Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour

Ep. #18. Courageous Career Conversations with Vanessa Iloste

May 28, 2022 Jean Balfour Season 1 Episode 18
Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour
Ep. #18. Courageous Career Conversations with Vanessa Iloste
Show Notes Transcript

Today’s podcast guest is Vanessa Iloste. Jean and Vanessa have a great high energy conversation about how to have a courageous career conversation - both as an individual and as a leader. 

Vanessa was born in France and moved to Japan at the age of 19 years old.

She received a scholarship to study in Japan and has been now living and working in the Asia region for 26 years. She has lived in Osaka, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore.

Vanessa has been working for the LVMH Group for 21 years and is today the HR VP of Sephora Asia.

She is married and has 2 children. Her hobby is writing and she is currently completing a story taking place in Hong Kong.”Vanessa shares

  • The role HR played during Covid in crisis management
  • How a crisis is an opportunity for learning for all of us
  • Ways to be curious about many different career options
  • How to be aware of your ‘employability’ in the market
  • How to talk about compensation with your manager

You can find Vanessa here:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/vanessa-iloste-she-her-4a30a537/

The books Vanessa mentioned - The House on Palmer Road and the House on Silat Road are linked below. 

https://epigrambookshop.sg/products/the-house-on-palmer-road

https://epigrambookshop.sg/products/the-house-on-silat-road

You can find Jean Balfour here:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeanbalfour/


Jean:

Hi everyone. And welcome to making sense of work. It's my pleasure to welcome Vanessa Iloste to the podcast today. Vanessa. Welcome.

Vanessa:

Oh, I'm so happy to be with you Jean. I've been looking forward to that moment for many weeks now.

Jean:

Me too. We met actually via the podcast, which is a really lovely thing. Would you mind saying a bit about that?.

Vanessa:

I've been actually a stalking you, if I'm very honest, uh, I was listening to your podcast, uh, every Saturday, uh and, uh, I started the mentioning you in my HR meetings and I said, oh, you know, there is this lady and she's doing a podcast about HR in Singapore. Uh, does anyone know her? And, uh, I found someone who knew you. And then I said to that person, I definitely need to meet Jean. So can you find me your email address or contact number? And then you came very kindly to my office and we met for the first time. I was so happy to meet you.

Jean:

Well, me too, I'm really grateful and I'm really grateful for this opportunity. Together today. So Vanessa, Vanessa was born in France and then moved to Japan on her own at the age of 19 because she'd received a scholarship to study in Japan. And since that time has been living and working in the Asia region for 26 years and Vanessa, during that time has lived in Osaka. Tokyo Hong Kong, Shanghai. And now Singapore, Vanessa works for LVMH and has been working for the group for 21 years. And currently is HR VP of Sephora Asia. She's married and has two children and her hobby is writing and she's currently completing a story taking place in Hong Kong. That's really curious, Vanessa. So once again, Thanks for joining me.

Vanessa:

Thank you, Jean.

Jean:

So how's work at the moment.

Vanessa:

Well. Work is extremely busy. I think we are actually, uh, experiencing, uh, once again the story of, uh, two tales the region, because it has been, the situation for the last two years. So, I'm supporting,

Jean:

uh,

Vanessa:

two sub-region, greater China and Southeast Asia, including Australia and New Zealand. And for two years, unfortunately with basically Southeast Asia suffering a lot, and China, after the Wuhan episode recovering very, promptly and, having a, an extraordinary, you know, a business growth. Uh, now, the two tale story as shifted and, unfortunately for the last couple of months, China is experiencing, as you may know, a very difficult situation, where is COVID, uh, but South East Asia has bounced back and business is really, really strong. So, it's a very fascinating for me, to look at this region, with this lens and, uh, and to see how much one year it can be so different, uh, from, from the one before.

Jean:

We were talking before this about the fact that the role of HR really changed during COVID. And I'm really curious to hear from you, you know, what, what that's been like, what's it like being in HR, leading HR teams during COVID.

