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International Women’s Day 2017: Books Are People

“In the Living Library, the books are people, reading is a conversation” – The Living Library

Woman at Broadcast Centre

As part of the International Women’s Day 2017 celebration, Ericsson launched the Living Library – an online library of people of diverse backgrounds who get to share their stories and experiences. The quotation above caught my attention and conspired with my two favorite hobbies – reading and conversation – to spur my next steps. I immediately followed the link in the email that conveyed the Living Library, and was transported to a book Eldorado!

Until recently, I had no affinity for the entire mentorship talk concept, as the few I had previously experienced turned out to be a sort of missing page. You have this ‘super woman’ who can successfully combine a career with family life, working out at the gym, and staying active in charity works. How does she manage it all? How does she get her kids ready for school, whilst preparing for a major presentation, or contract sign-off with the board? And how come that I, a young adult, single, with no kids running around yet, and no ‘major worries’ keep struggling to cope? It constantly struck me that the ‘how’ was often not sufficiently addressed.

However, after much perseverance, and through my boss, Abosede Olabimtan (Head of Sourcing, CU Nigeria), an amazing amazon who constantly motivates me to career development, professionalism, and human relations in the work place, I found that some women abound who are willing to tell it like it is, so the younger ones would get the full picture.

Once logged on to the Living Library page I came across an article captioned “Former Ballerina Takes the Chair as Editor-in-Chief” by Dodi Axelson, the current Head of News Desk at Ericsson. This immediately arrested my gaze. Intrigued, it took me less than two minutes to sign up.

As an eager beaver, I was the first to join in on the session. In Dodi’s post Meaningfulness – A New Way To Approach Meetings, she wrote “I’m going on a personal campaign to get people off speaker phones and onto headsets so that every attendee of a virtual meeting has a fair chance to hear and contribute,” so it was no surprise to see her on the call, with earphones and her video on! She asked that I also turn on my video which I usually avoid, but in this instance, it made all the difference. We had a brief chat until other attendees joined us.

Now that was the first session in the series, and understandably (I suppose more people preferred to book the later sessions) we were four participants on the call, which comprised two millennials; myself and Cristina Rodriguez (Internal Communications) and two 50’s babies.  That generational mix made for a very interactive and engaging session where we all freely shared our stories. Dodi’s welcoming personality made it easy to for us to just say things as we felt them, and I have never felt more refreshed after a mentorship-type session.

Dodi kicked off the session with her story of how she followed her passion as a ballerina, and joining Ericsson after that career ended – making the best of Plan B. As a young professional, and millennial, that is beneficial as we live in a time where the only constant really is change. Of course, with Ericsson’s ongoing transformation and restructuring a lot of us have had to embrace willy-nilly. The conversation then moved on to combining family life with work, as Cristina R., (the other millennial on the call) talked about how truly inspired she was about women being able to successfully and perfectly combine both lives. She, just like me, who is currently unmarried and without kids, sometimes gets overwhelmed with it all. Their submissions were candid. ‘‘Forgive yourself. I am not a perfect mum, or a perfect employee …ask my boss,” remarked Dodi. She then emphasised the need and importance of self-forgiveness; “you may not get it right everyday – but being able to forgive yourself, and take each day at a time, while giving your best is really the secret.”

Cristina P. then buttressed that point by adding the need to remain focused, and prioritise our tasks; “I am a mum first, before anything else.”  Truly, twenty years from now, nobody may remember you in Ericsson; the times are changing and someone may come up with something more ground-breaking, but your family, your kids, will always remember how and if you were there for them. You CAN do it all, but you need to appreciate that on some days you may not get it right, and that is okay.

Fun Fact! Both Dodi and Cristina P. confess that they do not cook! They have supportive husbands, and families who help out anytime. It is okay to ask for help.

I asked about taking on new and totally different roles from your current field as opposed to rising in a career line. As a young professional and millennial, we are frequently reminded to take advantage of our youth; to explore; get breadths of fresh experience, and not be stuck doing the same thing. But how do we make the right decision with all the information at our disposal?

‘‘You don’t always have to change to chase what you want,” responded Dodi. The starting point is to ask yourself and be sure of what you want out of your career – your long-term goal. By identifying this, you could pursue what you are passionate about without losing sight of the big picture. For my part, I had indicated passion for writing and education and Dodi observed that one could reach out to the Careers blog and propose to write.  I would then be chasing this passion without changing what I am currently doing. That is what inspired this post. Cristina P. concurred that it is important to “look for your strengths and match with your work – maximise the ways you are good” whilst delivering on your current role.

Finally, the big question. Dodi asked Cristina R. and I if ten years from now we would still be with Ericsson. To her surprise, we both responded in the affirmative and agreed that while Ericsson is truly a great place to work and it’s easy to get comfortable. There is so much opportunity to grow, to learn, and to add value to the organization. Ericsson is not an organization in which one is marginalised on the basis of your age, gender, or race, and one’s voice is always heard. One hundred and forty years strong, who would not want to remain a part of this success story?

I may not be privy to Dodi’s other sessions, as I earlier stated this was the first of four, and in my view, the best! The honest, relatable, inspiring conversation by all women on the call is one I will cherish for a long time.

I therefore implore women – and indeed everyone – to take advantage of these networking and sharing opportunities. Do anticipate the mail from Internal Communications and sign up! Reach out to those whose career success stories inspire you, so you could learn and imbibe the ‘how,’ and bring out the best of you. Trust your journey and enjoy the process. Yes, you may view and perceive your peers with fancy LinkedIn pages as ostensibly high flyers and excelling at their jobs, and you’re tempted to feel like you have this one job that looks boring on paper. Do not compare yourself – be inspired but trust that everyone’s journey and process is different. Stay focused and determined.

If you would like to hear more from Dodi check out her podcast ‘Get to Know an Average Joe.’ She also shared this podcast ‘Women Taking the Lead’ by Jodi Flynn.

You can also check out Millenials in the Work Place below.


Happy International Women’s Day!


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