IWE Interview: One-on-one with Stacie Nevadomski Berdan Part 1

Last summer I was interviewed by International Women of Excellence about my career. Both a podcast and a Q&A were done but the materials weren’t available to non-IWE members. Since it’s been almost a year, I’m sharing the Q&A here in two parts due to length. I try to share as much of my material with my subscribers, and I hope you enjoy it. : )

Q. Tell us a bit about your interesting career journey to date

A. I am a lucky woman. I have had two great careers so far and have loved them both. I started my career in Washington, D.C., at the global PR and marketing giant Burson-Marsteller (recently merged as BursonCohn&Wolfe), where I began as an entry-level assistant account supervisor. I worked out of the DC, Hong Kong and New York offices over the course of 12 years working my way up to Global Account Managing Director and WPP Partner for clients around the world. I worked hard. I raised my hand for all kinds of assignments. I had excellent teachers and mentors. But it was my three years in Asia that catapulted my career from mid-level executive to global consultant for some of the largest MNCs. It was in Asia where my career really took off. I learned that having the ability to work across cultures, through different languages, and solve clients’ problems by leading a diverse team of professionals to deliver results was a hot commodity—and one that not many of my peers had—and one that I enjoyed and was good at. My international experience—I’ve worked in more than 50 countries and have led global virtual teams across 25 countries—inspired me to co-author my first award-winning book, Get Ahead By Going Abroad, with Perry Yeatman in 2007. Since then I have published an additional five books on the intersection of globalization and careers. I spend the majority of my time consulting for organizations, and speaking at conferences and on campuses across the country where I talk about the importance of developing a global mindset for career, lifestyle and beyond.

Q. What are you most proud of?
A. Writing a book is hard! But even more difficult than writing a book is finding a top-notch publisher; the field is crowded with so many experts who have great things to say. I am most proud of my ability to have written a successful book proposal that was bought by HarperCollins, one of the most prestigious publishers in the world—and then deliver that book within the four-month deadline I was given. My co-author had gone back to work full-time so she reviewed drafts, but the bulk of the research and writing was on me. Get Ahead By Going Abroad was received with tremendous media attention; it won two business awards and continues to sell well today (paperback, digital and audio), more than 12 years after its hardcover publication.

Q. What have been your own greatest career challenges and how have you overcome them?
A. I have many but two rise to the top as the greatest challenges for me, and they are different. The first was my re-entry back to DC after my three-year stint in Hong Kong. I felt as if I had achieved great things and had so much to share, but my DC colleagues didn’t appreciate where I’d been and what I’d accomplished. I felt lonely, isolated and undervalued. I was considering leaving when the COO recommended I speak to another former expat who had lived and worked on three continents. He was a lifeline and career saver for me. He helped me understand how to package my skills to sell into clients and gave me comfort that although there weren’t many of us, the close-knit group of global workers were there for each other. It worked, and I turned my time abroad into an immensely successful career as a consultant.

The second was overcoming my fear of public speaking. Although as a consultant I was required to present and speak in front of clients, I was never very comfortable standing up “presenting”. I preferred small group discussions where I could advise clients around a table. Speaking on a stage, though, to thousands of people ratcheted up my fear to even greater heights! For the first year of my book tour, I was terrified every time I went on stage, and often hoped my taxi would get a flat, or my flight would be delayed so I didn’t have to speak! A colleague saw me speak and asked me why I was so nervous (it came through) because she said my content was great and clearly I had some interesting things to share. She advised me to practice regularly, tape myself (or watch taped speeches I’d given) and see how well I did—and that I could do even better if I didn’t use my notes. I did as she advised, and I began to really enjoy speaking! So much so that now I love to speak in front of crowds talking up my passion; on average I have given about 40-50 talks a year for the past 10 years.

Q. Much of your work and writing uses your international business experience and focusses on working across cultures and promoting global awareness. Do you have any advice for those striving to reach senior levels in global companies, say 3 top tips?

Get international experience. Work abroad, take on a global role, be part of global virtual teams. Organizations need workers who can tap the bounty of markets around the world. How can you grow your company if you only understand your own country? How can you manage people of different cultures or who speak different languages if you’ve never had work in them? Wise large organizations recognize the value of international experience and often require it to get to the top.

Don’t be afraid to fail. Take the job you’re not sure you can do. Move to a country you’ve been offered a leadership role in. take risks and ask for help along the way. Learn from your mistakes. This lesson is probably the one that has sustained me most from my time working internationally.

Advocate for yourself. Don’t take anything for granted. As a woman who has worked for 25+ years in the corporate environment, I’ve seen a lot of change. But still, women get pushed aside for promotions, don’t get as much opportunity as men, get paid less. Don’t assume you are going to get that promotion or raise because you’ve done a great job. Ask for it. Network. Make it happen.

Q. What do you see are the main challenges?
A. I believe that people hire people like them. Until we change what that senior level looks like, women will continue to be hired less often for top jobs. Going abroad offers many a chance to circumvent the normal chain of advancement by exiting and then returning with phenomenal experience in an area of growth, or line or management experience. But it takes a high tolerance for risk and oftentimes a willing partner. But it can be done, So many women have and continue to do so.

Q. On a practical level, do you have any advice for those who travel extensively for work? How do you keep your mind and body fresh and alert for international business?
A. Travel, especially long-haul international travel, can wear you down. I recommend a few things.

First, keep a healthy lifestyle. By that I mean eat as much fresh fruit and vegetables on the plane (I bring my own plane food), drinks lots of water, exercise/work out every day, and drink as little alcohol as possible (especially on the plane).

Second, try to arrive the day before or stay a few days after. The day before allows you to acclimate, see some sights and get into a routine. A few days after is a nice reward to treat yourself to an interesting museum, historic site, a spa or whatever you like.

Third, get to know your destination, your host, the language or culture a little bit. This allows you to talk about it with your host, colleagues or co-workers showing that you care about the place, its people, the business—the positive feedback you receive will reenergize you.

To be continued in the next blog!

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