Vanessa:

This is interesting Jean. I've been writing a lot about. I'm doing a lot of journalling and, I've been writing a lot about it. And the, at the beginning I realized that I was asked to become a crisis management coordinator and, uh, I was very scared, uh, because I had not been trained professionally in credit management. And I was very aware of the responsibility that I carried on my shoulders for the region. And I was always really, really scared for making mistakes. Um, and then I needed to, really challenge my own mindsets and I really need to push myself to realize that if you know, this is what the universe is asking me to do. My boss is asking me to do I have no choice, but do show up and to take it into my own hands and, uh, to make a leap of confidence and then to actually, you know, throw myself into this crisis management, uh, work. So this is what I did. The shift of mindset took a couple of weeks. It was, at the beginning, form of resentment. Why me? Why is it falling on me? I'm not sure I'm the best person. Then there was a, phase around, as I mentioned that little bit of fear and then a moment of, you know, bouncing back where basically the resilient showed up and I said to myself, well, I'm going to do it. And I'm going to do the best I can. Uh, and, uh, if I fail or if something is not perfect, it's okay, because this is the way it is in life. You need to learn and you need to, um, you know, challenge permanently. So I think that this is a big, a big change because it's still today the case, like for instance, I'm spending many hours with Shanghai every day, um, around, you know, for instance, the food delivery. We have done a couple of food delivery for our employees. We have 1,200 employees in Shanghai and they need our support to actually organize the food delivery and it's very important that it carries a huge sense of purpose so I think that this part is now part and parcel of the job description. to a certain extent, and one of the things that also happened at the same time is that he put the HR function under the spotlights because, uh, in crisis. If you are the crisis coordinator or, I mean, I don't know how to call that in person involve so much into crisis management and you are going to be really, really, exposed and, uh, you are going to be even more, respected as a team member of the leadership team. So I, I was very lucky in the last 21 years. I've really enjoyed working for LVMH because LVMH puts HR at the heart of their strategy. And I've had really a blast on that. But I would say that it was even better when, you know, some people realize that, you know, your impact is even bigger than what I expected, what I thought. So that, that also would change for us, I think, as a community overall.

Jean:

That resonates with what I've been hearing as well. I actually, I hadn't, I hadn't really thought about. In explicitly crisis management terms, but that was what happened. Wasn't it? That HR was suddenly thrown into, uh, you know, we don't know who's going to deal with this, so let's give it to HR. And that happened in most organizations. Um, and I guess masses of learning and also learning about how we help the HR leaders of the future prepare for that. In the future.

Vanessa:

Yes. Yes, because it's a, it's a very different role. It's very technical to be very honest. I mean, you cannot, uh, imagine how technical it can be. And I think it makes sense to, to actually connect it with HR. It can be a separate function. Like some companies have dedicated, you know, uh, security departments but for other organizations, I think the connection with HR is, is, is huge, is, is very important.

Jean:

Yeah. And so, so important because the human impact is right at the heart of it. And as you're describing, that. In Shanghai at the moment runs right down to how do we help people to have the food that they need? It's about the responsibility. to our employees in crisis.

Vanessa:

Yes. And, uh, in the last couple of weeks, I even in crisis management, I had to really reinvent myself. Because I realized that, what was happening there, was not exactly the same as what happened in other markets because, the rest of the world as basically, uh, um, moved on and Covid is behind them. So how do you give the right level of empathy? How do you give the right level of respect, to your colleagues? I surprised myself actually using, the, we chat group sending, um, pictures of flowers. Sending, some of the poems that I've written, or, you know, just a reflection on the day because. People, they were, I mean, full on on their social media. They, they couldn't get out now it's getting better, fortunately, but they couldn't get out of their house. So, you know, just giving them on a Saturday morning or a Sunday evening of a nice picture just to express the fact that you think of them and that you keep them in your heart. And despite the fact that your life as, uh, restarted as, before, you have the right level of empathy for the ones who, you know, for the time being cannot enjoy, uh, what we can enjoy for instance, or there, I know in other places.

Jean:

Wow. That's a beautiful way of being with them, Vanessa. I'm sure they're grateful.

Vanessa:

Yeah, it was interesting. It was like some people, they send me messages. They say, I didn't know when you were writing poem, but I'm also writing poems. So you want to read mine? I say, oh, you create connections.

Jean:

brilliant. Bit of a shift to thinking about you and what makes a good day at work for you?

