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Something pretty magical happened to me yesterday.
It actually started a couple of weeks ago, when I got a Teams ping from one of my leaders: “Are you free? I have something fun to talk to you about.”
Context: I was in the midst of transferring to a new team at Slalom, and of onboarding to a key leadership role at a large account and very important client. To say everything around me was in the storming phase of team development doesn’t even start to do it justice. None of it I was categorizing exactly as “fun” yet, so I was intrigued at his choice of words. After all, fun is one of my core values.
Apparently, the client had requested I be one of a few Slalomers to participate in a pretty important meeting that was coming up with some pretty high ups from a pretty big partner. I was immediately in, naturally. Curious to learn more, I had asked why they picked me: “Because they like your ideas, your approach and your vision.” Good.
See I never want to get picked for anything because I am a 40-something-year-old woman and because in 2021, we can almost all finally agree we need more of “us” “at the table”. I want to get picked because I am the best person for the job. Period. Yes, my diverse opinion, depth of customer strategy expertise and 25 years of professional experience is female. I also bring the perspective of an immigrant who has successfully built an eclectic career because she is an adventurer and a dreamer and an Ironman and a taco lover – and all of the things I am.
We collectively prepped for the meeting. I got to collaborate with another part of our organization I hadn’t had the opportunity to explore before and met a kindred spirit from our impressive Alliances team. I got introduced to a Slalom exec I never met before. Most importantly, I got to ask my client futuristic questions that really helped me understand him more deeply and intimately.
It was 8 of us. Mostly Presidents and Chiefs and Heads-Of. And me. I didn’t have a speaking part but I belonged there. I was having fun. And as the meeting went on and the momentum of the enthusiasm we were building for our collective collaboration grew, I didn’t feel like I needed to say anything. Shocker, I know.
Until 5 minutes before the end. The US leader of this global conglomerate, a brand the entire world knows, the attendee we had designed this entire meeting around called on me. She asked: “Caroline, you have been quiet. What’s your point-of-view?”
This powerful woman had extended her hand to me, to lift me up and give me the floor to exercise my voice. I am convinced she intended it exactly as that.
And I recognized it immediately, right in the moment. After almost 10 years of practice as a visionary in the automotive business, and five years of honing in on my storytelling craft, I was ready. Poised, I answered.
In a meeting where I wasn’t even supposed to speak, I ended up being the closer. Because she was committed to hearing everyone’s voice. Mine included.