Life and career advice from successful leaders

By Lisa Francis-Jennings

Imagine your most fruitful, memorable, enjoyable, rambunctious & rewarding conversations. March 8th saw a unique gathering at PwC headquarters, our event sponsor, for the Life and Career Advice from Successful Leaders event. Together with PwC Luxembourg, the AMCHAM team brought together an amazing panel of successful people from across business sectors, to celebrate International Women’s Day with a Kitchen Table Conversation.

John Parkhouse (CEO, PwC Luxembourg), kicked off the evening with a welcome to the approximately 200 men and women in the audience, opening remarks were given by Paul Schonenberg (Chairman & CEO AMCHAM), and then speaker introductions were made by Vinciane Istace (Diversity and Communication Leader, PwC Luxembourg).

The panel consisted of Viviane Reding (MEP), Marie-Jeanne Chevremont-Lorenzini (Independent Director, MJC Conseil), Véronique de La Bachelerie (Administrateur Délégué, SGBT/DIRE), Genna Elvin (‎Owner, TADAweb), ​and John Parkhouse (CEO, PwC Luxembourg).

Special guest and keynote speaker, Viviane Reding, stressed the importance engaging with others in conversation. This simple but powerful first step is integral to breaking the silence, which enables social and structural barrier to equality. Following brief statements that summarized sage advice for career and personal life, from her fellow panel members, the collective group told short stories and gave life lessons, shared personal anecdotes and used a bit of humor while discussing tips for success and giving advice for people at every stage of their career.

The panel discussion, moderated by Lisa Francis-Jennings, and organized in a Kitchen Table Conversation format, was a spontaneous and lively dialog that not only produced a rich field of advice, but spilled out into the informal networking afterwards. The advice fell mainly into 5 categories for organizing yourself for success…

Planning & Preparation: Understand your true career aspirations. Break down the steps needed to achieve your goal. Know your strengths and don’t be afraid to sell them. Organize your back-office at home like you organize the back-office at work. Set you priorities. Change them as required.

Attitude & Commitment: Be passionate; find something you love to do, figure out where (and/or how) it fits and do it! Be excited to get up every Monday. Think about what reputation you want to have; and then be true to the principles that will build it. No matter how hard you try, remember that part of the equation is luck, so be humble and helpful to others. The impact of being in the right place at the right time cannot be underestimate; get out and network! Be grateful for your successes and help others when you can. The more each of us succeeds the more we all suceed. Reframe the conversation; don’t get stuck in one perspective. It is not about men or women, it is about humans.

Connection and Networking: Surround yourself with good people; recognize their talent. Leverage and encourage the talent in each other. Enlist support from those around you. Help others get ahead. Look for Role Models and emulate the best in them. Find a Mentor and a Sponsor. Networking is as much a part of your job as any other element. Make time to network – and make it a priority – throughout your career.

Community Action: Be an activist in your community. Be a voice for those who have none. Demand equal treatment and equal pay for equal work. If you have children in school, get involved; know what and how your kids are being taught. Understand that we are all the problem, men and women (see this video from BBC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWu44AqF0iI). You may never be able to fully know every unconscious bias you have, but continue to reflect and educate yourself.

Courage & Tenacity: Have a dream. Give yourself permission to ask for what you need: be ready, willing and able to sell yourself and your ideas. Think about you key message, rehearse it, make sure you are clear and succinct, then ask. If you don’t, how will anyone know.  Know your competencies – try to be the best at something. Always have champagne, or a good Luxembourgish crémant, on hand. Celebrate failure, then move on. You will fail again. Don’t dwell on it.

The panel discussion was followed by refreshments and very animated networking. All in all, a totally inspirational evening. Comments from people in the audience included: “I learned things that I can do tomorrow to make a difference”, “I now know I must face my fear and succeed, not just for me but all women”, and “the panel was so relaxed and informative, I felt like I was sitting in the circle with them, gaining from their knowledge directly”.

AMCHAM would like to thank panel members, for their high-quality comments and engaging conversation on the topic, and the organizations that helped make this event such a success: PwC event sponsor, AVRIS, American Women’s Club of Luxembourg, Equilibre, Femmes Leaders Luxembourg, IMA, The NETWORK, WIDE and Women in Business, loyal partners that support AMCHAM’s ongoing effort to keep diversity and gender balance on the forefront of business conversation.