Vanessa:

Oh, uh, there are many, many different ways of making me very happy. A very good day for me is it's usually around. Discovery rediscovery or enhancement of my knowledge around talents. Uh, this is really what makes me feel very excited and, and, you know, very fulfilled. So I compare my job, at the beginning of my career as, a person who is looking for gold. I'm very passionate about the history of Australia. My husband is from Australia and there is a very rich history around, the people who went for, looking for gold in, in Ballarat or in places like that in Australia. And, and I, I use that comparison to explain to some people what I was doing. I was looking for gold. I was looking for diamonds I was looking for precious stones. And the truth of the matter is that, these precious stones or these human beings are already there. Okay. I mean living their lives without you, and you have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that they are alive. Um, but do you have these privilege to observe and to get the insight about their magic powers about their geniuses, about that own insights and it makes you feel very, very lucky. for me, it's like a moment of grace. I think that when I, when I have a conversation, uh, you know, a candidate or when I have a conversation, a character conversation with an employee that I have not seen for six months or three months, or even two weeks, and I see the person, under a new light. I see that they have improved them on their knowledge of something. Uh it's it's, it makes me feel so happy because I actually participates, to the joy that they bring to the world. And that is most probably what gives me the biggest, uh, uh, the biggest, satisfaction in my job today.

Jean:

I'm hearing a lot of, uh, empathic leadership and, and loving seeing people grow.

Vanessa:

Yes. Yes, I am fascinated by it to be very honest, because I mean, we were talking about resilience during COVID. Um, I think that people, uh, surprise me all the time in good ways in good ways. It's, it's unbelievable. The moment you are putting the right framework or the right. Condition for success. You can have like revelation that actually go much beyond what you would have expected. I found the rule of, uh, of witness, uh, very important role. It's something that happened over and over and over again. And it makes me very, very uh, positive about human being and about humanity in general, because stretches and, and challenges, uh, actually bringing the best out of us.

Jean:

Mm mm it's so inspiring to hear you talk about leadership in this way, Vanessa, because it's about leadership. Being such an enabler and a place for people to stretch into parts of themselves that they didn't even know existed, that they can also widen, broaden, grow.

Vanessa:

And, and you, the watching them, realizing this powers, this magic powers and telling them, no, it's not, it's not in your mind. It's real. I can see it. It's in a very concrete, you know, it's expressed through, through your own being. I can see it in your smile, I can see it in your tone of voice. And it's like, and seeing the way you, you manage this meeting. and, um, And you become a form of, uh, echo to them. Like, you're your sounding board to them. You are here to do, you know, to be the cheerleader and say, Hey you are progressing it's happening. And I love this. I found the died. I'm very powerful. Um, and it doesn't take a lot, you know, and sometimes it's just like, you know, a quick note, uh, I've listened to you in that meeting and you were so convincing and someone who is working on their presentation skills that you're on now, you're at the level of master class, you know, and all of a sudden people feel like a happy, and recognized. Um, so yeah, it's. Opening the eyes on the diamond and then at the underpinning the conversation with diamond as well.

Jean:

And helping people to feel seen for their strengths and they can, yeah. We've talked a bit before about your passion for career conversations, which actually links to what we were just talking about. So would you share. How you see the role of leaders and having. Effective powerful career conversations with their teams.

Vanessa:

