Myriam, how do you find a balance between your personal and your professional lives?
I’ve never seen them as opposites! I love my work. I’ll even go further: I just love working and making things happen. When I was at high school and my classmates went off on their summer holidays, I would stay at home and get a summer job – at Zurich Main Station, or on the Migros checkout. The work was pretty hard. But I was proud to wear that Migros uniform, and delighted to be gaining this working experience.
Do you find that you can apply what you have experienced in the working world to your personal life, too?
In my work I’ve learned to conduct difficult discussions, and not to shy away from conflict. For a long time I’d got used to being appreciated: everyone liked me and I liked them. Then, about a year after I’d earned my degree, I was put in charge of a team who were all about 10 to 20 years older than me. They were mainly Americans, too, who had a very different attitude to conflict than I had. Some of them had even applied for my job, but hadn’t been selected. And a few of them did try to put the occasional spoke in the wheels. I could have thrown in the towel. But I was determined not to. I dug deep and told myself that this was the path I had chosen, and this was what I wanted to do. That was the moment I started to get interested in leadership, in personal development and in defining my goals. And it helped me lay the foundations for all my subsequent growth.
What do you feel companies should do to help their employees find a better balance between their private and their professional lives?
I think that flexibility is the key word here. If the employer and the employees each bring a little goodwill to the table, that balance should be well possible to achieve. Studies have proved that when employers show more flexibility, even their employees who have a lot of family obligations will be willing to work more.
Technology today offers us so many new opportunities, too. If an employee finds it hard to attend a meeting that’s held every Tuesday at 7:30 in the morning, they can maybe make up for their absence by doing some work on their laptop at home after dinner. I’m also convinced that parents who work part-time are often a huge asset for their company. They’re really used to doing things as efficiently as possible, they hate wasting time and they appreciate the opportunity to do something away from the home.
Young people today are looking for “good” working conditions. What are these for you?
Opportunities. We need to stop offering women their umpteenth training or coaching, the way we always do in all these “promoting women” campaigns. What we should do instead is give talented women genuine opportunities and challenging work. Everyone deserves the opportunity to show their full potential.
And your best career advice?
Focus on what you can give, not what you can get!