employee story

Ambition and career success through self-doubt

Ambition and career success through self-doubt

WORK180
WORK180Aug 3, 2020

Carla Devine joined ITW because she wanted a job close to home to care for her young son. She admits it wasn’t a perfect match initially and she had her doubts, but she decided to give it a good go. Over the last 13 years she has worked across various divisions, functions and embraced challenges that offered her great personal and professional development.

Always one to set big career goals for herself, Carla has been with ITW through huge enterprise transformation at the same time as going through her own career growth. She’s risen through the ranks of finance and is currently leading the Operations function in Residential Division.

Setting your sights on big goals

Carla joined ITW as an Assistant Accountant in 2007, 18 months out of uni.

“I started at ITW more as a lifestyle choice than for my career. I just wanted to see my son more and needed a job close to home with better flexibility.”

As I learnt more about ITW as an organisation and realised the opportunities it offers for career progression and development my natural ambition kicked in. I set myself a goal of becoming a Financial Controller by the time I turned 30.

Ironically, given the fact that Carla joined ITW to spend more time with her young son, she’s first to admit she became really driven and single-minded about her goal and worked far too much!

She did make Financial Controller by 30. “It was fantastic, I’d put my mind onto something, and I’d achieved it. I did stop to reflect on my initial focus of achieving better work life balance and became much more intentional about it”.

Carla admits that her driven nature means she continuously balances the push and pull of career ambitions and work-life balance.

How to get the balance

Because it’s been a challenge for her personally, Carla has spent a lot of time reflecting on how to best achieve work-life balance. She freely admits it’s something she has to intentionally focus on (so isn’t claiming to have all the answers), but there are few things she learnt along the way:

Progress is better than perfection. I spent a lot of time feeling like I had to be perfect and I had to achieve my goals in these unrealistic, short time frames. Set your goals and work towards them but in a holistic way.

Carla also sets personal goals, to ensure her focus isn’t solely on her career. Last year she ran a half marathon with her husband, and they love to travel. Travel gives Carla something to look forward to beyond work.

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Turning down a dream role

Whilst working as Financial Controller, Carla was offered a promotion to Divisional Financial Controller. It was a great career step and very exciting opportunity… but she would have had to move her family to Melbourne from Sydney. With her son starting his HSC and playing NSW representative American Football, Carla decided not to uproot him and turned down the promotion.

Carla admits, “I thought, the business is going to write me off. I was really nervous about having to say no but everyone was very understanding. I still had my doubts, even when people say all the right things, it’s hard to believe it won’t affect how they view you.”

Nine months later, I got a second chance, Divisional Financial Controller position came up in Sydney and ITW said, “We think you’d be perfect for it.”

This experience offered me some great learnings; you’ve got to do what’s right for you at the time. My son went on to represent Australia in football and is on scholarship in the US now. It was the right decision.

The promotion moved Carla to the Retail division of ITW after a decade in Residential. Changing roles and businesses comes with challenges and identifying and building on your transferrable skills becomes very important.

When stepping up into a new business unit or position, Carla suggests;

  • Trust yourself. “Believe in yourself. You have developed those skills and they are going to be transferrable.” Your skills exist outside the business or people you work with.
  • Value your skills. “They are what you bring to the table, and they will be valued in any business.”
  • Have confidence. “Back yourself. You get these opportunities because of what you know and what you bring."
  • It will get easier. “You might find yourself ‘drinking from the firehose’ for a bit, but it will be ok.”

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Battling self doubt

Carla has battled self-doubt throughout her career, which led to some of her big goals.

“I was constantly trying to prove to myself, I can do this.”

Reflecting on her journey she shares some advice:

  • Try new things. Stepping up to Divisional Financial Controller role in different division proved her skills were transferrable but also offered continuous learning. You are not growing if you are not taking yourself out of your comfort zone.
  • Get support. When Carla took the Operations Director promotion, she was given a coach who worked with her using the LifeStyles Inventory coaching tool to set her up for success.
  • Listen to your champions and don’t be too hard on yourself. Supportive leaders have shown Carla her standards are well above average and encouraged her to give herself a break.
  • Reflect and learn. “I would always do something, then reflect on what worked, what didn’t and what I would do differently next time.”

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Taking risks and growing from within

ITW values that resonate strongly with Carla are Shared Risk and Growing from Within. Shared risk represents the high levels of psychological safety at ITW. It enables people to take calculated risks. Failure or success is shared rather than issues being blames on an individual.

“It allows you to constantly take risks and challenge yourself in your career. And, when you experience an ‘uh-oh moment’, it’s amazing to really feel the support from your manager. [When you’re in a stretch role, you] know you’re in an environment where you’ll be supported. I don’t worry that if I fail, I’ll be kicked to the curb!”

Growing from within resonates with Carla. Throughout her career in ITW, the business changed significantly. Carla remained open to new opportunities, took on roles that offered some great learnings and developed her leadership skills. It keeps her challenged and engaged.

“It’s a really good company to work for. There’s a lot of opportunity if you’re willing to put in the hard work. Plus the people here are genuinely really nice!”

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About the author

WORK180

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