Yeah. So this is a topic I'm very, very passionate about and I've been reflecting a lot about it, and I've been trying to, uh, to create models at my level around it, you know, trying to find ways to, um, to educate, uh, people around how to make a career conversation a positive one. When I started my camera, I found the career conversation were not happening as much as the organization wanted that to happen. And for me it was a mystery, because, LVMH, is very clear that, you know, uh, career progression is, is very important Mobility across all the brands that fantastic 75 brands for we have is important. So I was like, how come is the disconnect, you know, 20 years ago? Well, how come there is a disconnect. What we are encouraged to do as leaders and what is really happening on. And then I started asking questions and I said that I'm curious about it. Uh, you managing director of Dior fashion at the time, it was working very closely with one of the gentlemen who is in charge with Dior fashion. What is it that is, uh, uh, blocker for you, to have a proper career conversation. And I found out that there was a lot of, fear around over-committing about something you cannot deliver. Hmm, which I think for me, it's almost, a wrong understanding of what the career conversation is about, because from my perspective, career conversation, is exploring the world of possibilities. And I want to do, some, scenario and I want to simulate those scenarios. And I want to ask the question, like, what if like you and my favorite question is what if, you started a GM career. What if you move to general management? No, because you have so many people, they are functional and, they have never been asked the question. I had a candidate very recently from supply chain and she had what it took to be a general manager. And I said, what about general management in the interview? It was not a career conversation It was an interview and she was taken a back. She said, but you're the first person that asking me that question. And I think she should definitely consider. If she listened to us. She should definitely consider that move. So, uh, you know, I was, I was. Why is why is it happening in the way that people feel, you know, uh, the stress and the fear of over-committing to something they cannot deliver? What can we do differently in order to make this something a little bit lighter, a little bit, run of the mill and, and how can we make it something that everyone can take in and can participate too. So, So then I realized that you need to identify, first of all, the definition around it, you need to identify me expectation. You have about a career conversation. My expectation is not at all that the person knows about their next job. My expectation is to create curiosity for optoins and let them think about, you know, two or three options and for them to come back to you and you say, you know what, out of these three options there is this one that I'm so passionate about. And now I would like to have the conversation around how do we make it happen and what are the milestones that I need to accomplish in order for me to be ready for that next job. So I realized that, okay, if we make it very concrete In terms of the types of questions that you are going to ask at the very beginning of the process and the types of documents that you can fill in in order for you to document, the different steps of the process, then people are going to be more relaxed about it. Uh, they are going to feel a little bit less pressure about it, and then we are going to have more dialogues happening, and that is going to generate a lot more like, career progression than what would have happened otherwise.

Jean:

One of the things that I'm noticing is, is. Sort of a shift from if I'm the manager and I'm feeling responsible for coming up with options or feeling like I don't have things I can deliver. Um, I feel that I'm carrying it and what you're describing as much more of a. Dialogue, which is that we're in this together. This is a career conversation where I, the leader, I'm not responsible for that. That is your career. I can facilitate some things, but we're adults together and it's a equal process. I just happened to be a person that's bringing it to the conversation.

Vanessa:

Yeah. I found, one of the ways to relax, everyone is to talk about the concept of employability in career conversations.. You'll move it away from. Your organization. I mean, your number one priority My number one priority is that we are developing talent within the LVMH group. However, the moment you start thinking of employability in general You know, like for instance, the supply chain lady and saying, you know, imagine a supply chain specialist who is becoming a general manager, you know, then it becomes a conversation that is elevated because there is no more constraint. It's not about you. Is there a job like this is in one of the 75 brands of the LVMH group. It's around the purpose of this change is around the purpose of this evolution of this progression. And then you get into very, very meaningful exchanges. And, and I think it's, it's a good way for me sometimes to get people, to, to feel a bit more relaxed and to start, getting into the crux of what they are after.

Jean:

Um, and when you talk about employability, Well, what does it mean to you?

Vanessa:

Employability for me it's something that I'm very aware of, uh, for many, many years, which is at any point in your career as an individual, you need to understand where you stand versus the market where you operate. And that is something that I've learned the hard way in Hong Kong, to be very honest, because in Hong Kong, there was this movement around me, of people who were, you know, uh, upgrading themselves. Every single week we had, breakfast around new themes. Uh, at that time, you know, he was very easy for us to have these big breakfast rooms. And we had a company inviting us to think about the HR of the future. And, and we had new programs organized by Chinese university or Baptist university around, upgrading skills of HR. So it was, it was very clear to me very early on in, in 2005, 2006, that in Hong Kong, when, I was, at that time HR development manager, if I was not, taking my destiny and my fate in my own hands and investing into myself, there was a risk for me to be a obsolete. Yes. It was something that was in the air all the time. So I paid attention because that storytelling, but I really believed in it as well, in to that narrative. And then I realized that when you talk to employees about their own employability, Uh, it's very, very powerful. You are, an incredible store manager for Sephora. What is the employability in the context of post COVID of the employability of retail professionals, everyone is looking for the best store managers because everyone wants to go back to the stores. So, you know, there is this, this idea of around the employability, that you can actually have an umbrella that encompasses your career growth, your compensation and benefits, your value on the market. And these are, uh, these are openings, you know, for people to start, sharing more confidently about, about their own concerns, their own questions. And it created a higher level of trust. When we have this, this career conversation.

