Spotlight on: My first year as a leader
Carla studied international business management, and then went on to complete the Management Start Up trainee program at Roche’s marketing and sales department. She is now Sales Manager of the Hospital Point of Care division at Roche Diagnostics Germany.
To become a leader – is this my goal? After successfully completing her studies, Carla had to decide which professional steps to take next. The Management Start Up trainee program at Roche offered her an opportunity to thoroughly explore this question.
You have taken up a managing position at a fairly young age – Which path did you take to get here?
The trainee program offered me a great opportunity to gain insights into various areas of the company and get to know different styles of leadership. Afterwards, I took a position in Account and Key Account Management that allowed me to put all the experiences I had gained in indirect staff management into practice. Coaching my colleagues and joining our forces to successfully complete a project was the most rewarding task for me. The next logical step was therefore direct management. I started in my current position in April 2017.
How did you prepare for your managing position?
My first management position also entailed a change in department – therefore, I had two challenges to deal with simultaneously. Thanks to my experience at Roche, I was able to quickly grasp the technical aspects, leaving more room for me to focus on leadership. When I started, I laid out a 100-day plan. However, after the first month, I realized that things often don’t go as planned, and I threw it out. I had been focusing on strategic issues, yet operational tasks were far more important at that stage. I learned a lot from this period, most of mental flexibility, composure, and poise. My advice to you is:
Stay calm, and don’t lose sight of your goal.
What is your biggest challenge?
Virtual management! In sales, you don’t always get to see your staff in person. Conversations are held on the phone or as video conferences. It’s a lot harder to interpret the emotional state of your co-workers through the phone than face-to-face. It can take longer to get to know your team this way and to build mutual trust.
Another thing to be aware of is that as a manager, you take responsibility no longer just for yourself, but for your whole team. It’s crucial to have a higher goal – a team vision – that will guide the way and create a sense of unity. This vision should fit into the context of the company and department strategy. Every personnel change sets a team back to its „discovery phase“. This poses a challenge for both the team and its manager. But it is also a chance to bring in fresh momentum and to grow as a team.
Which qualifications are required for a managing position?
Speaking from my own experience and from what I learned from various other managers, it’s not really possible to plan a managing position for yourself. You can work towards this goal, but as in all areas of life, a little bit of luck is needed. What is definitely required is the will to lead other people, to coach them and to organize every working day. The biggest appeal for me was and still is being an entrepreneur within a company. This means leading other people to use their strengths accordingly, and create the basis for joint success. A good knowledge of human nature is a helpful tool. Additionally, strong technical knowledge is required. It helps, of course, if you have yourself worked in the positions you are now managing, though in reality, this may not always be possible. I think the desire to make a change and to stay flexible at mind in the process, as well as being able to make decisions without knowing all the facts, are crucial skills for a managing position.
What would be your advice to co-workers that are striving for a managing position?
Networking, networking, networking. And of course being open with your direct manager and informing them of your wish for professional growth. However, you need to be aware that your development lies in your own hands.
A certain interest for the bigger contexts within the company, locally and globally, is required. You should encourage a tolerant, mindful and appreciative work environment. Periodic constructive feedback from your superiors will help you to fuel your development and fine-tune your self-reflexion skills.