, finally get your teammates to freeze the lake and help you cross…
It is an everyday discipline, it is more than being fair, and it is a long term investment on respect and trust, in life, as in the business. You won’t regret it.
With Love Laurence