What are the benefits of being a young leader in such a big business?
The young generation in any community offers a window to dream about a brighter future, an opportunity to question and reimagine how things are done. In an organisation as large as GE, young leaders are continuously groomed to act as agents of change who are loyal to the company’s core values such as integrity, quality and safety but not attached to past practices. They challenge the status quo and work with the wider teams to create new and better solutions.
How well is GE set up to encourage and support young leaders? How have you been able to develop your leadership skills since joining the firm?
GE is a true meritocracy with robust systems to identify, develop and groom young talent regardless of their gender, nationality or race. The company has a number of entry-level and experienced leadership development programmes across a wide range of functions including engineering, finance, IT, operations, HR and others. Most combine real world experience, rotations in different locations and / or businesses, classroom study and exposure to senior leadership, helping to nurture the technical and leadership potential of our people.
I joined GE in 2007 as a trainee in the Financial Management Programme and my first role was that of an accounts payables clerk in Algeria. Following that, the company was very generous in offering me multiple challenging international assignments across the wider GE portfolio, which allowed me to build expertise and networks.
I was always stretched with challenging roles that I sometimes did not think I would succeed at, but I was always fortunate to be part of great GE teams, with people who trusted each other and collaborated to deliver outcomes that really made a difference to our customers.
Have you met with any challenges during your rise to vice president on account of your age?
It is always challenging to earn your seat in any industry, and more so if you don’t have some gray hair. When I first started my career, comments on my age would often rub me the wrong way. However, over time, I learned that I owed it to my team and customers to earn their trust and that the only way to do so was to deliver results. Once people see what you are capable of and how you can help them achieve their desired goals, they will respect you and take you seriously.
How valuable has mentorship been throughout your career?
I was fortunate to work with great leaders in GE who were kind enough to dedicate time to listen to my concerns and offer advice. Each of those mentors had their own leadership style but they all shared a few common traits.
Firstly, they were real. They practiced what they preached and while they could be demanding, they were devoted and committed to win.
Secondly, they harnessed the power of trust. When they failed, they assumed responsibility and when they won they celebrated the contribution of each individual on the team.
Thirdly, they actively listened and engaged everybody in the organisation. They enjoyed the journey and took pleasure in celebrating the small wins along the way.
Is the power industry one in which young people can thrive? What would be your advice to those with leadership ambitions?
The power industry is going through a significant transformation as countries across our region and beyond look to diversify energy sources, reduce their environmental footprint and build resilience in an increasingly volatile world where the speed of change is unprecedented. It’s at times like these when young leaders can learn and thrive the most.
Our teams are challenged on multiple fronts and are being asked to deliver more with less. In this environment, creativity is essential as the status quo doesn’t necessarily address the industry’s challenges and new ideas can flourish.
I advise our team to have the courage to ask the question ‘why?’ Why don’t we have more efficient products? I ask them to hire those who have the creativity to dream and ask their peers ‘what if?’ What if we can overcome the bureaucracy and security challenges in Nainawa, Iraq to bring electricity to newly liberated areas? I encourage them to collaborate to figure out ‘how?’ How can we help governments structure and finance new projects to overcome budget limitations?
Don’t let the past or the way things are done today hold you back – dream big and then go out there to turn those ideas into reality.