Women Driving Change, and interview with Helene Do, VP Customer Success APAC
Until further notice – Celebrate everything!
Passionate and harmonious altruist, Helene Do – Vice President, Marketo, is a globe trotter who traveled across three continents in pursuit of her dreams. Born in Paris to a Vietnamese family, Helene grew up with a glamorous lifestyle of France. She graduated in traditional Finance from the prestigious ESLSCA, Paris only to discover that the lure of ‘cool tech firms’ would soon become her true calling. Exploring and discovering the innovative world of high-tech in her school lab, Helene knew she would not pursue a career in Finance. (She would later marry a finance professional to cover that gap!) She chose to follow her love for the up-and coming IT industry and its progressive culture. Working with high-tech industry leaders like Hyperion, Compaq, Oracle, Adobe and her latest expedition with Marketo, the global leader in Engagement Marketing Platform solutions, Helene carved her own path into the emerging world of technology, thus setting a trend for women across the globe.
In this plastic world, her authenticity is refreshing. Her ability to see good in people and the silver lining in every situation are the pillars for her success. Her coaching knowledge at work and for her clients at Dress for Success taught her to stop giving answers and to engage in conversations where people (re)-discover their potential to climb mountains and find the next step to live a meaningful life. She uses it often to bring together, people from different walks of life, for an optimized result.
She draws her strength from her close-knit family. A mother, a wife and a friend – Helene believes in complete work-life integration. Having lived in France, Singapore and Sydney, Helene has learned the importance of having multicultural awareness. She values strong communication and high Emotional Quotient and uses them as the key qualities to succeed in a diverse work environment. Her belief in the multi-cultural fabric extends into her personal life, where as a family they embrace it by speaking French, learning different languages i.e. Mandarin, German and Japanese and travelling around the globe to discover and savour different cultures. It is accentuated by her close connection with both her children, the savvy teenager Marie and her adopted son Matthieu – who flaunts Indonesia as his birthplace.
Helene is a Woman Driving Change, helping the world discover the good in themselves and in others.
Q: What does ‘drive change’ mean to you?
A: Your question made me smile. My 16 years old daughter is learning how to drive and I am going to use that analogy. I am not driving anything, mechanically or emotionally, when we are in the car together!
Driving change in an organization is much more efficient when you are in the passenger seat and you empower others to embrace change and implement their own versions of it. It is harder if change is imposed compared to when they are allowed to make the decision to change on their own. Before making the final transition, every individual goes through a personal cycle of denial and a grieving phase. I see my role as being the coach, letting them learn at their own pace and encouraging them to take charge in an early stage, as it is important that they develop their own reflexes. When they feel they are ready, they will take on the challenge. But they will never forget how you have led them with the bad, the good and the ugly along the way. If an accident occurs, it is another change; they can drive on their own and even teach others. I cannot wait for my daughter to teach her brother.
Driving is a skill acquired for life. Similarly the ability to bring change into your personal and professional life is also an essential skill for life. I position change as an opportunity to learn something new and to grow. Without change I get restless.
Driving change can be exhausting but it is addictive. The way it makes you feel is invaluable.
Q: What problems have you faced/do you face by working in an industry that has predominantly been male oriented and how did you become so successful in this field?
A: In an offsite meeting, my male colleagues once wondered what their wives and children were doing. They asked about my wife, I replied and we laughed. I was able to reach that level of comfort with my colleagues where they forget my gender and think of me as one of the team.
The tough thing about being a woman is that you are constantly being judged, more by yourself than others. I saw myself spending way too much time reaching perfection, analyzing data and lobbying my ideas in small groups before coming to meetings. I worked on my presentation, on voice projection and on negotiation skills. While this was useful to build credibility and confidence, overtime I chose to be smarter and leverage my network better.
Working with men and being successful are not mutually exclusive. I turned the hindrance into an asset by finding ways to better collaborate with my male peers. This strategy worked out to be very effective in driving results. In Japan and Korea, my male team members turned out to be my strongest allies.
Each one of us, men and women have different qualities. Our strengths can be complementary. Women are patient and have nurturing qualities. I don’t mind repeating, listening, rephrasing, to create a non-threatening environment where even the most insecure of us all can leave their egos at the door and collaborate in a trustworthy manner.
Q: How do you manage work-life balance?
A: Did you notice that my family appears in all my answers? It is not balanced, it is integrated. When they see me studying after work and living a glamorous life on planes, my family and friends will tell you that work IS my life, of course, it is balanced! All parts of our family life are integrated with the constraints of work but I don’t feel we are making sacrifices. We took the integration to the next level when my 5 years-old, travelled with me to sponsor an orphanage with my company. Together we attended a meeting with the CFO of a brewing company in the Philippines. I still think the trip was momentous in extending my relation with my customer to that of a lifelong friend.
We stopped being guilty and living life on the moment. If we miss a Birthday, we catch up with an even bigger celebration.
The concept of brainstorming and board of directors landed at home too. The children host “holiday meetings” and “after school rules discussion” meetings. They have an equal say in the formal voting process for key family’s decisions. My daughter put forth a successful proposal on why learning French was sufficient and Mandarin could be dropped. My son is still lobbying for an oversized trampoline in the backyard; on-hold till he can present a refined safety argument. The kids researched and planned a family trip to Japan, their dream destination, but conveniently forgot to include budgets in their plan. Formal meetings at home might seem silly but this is my way of work-life integration.
Life is busier than ever but we are just grateful for every happy moment that comes our way and we try to make the most of it.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: World Domination! (She laughs). I have lived in Europe, Asia and Australia and I would like to experience the lifestyle of the rest of the world now – North America, Latin America and then back to France.
Today I split my time equally the corporate world and the community. I would like to play a bigger role in the community. I want to help other women (and even men) find their true calling.
Q: What advice would you like to give all the women leaders out there?
1. Drop some *****: Remove the guilt completely – you do not have to be everything to everyone. Know your priorities and focus on them, one ball at a time. It is also important to walk away from toxic situations and relationships. You need to understand the difference: it is okay to be a friend and listen to them vent, but it is not okay to accept a negative comment from them or to overlook an insult. You need to set those boundaries.
2. Mindfulness: Being mindful implies being completely aware of yourself, of every moment of your life, of each of your actions, your strengths and your values. Every day we go through certain activities. When they are new we are aware of each little bumps and rises but overtime we end up just going through the motions. Every human interaction and activity, physical or emotional trains the brain to become better. Hence being self-aware can greatly enrich our life-experiences and keep life enjoyable.
And most importantly
(I love this sign)
3. Celebrate Everything: At quarter-end, go for high tea (yes with men too), celebrate a mistake and how you corrected it. Have Fun. Wear new colours, do something new every month, block recurring appointments to the hairdresser that cannot be cancelled and be accountable to your mentor. He/she may learn something too.
Rather than being lost in the past or being inundated by the future, live in the present! Believe that there is something out there for you – you just need to make it happen. Reach out to people, mentors and friends to help you find your path! And then maybe you can help them too.
By Monali Supramanyam.