Born and raised in Switzerland as the only daughter of an Austrian father and Israeli mother, you completed your education at the French School in Zurich and left the country as soon as you held your diploma in your hands. You moved to the Comoro islands and stayed there for three years. After that you studied and worked for 10 years in Lausanne and then moved for four years to Singapore and for two years to Hongkong. A shorter stop in Tel Aviv followed before you finally returned to Switzerland four years ago.
Today, you own three passports and speak five languages: Hebrew, English, French, German, Swiss German. But you used to speak quite exotic ones too, like Shimaorais and Bahasa. Let’s put it straight: you’re a true third culture kid. What made you move back to Switzerland and choose Adnovum as your employer three years ago?
Zurich’s multiculturalism always appealed to me and made me feel at home. I also very much enjoy the cultural offering and the easy access to the world. In addition to that, the kindness which is lived on a daily basis at Adnovum makes it very enjoyable to be back. Where I worked before, kindness was considered a weakness rather than a strength.
At Adnovum, you’re a Senior Project Manager on various projects for the Market Unit «Banking», you’re also a Career Coach and a core co-lead of our Agile Guild. On top of that, you offer your services as a certified Coach and are the mother of a little boy. That’s quite a lot all at once!
So, we’re curious to know: What have been the major challenges in your career that you have benefited from the most?
Over the years I realized that most of my growth came from struggle.
One big challenge that I encountered over and over again arose from working in a multicultural context: while everyone communicated and collaborated in English, nobody actually «spoke the same language». It taught me to listen to what people «mean» more than what people «say», while supporting different types of cultures and personalities in communicating effectively and ultimately working together.
One funny example was when part of my team based in an Asian country refused to set deadlines because according to their culture, it would bring them bad luck. You can imagine how comfortable I was explaining this to the European Headquarters as the responsible person for the Asian hub in a global SAP implementation project. (laughs)
And there is one more challenge I remember: When coming back from abroad, I realized that the job titles in my CV didn’t fit the structure of a «normal» Swiss career path. Before Adnovum, I worked as a Change and Transition Manager, and also as Continuous Improvement Manager, where I lead transformations that impacted more than a thousand people. This in several different industries, which is not the usual way of building your career here. So, when applying for similar positions in Switzerland, the feedback I got was: You’ve got all the right skills and qualifications, but you lack at least ten years of experience. (laughs)
So, where does Adnovum come into the picture?
Adnovum doesn’t stick to rigid linear career paths and academic titles. If you know you can do the job or task at hand, they will trust you. And they will give you the freedom and flexibility to figure things out and to learn and grow on the job, as every context in the business is specific and therefore a source of inspiration for personal growth. That trust and flexibility are ingrained parts of the company’s culture. It’s a huge motivator for people like me and a real differentiator on the job market.
Great to know that you generally feel trusted and supported by Adnovum. But what about female empowerment? What does Adnovum offer that other companies don’t in relation to working women and mothers?
I don’t think Adnovum offers things to working women which other companies don’t. But what I can tell is that here, people do listen if you have an idea. And if you need help, support will be provided wherever possible. This empathic helpfulness makes it easier to juggle tasks and fosters a healthy work-life balance for everyone – no matter the gender and family situation. Also, the flexible working hours and the option to work from home according to one’s needs gives me a feeling of empowerment and freedom.
Already before your time at Adnovum, you’ve been a certified Coach. Today, you still offer your services inside and outside the company to managers, leaders, and coaches. Is there a link between this and your motivation to found and co-lead the Agile Guild at Adnovum?
Absolutely, I think it’s tightly linked. Being a coach is part of me, and this means always trying to find ways to support others and empower them, whether they work with me or not. The Agile Guild is a supportive platform where people can talk about Agile methodology and their related struggles. It’s a platform where they can share their knowledge, get advice, and find solutions to problems. And whenever there is no good out-of-the-box solution, a coach is the best bet to help them solve their problems on their own.
I guess equality isn’t an Agile topic, but let’s still get into that for a moment: How did the working world change since you started working at Adnovum with respect to equality in the workspace?
I can definitively tell that I’m working with more and more women. Today, there are women on every project I work in. That’s a great thing, seeing that when I went to Engineering School in Lausanne, out of 120 students, only 5 were female.
Did you experience differences in the working culture while working abroad as a woman in leadership?
I was lucky enough to not have bad experiences linked to my gender throughout my career, but it’s true that there were almost no women on leadership teams in the companies I worked for. In Switzerland that’s different. The same counts for Adnovum.
Who is your role model?
My mother. She always was and still is a superwoman. She has so much strength and power.
Thanks a lot for sharing your story with us today, Yael. It was a pleasure talking to you.