Jean:

One of the things that's coming up for me about, this is the idea that it's my career and I own it ultimately, and this is something I find myself talking a lot to coaching clients about to, to individuals about. So, for example, you will work for LVMH group., I also do some work for LVMH. I know the organization to be very good at supporting people in career, in moving across the maison and creating opportunities for people. It's an organization that really does that. And there are other organizations of course, who are doing that as well. And what that can engender for people is a bit of waiting or a bit of, you know, knowing that the organization will look after me and therefore I don't have. Make myself employable, in fact, that employability thing, but it's such a two way street. I am responsible for my career and my future as much. My organization is also looking after me and responsible. And it's, it's so important that we as individuals remember that all the time, even if we feel in a very safe and comfortable place, that actually it's still my career and I have to look after it.

Vanessa:

Yes. Yes. I think it's a very good reminder, Jean. And I think this is something that we communicate very clearly within the LVMH group within Sephora. Uh, you own your career you own the destiny of your career. And at the same time you have enablers or facilitators, uh, your, your leader is one of them because your leader is going to be your best champion. You, your leader is going to be representing you in meetings and talking about you, uh, the best way possible, uh, the human resources out here to support you. Uh, but the decision is with you. Yesterday I was having, uh, a career conversation and someone was telling me, you. I really need to talk to my family about this move because this move is across countries and I'm not sure my parents and my husband not going to be comfortable with it. And, you know, I said to the person I said, this is totally okay. And I said, if you come back to me next week and you're telling me the family is not ready to do that, it's also fine with me. I'm not going to judge you. It's, you know, it's important to acknowledge the fact that it's, it's a life decision and you, you leave, you know, the, the whole, the full you empower the person to do basically, make choices for their life.

Jean:

Um, what advice would you have for people who don't have you as a manager or one of the managers who you support it to have these conversations who are working for somebody who's not really talking to them about their career?

Vanessa:

I would encourage them to, uh, politely provoke these conversation. So I would actually, put it on the agenda of, uh, let's say a one-to-one and I would say, you know what, uh, I would give some heads up first, I would say, Hey, next week we have a one-to-one on Wednesday. I would love to talk to you. Yeah. Uh, my ambition, my aspiration, about my dreams, you know? And, uh, I, I don't think people will reject you. If you say you want to talk about your dreams, because this is quite special to talk about dreams. Um, and then I will come very prepared. I will come very prepared with, a very logic, uh, sequence in terms of. I think that today I'm bringing, you know, this, skillset and this competencies, I believe that, among the skills and there are two or three that are, above the rest. And, uh, I would like to continue this journey and I would like to. Progressing to let's say another role, which is, very much focused on this strenght that I have and I would like to ask for your support in getting, this conversation happening. So I would originally start with the leader and I. For their endorsements, because I think it's a, it's important not to do anything in their back. And then if I see that the person is not moving or is a, you know, sometimes we have cases where, leaders, uh, very worried about losing a talent is so they are not, you know, very proactive in moving them. You can use your HR of course department, and you can also, Socialize your, your ambition in, in groups, you know, when you have lunch, when you have a dinner, when you have a coffee, uh, you know, by the way, I just want to share with you. I had this career conversation with my boss, and we were talking about my next steps. Uh, so the boss looks good, you know, because the boss is actually having the conversation with you, even if you created it for yourself, reluctance. And then, and then you can actually socialize the concept. Then you can ask the person to give feedback, and what do you think of, and what is your feedback is, do you agree about this 3 strengths that I have? So, you know, making sure that it becomes this little music that everyone is hearing, um, I think it's, it's a good way for you to use, to test whether the organization is ready to reply to.

Jean:

so important many, many people I think, uh, shy about talking about their career dreams or ambitions inside an organization, but, but many people aren't shy. And so if we're shy of out as important, we put our voice in the ring so that people know. And, and also, I think if we're not talking about it, if we're not talking about dreams and ambitions, then people won't know when a role comes up or an opportunity arises. If we haven't said anything. Uh, name may not go in the ring for that.

