Lynn Collier is the Chief Operating Officer UKI at Hitachi. Here she shares her career journey with WeAreTheCity.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

At the beginning, honestly no, but I believe it’s like anything in life, if you have a view on where you’re going you’re more likely to reach your destination. The key is not just having a plan, but working towards it, seizing opportunities as they come up and also being flexible.

Over the years, it’s fair to say that I’ve taken some sideways moves in terms of job opportunities, but that has given me a breadth of experience that has become particularly useful in recent years as I’ve taken on more senior positions. It’s good to have a plan, but it’s also good to adjust it as you move forward and different opportunities present themselves.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

Like most people I’ve faced challenges and frustrations along the way, and one thing I’ve learnt is that self-awareness is absolutely imperative to dealing with them. Knowing why you’ve found yourself in that challenging position will go a long way to helping you find your way forward. If you make it a habit to appreciate and listen to feedback, then what you choose to do after that is entirely up to you, but at least you have a picture of why things are the way they are. It is also key to tap into your network and build a community of people that you can interact with when challenges arise.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?

The first thing is to recognise that, while a leadership role can be very daunting, once you get into it you discover just how exciting and rewarding it can be. To get there, you just need to be confident in your own abilities and your perspective on the business, and be clear about the value you bring to the role.

It’s also really important to avoid trying to be someone that you’re not, and be authentic in your style.

Don’t be afraid to seek input from your peers, management or mentor if you have challenges or concerns – because that’s what they’re there for.

No one has all the right answers, but consulting your trusted network and sounding people out will help you to get the input and feedback you need to make the right decisions.

When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?

As well as the explicit skills and experience to fulfill the role, I always investigate other attributes such as attitude and whether someone is a good cultural fit for the team – which I believe are equally as important. Just because someone looks right on paper or has the right credentials, doesn’t mean they are going to fit in with the team culture or have the drive and enthusiasm to make the job a success. In an interview situation, the passion and drive that people demonstrate is key.

How do you manage your own boss?

I can answer this very simply: it all comes down to open and regular communication.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

The one thing I like about the role that I have today is that it is varied. No two days are the same, but typically I am an early riser. I always arrive in the office early and check emails, read documents or prepare presentations. Once the day begins in earnest, it usually involves meeting colleagues or external contacts, running through a sales engagement, facilitating a workshop or even presenting industry forums. At the end of the day I try to schedule some time to ensure I’m following up on my agreed actions and preparing for activities for the rest of the week.

What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations?

When I emigrated to Australia, I was given great advice from a relocation consultant I worked with, which was to “always be a joiner”. What she meant by that was to be visible and be engaged, because – particularly as women – we need to overcome unconscious bias and manage our personal profiles.

You need to ensure it’s not just your immediate team or your manager who know who you are and what you stand for, but that the wider community know as well.

Don’t be afraid to showcase your successes, because no one else will do it for you.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

I have benefitted from both coaching and more formal mentoring in the past. It’s about continuing to seek input and opinions from those whose values you share, and from role models for certain skill sets and behaviour. I think increasingly in business, with adaptive change being the key for so many companies, there are a lot of people with whom you can engage informally and I continue to do that too. It’s also important to give back. I do a lot of coaching and I am a mentor for people both within Hitachi and outside.

Do you think networking is important and if so, what three tips would you give to a newbee networker?

Whatever you do, wherever you are in business and in your personal life, networking is crucial. It is an activity that requires care and attention. You need to be proactive and engaged through social media in various community and special interest groups; attend industry briefings and relevant events; and keep connected face-to-face.

As the saying goes: “Make new friends but keep the old, for one is silver the other gold”.”

What does the future hold for you?

I’d like to think it’s full of amazing opportunities and I believe it is. It holds the opportunity to work in a changing and dynamic organisation like Hitachi, be part of social innovation projects and look at how we can harness the art of the possible to help students in school to take advantage of STEM subjects and develop their careers. I think most of all, it’s about breaking free from preconceived ideas about how business is done, the impact technology can have in society and the role women can play in the world; it’s about being able to embrace new challenges with innovation and exciting solutions.