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Inspirational Woman: Agnieszka May-Sadowska | Area Vice President of Central and Eastern Europe at Commvault


Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

While I can’t say that I planned my career step by step, I did make some very conscious decisions while at university that I believe helped put me in the best possible position to achieve success.

Of course, an advantage for me is that I have always been interested in how businesses run and what makes them successful, for example what strategic decisions do companies make to ensure success?

In a sense this is probably how I have always approached my career, and, by doing my dissertation on strategic management I was in a perfect position to put everything I learned into practise – starting with my very first job xxx years back. Since then, I have dedicated my career to growing companies, studying the market, making as smart, informed decisions as I can and always being conscious of the long term results I was aiming for.

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

I face challenges of varying degrees every day – but in all honesty, given my ‘go getter’ personality, if there were no challenges and nothing to overcome, it’s highly likely that I would get bored.

That said, I am definitely someone who prefers to work with a plan, but when an obstacle does present itself, I feel it’s important to have the presence of mind to be flexible within reason i.e. if the obstacle can’t be moved, don’t fixate on the original plan but find a way to work around it. It might not be the original route you planned to get there, but the important thing is that you still achieve the goal, even if the journey takes a detour! Add a healthy dose of determination to stay focused, and you’ll go far in achieving your goals.

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

If you are keen to take on a leadership role, it’s important to remember is that there is a difference between being a manager and being a leader. A leader guides and develops ideas that support the day-to-day strategy, which is implemented by others. A leader’s role is to create a vision and a set of goals, sharing the desired end-result with the team and empowering them to create and follow a path to get there.

Leaders also communicate in a different way to anyone else in the business. They talk about “we” instead of “me”.

They talk about coming together as a collective to achieve a bigger goal. It is a mind-set change and often comes naturally to leaders as they step into this role.

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

Honestly, I have to say I have not often found myself in this position - there are always differences, even if small – that set people apart. Especially as you become more involved in hiring for more senior positions, the qualifications of candidates vary greatly.

However, if I did find myself in this unique situation, I would trust my gut feeling. The more you interview, the more you find that you have an intuition about people as soon as you meet them and I would advise following that. The other important factor to consider is how this candidate would represent your business. If they interact with partners and customers, would you be proud to have them be the face of your company?

How do you manage your own boss?

That is quite an interesting expression, “manage your own boss”- it’s kind of a contradiction in terms! I think the best way to have a great working relationship with your boss is to remember it is just that, a relationship, a two-way street based on trust from both parties, that has developed over time.

As an example my last boss and I had an excellent working relationship. We had similar ways of working, both being, goals and results driven, and focused on business outcome first and foremost. Working with a boss who has the same outlook as you do always makes it easier, but unfortunately this doesn’t always happen. I have worked for other people who are the complete opposite from me, and the biggest issue that created conflict was their impatience.

The best way to instill confidence in an impatient boss is to always set out a plan of action - show that you understand the end goal and have specific steps planned to achieve it.

You may not be able to give them the results they are looking for immediately, but well-thought out plan will always be appreciated.

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

I always try to start or end my day with exercise – granted this is easier said than done, but whenever I can I try to fit it in. Exercising is a great way to rebalance, relieve stress and clear the mind. It also inspires different ways of thinking and can present solutions to problems you never thought of.

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

Create an environment that cultivates celebrating success – especially your own. I strongly believe this is one area where we as women really sell ourselves short. We are quick to praise others, but often forget to do promote ourselves after a big win or successful project.

This also applies when looking for your next opportunity. If a job opens and you are thinking about applying, don’t over analyse or second guess yourself. Reflect on you experience and skill set – don’t doubt your abilities – believe in yourself and take the jump. You never know what doors it could open.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

If I look back to the start of my career the concept of mentoring was not as prominent within the industry, especially for women in such a male dominated environment as tech. Personally, I had to rely on my own confidence to go for it. I observed my male colleagues, adapted what they did and had conviction in my ability to achieve exactly the same as they did, perhaps even more!

I think this is a tried and true method of growing in your career. Find someone that you admire, in a position that you one day would like to fill, and emulate them. Learn from how they carry themselves, what they contribute in meetings and how others respond to them. Also, if there is someone who volunteers to mentor you and provide guidance and feedback, always take advantage of this, even if it is not necessarily someone who you would have chosen – you will definitely benefit.

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

I think networking is extremely important. We are social animals and can always benefit from meeting new people, expanding our connections and engaging in educational conversation. My three tips to a newbie networker are:

  • Networking takes time and effort to maintain. Commit to this and it will be worth your while
  • Show genuine interest in others - good networking is a two-way street
  • Ensure that who you network with aligns with what you hope to get out of it
What does the future hold for you?

I am really optimistic about the future. I am really happy with my professional achievements to date, but like everyone else I am still focused on career progression and looking for ways to better myself and my team. A new priority for me is also to find balance between my work and private life.

I am a mother who values her career, so finding time to nurture both is a new challenge that I am facing. But right now I am healthy, happy and living my dream – and I am not shy about sharing that.