Vanessa:

I agree. I agree. So, I know, some people, and especially in this part of the world in Asia, I think the education is, is not really pushing people to actually, be arrogant. We are more into humility here and we are more into, you know, making sure that we stay humble, but I think it's good to do to, you know, assert What is meaningful to you the same way you stay in my life? My hobbies are on writing stories. It's the same as like in my life. My, my ambition is about, becoming, uh, a general management after supply chain. I think people would be surprised, realize that once you have made this statement, nothing wrong happens, like maybe people might think, oh, this is very ambitious dream, but it's this is the end of it. I don't think that there is going to be any backlash to it. It's fine. It's it's it's it belongs to you the same way you have your hobbies, the same way you have your. Uh, your passion in life. This is one of the things you're passionate about. I cannot imagine anyone blaming you for saying something like that.

Jean:

I wonder if you have any perspective on, um, ambition in this, because I think sometimes people are also frightened about talking about ambition, seeing it as something that's, it's almost like it's a dirty word and we shouldn't mention it.

Vanessa:

I usually use the, word aspiration. I feel that there is, there's a word that is actually a little bit more neutral and, uh, and, and it's very good. Or so when you think of, uh, diversity and inclusion to, to support sometimes female leaders, and about that ambition, if you use this with them, the word aspiration, they are going to feel a little bit more relaxed. There is less pressure on the chest. Um, so I like to do, do you use the word aspiration? I like to use the word dream. I like to make it something that is, a prospect because at the end of the day, I'm more interested in. To be very honest, because when I think of ambition, sometimes I'm thinking, oh, my mind can go into organizational agility. Or some people would talk about politics, you know? And, and, and these are important skills you need to have in order to grow your career. I mean, we should not shy away from it is organizational agility is a very important competency. Um, But I think that, you know, if you move away from that piece, which is very, I would say technical piece on which people might need some very specific tip, um, you know, the way it works in this organization, the, the culture of organization, uh, you can have a very, very meaningful. A very meaningful conversation around, you know, your dream, your, your, your aspiration, uh, the vision you have about yourself in the future. So I think, I would love to, you know, um, sometimes change it a little bit, the word. Uh, so that everyone can participate and everyone is included in the debate because I think if you move it to the level of ambition, you might have the very confident ones who are going to show up and say, yeah, I have an ambition, but then you are not going to listen to the voice of some others who have vision for themselves that are very strong. Uh, but might not feel comfortable to talk about them.

Jean:

Yeah. I, it really resonates with. A lot as someone who's struggled to talk about ambition. So I will use aspiration moving forward, or really, and

Vanessa:

then you have, you have accomplished in your own aspiration based on the podcast. Isn't about you. So it's your, your made a dream come true. So you're having one.

Jean:

Thank you. I did. I'm still on the case. Um, One of the parts of having career conversations is talking about money and salary. Hey, uh, yeah. How do you help coach people to have conversations around this?

Vanessa:

Okay. So here on judge and party, because I'm also the person who's going to be looking into the compensation. I think it's. It's some, it's something that I would like people to feel, uh, less complex about, uh, to be very honest. I, I like people who come to me and say to me, look, you know, this is, uh, my aspiration, my vision for myself. And there is also, uh, you know, um, an element that I need to share with you on the composition, because I have some expectations about the compensation that I would like to share with you. So I think that it's, it's important to link it properly to the aspiration, to the dreams, to the vision for yourself, because I found out that a lot of. Because they might not feel comfortable or they are not ready yet to talk about their vision. Very clearly. Uh, they move into the composition, uh, conversation. Okay. To my taste too early. Okay. And then it's harder for the organization to justify this. However, when you stop looking at, and there is a story telling around it, meaning that there is the vision for yourself becoming, you know, And new person, we, as new skillsets, there are some competencies that you are going to invest yourself in it. They are some resources that you need as well, because do not forget the training parts, because sometimes you might not get exactly the, the salary that you were after, but you might get an incredible support for the next three years to become the new version of yourself. So, so this is an important point to take into account. So if you manage to articulate these pieces in a logic manner, starting from the vision, looking into the competencies, understanding the gaps between where you are versus where you want to go. And then. In a very logic manner talking about compensation. I think that it's totally okay. I think it is, there is nothing to fear about this, uh, because it makes sense. Of course. Uh, I mean, I'm using once again, this, uh, incredible, uh, example, this supply chain lady, uh, that I liked so much. If she becomes tomorrow, a general manager, the general manager role commands a very different compensation compared to the supply chain director or VP that I'm ready to offer. So, so yeah, I think that the more prepared you are. And the less defensive as well. You are because sometimes people are going to this conversation. They're very defensive. They are full of, um, you know, very contracted, extremely contracted. So I think it's important to be well prepared, um, to be relaxed about it because ultimately I've never fired any more than. To ask me for a salary increase. I mean, the worst thing that can happen to you, if that doesn't happen, but it's not going to impact your role. Your role is here and, and you are entitled to have this conversation. So there is no problem. Um, and then as long as there is this preparation and this logic, I think it's, it's, it's something that people should feel comfortable to do.

