Our Head of Sustainability Vanessa Butani shares career tips with young women

She sticks to her purpose, strives for balance and underlines the importance of open discussions to reach clarity. Our Head of Sustainability Vanessa Butani shared her own career experiences with a group of young women at a mentoring event last month.

Eight women starting out in their careers aged 18-25 from countries including Colombia, North America, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Sweden, Poland and Germany took part in the virtual event to speak with Vanessa who first joined Electrolux in 2010 and today leads the company’s sustainability efforts.

“Vanessa gave some great insight into what drives her in work life, as well as how important it is to set boundaries and try new things. There was a piece of advice that will stick with me for a long time –  to work hard but have fun.  The session left me feeling motivated and ready to tackle my work, setting the right mindset and taking initiative towards my future development”, said mentee Weronika Wizimirska.

The mentoring session was launched on October 11 to celebrate International Day of the Girl and was hosted by Electrolux 100 Women – a grassroots initiative launched at Electrolux in 2019 to offer women mentoring from inspirational role models.

Here are some event highlights:

What advice do you have for those starting their professional life – transitioning from university to the marketplace?

Even after business school I didn’t know what I wanted for my first job. I felt pressure to “do the right thing”. But really if I think about it now – it doesn’t matter what your first job is. Unless you’re certain of exactly what you want to do, just use it as an exploration and make sure you’re surrounded by people that you can learn from.

Also have the guts to say this isn’t the right place to be. Find out what you like and don’t like. Don’t regret – you’ve always learned something.

What is your advice on pushing yourself to the next level in your career?

The most important thing is to have conversations and tell people what you want. Tell your mentor, tell your manager and even their manager. Be very clear. And be proactive.  Look at what’s happening in your organization– ask yourself ‘where is the gap, how can I contribute, where is there space for me to do something good?’

You said when you were in your early career, you didn’t know what you wanted to do. I have a hard time to know what is right for me. Do you have more advice to share about that?

One thing that has been really powerful for me was taking part in a leadership course where they challenged me to find my own purpose. I created a phrase that is my purpose and it hasn’t changed over time. Every time I look at a new role, I use it to help question if it’s going to move me towards where I want to be. The road doesn’t have to be straight but you’ve got to make sure you’re going in the right direction and don’t head off the other way. If I look back to jobs that didn’t feel right, it’s because they didn’t align with my purpose and what I should be doing.

Do you have advice on how to build a network especially during these times when it’s harder to meet face-to-face?

Try cold-calling. Contact people and tell them you think they have an interesting job and you would like to have a virtual coffee with them. Most people are happy to help. Or talk to your manager and ask them who they know who is good to connect with. It’s been hard to meet people over the past year but one of my favorite activities now is going for a ‘walk and talk’. We either do it virtually or I drive to someone’s home and we go for a walk in their neighborhood.

What is your standpoint on work-life balance?

I won’t sacrifice my health. Firstly, I need movement every day or I don’t feel good. Another thing that has made me reflect is the book ‘Why We Sleep’ by Matthew Walker which covers the importance of sleep and how it can help you. So I try to prioritize seven to eight hours of sleep a night. What also helps me is having kids. When I’m with them I can’t be thinking about anything else, I put my phone away and focus on the here and now. Boundaries are important.

How do you build a career rather than just have a job?

I come back to my purpose. I’ve stuck with my purpose and made sure to have fun. If that doesn’t fit, then it doesn’t work.