Siemens: Age and Ethnicity Are No Barriers to Advancement at This 150-Year-Old Global Giant
Fagerberg, Paula, Diversity Employers
Can you give us a summary of your career path in general and how it led ultimately to Siemens?
I really developed my way up from the mail room while working at IBM. I ran a check-stuffing machine at first, then they hired me on into their Accounting department while I finished my undergraduate studies and part of my graduate studies at night. I left because I saw a lot of people there at a similar level with similar skill sets, and I wanted to control my own destiny. I went to Novartis, where I spent 12 years gaining exposure to Swiss and German cultures and traveling all over the world, so my cultural as well as business acumen was greatly broadened. When I joined Siemens as their Financial Auditor (they did not have one at the time) it gave me an opportunity to build an international organization. It was all of the Americas from Canada to Argentina, so it gave me geographical breadth as well as the opportunity to start that function up on my own.
What else besides your education would you say was instrumental in getting you so far so fast?
I think it's making the best of every opportunity. It's being a good listener, being able to read between the lines on people and understanding that what you think you heard is not always what they were actually trying to express. I think being able to discern that and not make repeated mistakes on the way is what really helps.
Also, I was a U.S. Army Reservist for about five years. I actually joined the military when I was going through a number of personal tragedies. I think that when you hit those types of points in your life, you make one of two choices: do I keep going or do I give up? Through my military training I was challenged with a variety of things, both physical and mental that I have been able to apply to my business experience. Today I feel that there's not really much that can be thrown at me that would break me, particularly from a business perspective.
Can yon tell us about Siemens' diversity, initiatives?
I'm extremely proud that the company does have an initiative like this. It's not an Affirmative Action or African American initiative--this is a company that does business in 190 countries around the world and is very diverse in terms of geographical presence and market serve. It's clear that the company has realized that diversity is important for us to be able to effectively represent our customer, base. In my own heart, as an African-American and one of the relatively few who are in senior management positions, I quite honestly take a personal interest in this initiative as well. …