Jean:

And I that's really helpful, very practical. I also heard you say that a great line in it, which is I have some expectations around my salary, which I think is a really great way of talking about. Once it's in the context of the story, and that was such a helpful way of positioning it, Vanessa.

Vanessa:

This is just something that I use it in career conversations. When I prepare people for important conversations with leaders, uh, you can have a couple of catchphrase like that, that you have actually put on your note book, you know, and, and, and you incorporate your conversation with this catchphrase, uh, And that will help you, you know, sometimes to find your way, if you'll have lost the way the conversation, or it will help you to find your confidence in yourself again. So, yeah, it's, it's very important to, to prepare, but prepare in a smart way. We use a couple of things that, you know, are going to help you with the logic and I'm going to help you with the wording of it in order for you to be at the right level of positioning your.

Jean:

Um, thank you. I'm sure many people will find this very helpful. So we're going to move away from career conversations actually, and come back to you for a bit. Could you share a critical career moment that you've had and what you've learned from it?

Vanessa:

Yeah. I wanted to talk to you have the, my promotion, uh, at one point to a, to a big role, uh, which was when I moved from watch jewellery to DFS duty-free shopper. And I I've had such a fantastic time with. It's both companies. When I left watch and jewellery, the organization was, I would say still small. It was, it was around 600, 700 employees across, you know, eight, subsideries I moved to GFS, uh, with a team. I mean the total team, I mean, I'm talking about the population that was overseeing of 3,500 employees, uh, and that who has kind of a, big big change because all of a sudden. Um, I'm a very high touch HR professional. I like to know the people by their name and that children. And then they have dogs and their parent and everything. I couldn't do it for 3000 people. There was no way I could remember, you know, every single person, uh, background and, and, and, and a story. Um, So, yeah, so I had to really reinvent myself and I had to think very deeply around, okay. If we want to have these high touch human resources, and if we want to be, you know, very close to the people, very people oriented, how do I train my team members? It's to be actually a representative on my behalf, and maybe I'm agreeing to do the thing for 3,500, but I'm going to have, you know, a couple of people in my team wherever to come to them and, and talk to them about their lives and their family and making sure they are okay. That was a big, a big jump. I was very supported. I, I got incredible leaders around me. I mean, one of them had. A very dear friend of mine. his name is Johan, it was at that time, the managing director for the, uh, uh, airport for DFS, the Hong Kong international airport. And, uh, and he took me under his wing, you know, and, and he did, you know, the, the market visits with me at the airports, with the expectations he had on me around, you know, what a good HR person looks like. I'm so grateful to him still today for everything I've learned. And there is another one called Frank, uh, who is managing director for Hong Kong down, town at the time. And he did the same, you know, he took me, uh, and, and he made me visit, you know, all these, stores and, uh, he shared with me also when he had in his mind so. I was very, very supportive. We had a great leader at the. And, uh, and we were very, very close knit team and, uh, this is a very important, um, defining moment for me, I think. Yeah.

Jean:

This is a big learning point in your career. Yeah. Yeah. What part does courage play in work?

