“I see that my role as a leader is to empower, motivate and inspire others”

Believe in yourself enough to be yourself and don’t try to be someone else. I think women try too hard to behave a different way to project a certain image and they don’t need to.

As part of our series celebrating women leaders to mark International Women’s Day, Renata Bertram, VP Marketing, Salesforce Australia & New Zealand talks to us about learning to believe in herself and the power of ‘And’.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you’ve got to where you are today in your career?

My name is Renata Bertram and I am VP of marketing for Salesforce, Australia and New Zealand. I have been at Salesforce for five years now and feel incredibly fortunate to be in the position I’m in as the subject matter has been an ongoing passion from the beginning of my career. I’m a long term technology marketer. I’ve had all sorts of roles across the various disciplines of marketing, whether it be product marketing, campaigns, channel marketing or segmentation. I have been both in individual contributor roles as well as leadership or people management positions. My roles have spanned Australia/New Zealand and Asia Pacific as well as, at one point, across growth markets which included central and eastern Europe, Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

But, my most important role – which I’m particularly proud of – is mother to three wonderful children and wife to a very supportive, and very loving, husband. There have been significant periods of time where I’ve been at home with the children, and when I have held part time or job share roles thanks to forward thinking employers and leaders.

I was lucky enough to have had a job share opportunity about a decade ago with another woman who also had three young children, and together we led an integrated marketing team of 70-80 people across Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines very successfully.

So, to answer the question about how I got to where I got to today, I think it has been through a combination of factors:

  • I am hard working and motivated, and I was fortunate enough to be among leaders who saw that capability and ambition and were willing to support that in a way that worked for me
  • I’m in it for the long haul. I never saw my career in short term goals so, for example, I never set myself goals for where I had to be in 12 months’ time. I wanted to progress in all areas of my life and you have to accept you can’t do everything at once. You have to be patient. But I was also willing to take risks and opportunities when they presented themselves. I was willing to push myself out of my comfort zone when those around me, who felt I had the capability, put opportunities my way. I have always been surrounded by people who believed in me and who provided me with opportunities that I was ready to grasp
  • I have always listened to feedback from everyone around me: my team, my peers, my managers…I always listen to others
  • I could not have done this without the support of my husband at home. I have been extremely fortunate that he has always encouraged me to pursue my aspirations. And he doesn’t just talk the talk; he walks the walk too. He has fully shared the load at home, so cooking, cleaning and picking up/dropping off children certainly wasn’t left entirely to me.

What do you think has been the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome in reaching your current position?

I think believing in myself is the biggest hurdle I’ve had to overcome. Believing that I can take things on. I am now the most courageous that I’ve ever been, but it’s taken me a while to become courageous and believe in myself and/or back myself. I think it’s because I have had the benefit of others supporting me and pushing me, but this has also been to the detriment of me pushing myself and telling people what I want.

How would you characterise your leadership style? And why do you think it’s been so successful? 

I think I’ve been successful because I recognise that I am only as good as the people that I lead and surround myself with. I see that my role as a leader is to empower, motivate and inspire others. I think that could also be why I’ve got to where I’ve got in my career. I also listen to comments that people make to me, and it’s something I find most value from. In fact, my currency is about what my own people tell me: ‘I want to be in your team’ or ‘I want to stay in your team.’ I have been deliberate in becoming a leader who attracts, grows and retains talent. My leadership style, then, is to listen to each individual and support them accordingly. So if people are ready to fly, I give them space and let them fly; if people need more 1:1 help and guidance, I hold their hand and give them individual attention. It’s about being aware of what your team needs at any given time.

Who’s the woman that’s inspired you most in your career and why?

This could be a timely answer, but it has to be my Mother who recently passed away. She was Eastern European and so came from a culture of traditional family values, but always made me believe I could have it all and be whoever I wanted to be. So although she wanted me to be a good family person, she equally pushed me to go through higher education and to pursue the career she thought I was capable of. She was ill with cancer, but was so courageous and very determined throughout her illness to give back to others and never give up. So it’s her courage that inspired me as well as her believing in me.

What advice would you give other women looking to rise into leadership positions?

To believe in yourself would be my main advice. And don’t give up – you’re in it for the long haul. Surround yourself with women who advocate for women but equally men who are allies. That definitely helps. Also, don’t lose sight of who your authentic self is. Believe in yourself enough to be yourself and don’t try to be someone else. I think women try too hard to behave a different way to project a certain image and they don’t need to. Finally, I’d say listen to feedback and understand that feedback can come from everywhere, not just those you report to. I learn from my team every day.

What organisational initiatives or behaviours have you experienced that have helped female executives reach their potential?

I think any job share or part time career opportunities are extremely helpful in helping women achieve their potential. Also, from a development perspective, personal coaching has always been really helpful to me, but also initiatives within organisations where women can connect with other like-minded women. We have such a program within Salesforce which is extremely beneficial, but also externally, there are peer group meetings out there that are helpful. Women are often harsher on each other, but if you get it right, other women can also be your strongest advocates and we can get a lot of energy from each other.

The 2020 theme for International Women’s Day is #EachforEqual – drawing on the notion that our individual actions, conversations, behaviours and mindsets have an impact on our larger society. What individual action would you encourage others to take to help support a gender-equal world?

CEO of Salesforce in A/NZ, Pip Marlow, an amazing leader and human, shared with us the power of ‘And’. As a word ‘and’ is very simple, but it’s also an extremely powerful connector. So, for example, I am a Leader and Mother (not one or the other). I feel extremely fortunate to be working in an organisation like Salesforce where equality is one of our core values and we really live and breathe this value in our daily work. I know in other organisations, and in society at large, there is still a lot of work to be done, so I think, as you describe in the question, individual actions and conversations are very important in bringing about change. The way that we use language, and the words that we use to describe women, or stereotypes are important. Even the words that we use in job descriptions potentially attract one gender, but turn off another inadvertently. It reveals a lot of subconscious bias, so each individual needs to become more conscious of the language that they are using.   So, for example, when men are described as ‘confident’ an equally confident woman would often be described as ‘aggressive.’ Or a man could be described as ‘virtuous’ but a woman ‘beautiful’ and I think everyone has a responsibility to consider the words they use on a day-to-day basis to change this culture.

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