Vanessa:

It's a big part. I think that this is a word that must be coming to my mind, at least 10 times of the day. courage. In human resources, courageous, uh, is something you need to think about very carefully, um, because. From a human resources, point of view, your words have such an impact on people. Um, and you want to support them in finding their own truth, but you cannot, you know, give them a truth that they are not ready to listen to, uh, because you have always the risk of breaking. Courage for me is in my interaction with the employee is always at the crux of, of what I'm thinking about. I see, I can see something and I can see an opportunity for me to support them in their self-awareness to support them in their. In their growth. Um, and I don't believe in the tough love. I mean, I've been listening a lot to tough love and, you know, tough love is so good. And actually, I don't like tough love. I mean, when people give me your blurted, a new you're very, very bad in that meeting. I was so disappointed in you. You know, I, I feel really upset. And I, I don't want to listen to them. I just want to get out of the room. You know, maybe I made a mistake. I agree, but you know what, right now, I don't want to listen to what you have to say. So I think for me, courage, uh, finding the right moment, uh, um, the right words in order for these insights, which is very precious, your insight about something is very precious to actually share these insights and also to give them permission to. Absorb or not absorb the insights you share with them because, you know, feedback needs to be filtered. I mean, this is something that I've learned, unfortunately, very, very late in my career, but there is most will be 10% of feedback we receive, which is absolutely useless, uh, because he was on a bad day. You had fever on that. Uh, you know, I don't know your, your, your child was sick. I don't know some things about the other person. You can have someone telling you, you don't want, it makes you very sad. And I had such a, you know, I don't know a disappointment, you know, in, in, in the way you express yourself or something like that. And then you realize, yeah, actually he or she met me on the worst day of that month, so he's okay. I think for me, it's this courage letting also the person and having the confidence that the person is going to make the filtering on their own in the right way. If my insight is wrong, then that's fine. They are going to let it go. And it's, it's totally, it's totally okay by me. And I just hope that if I was right in my insight, they are going to take it into account and they are going to come back and they are going to say, by the way, why don't we work together on my development plan? Maybe this is a very restricted definition around courage, but in my day to day looks a little bit like that.

Jean:

Actually, I'm, I'm noticing myself thinking about courage and compassion in the way you're describing it. You're describing having the courage to be open with people and to share things that may be uncomfortable for them and to do that with compassion and so they can hear it. Yes. And that's a great way of seeing.

Vanessa:

Yeah. And I think, you know, when I go back, I'm usually at the end of my day, I, I, we, I, we reflect on this moment and I will tell myself okay that one was okay, but this one, you could have done a better job. And then I'm trying to learn every time about how I could do a better job, you know, to, uh, to give the message in the correct matter in the respectful manner. I have one final question from me then today what's a book or podcast that you would recommend. Okay. So I prepare them for that one and you're going to laugh, but right now I'm, I'm very much fascinated by, uh, children books, uh, on Singapore, so I have to, uh, two children, uh, Eloise and Rafael and we read together and, um, they are these two books that we have discovered recently. One is the house on Palmer road. The other one is the house on Silat Road and they are actually historic documents. When you think about them because they are a record of, uh, the author who lived in Singapore, in the thirties, in the forties and fifties. Wow. Um, and I'm, I'm fascinated about these two books. I mean, for me, there are gems. They remind me, How, Singapore has grown so much in the last, uh, years, uh, how much you're Singaporean and can be proud of their country and what they have achieved. It's a trip down memory lane, you know, there is an element of it, which is, um, a little bit of nostalgia sometimes around you. I wish I could have had these dishes that they are talking about that maybe it's harder to be defining the hawker center, uh, for instance, or, and, you know, I wish I could have had this conversation with the father of the, uh, of the author of, for instance, who came from Guangdong at the age of nine or 10, I'm curious and passionate about how. Transform himself into such a successful businessman, you know, in a couple of years,, when he had left his country and he was very, very, very far away from home. So this is my, my phase around these books right now, I, I read them with, uh, with, uh, Raphael and Eloise, you know, as, as mommy. And then I read them and I tried to think about, you know, what it means from historical, uh, history.

Jean:

Um, wow, that's amazing. I will put a link to them in the show notes so people can find them. Vanessa. Thank you so much. I, I feel like I've been smiling the entire time. You've been talking your warmth and energy and passion and commitment just shines through, and I'm so grateful for your sharing. I'm going to take away some thinking about career conversations and courage and compassion, and really just thank you for sharing. With us today.

Vanessa:

My pleasure Jean, please continue organizing these podcasts for, for us, you know, for the HR community, you really make a huge difference. And, uh, I think we really need actually you to continue your journey. So I wish you all the best and, uh, I really continue, uh,, do the PR for you Jean. Thank you. Thanks Vanessa. Thanks.