SheSharp teamed up with Women of Uber to host a discussion with Ada Jong, Director of eCommerce at ABN AMRO. In this fireside chat, Patrick Stal, Head of EMEA Marketing at Uber asked Ada to give us a sense of what made and continues to make Ada the woman she is today. She shared humorous and interesting stories about her personal and professional path from her time touring in a band, to her command of high stakes business negotiations, to the joys and challenges of being a working mother.
In the second half of the presentation, the floor was opened up to the audience to ask questions, many of which had to do with negotiation skills, navigating sexism and patriarchy, and finding professional fulfillment while parenting. Below are some of the gems that Ada shared with us that evening.
Inclusivity & Diversity
When asked about how organizations can make real strides towards an inclusive work force, Ada had some concrete suggestions.
- Set organizational targets and goals around hiring that make the moment-to-moment or circumstantial decisions easier and more consistent.
- In terms of making organizational change, Ada recounted stories about how she succeeded by first developing an understanding of the business environment and circumstances, along with an understanding of the power dynamics in place.
Some time was spent discussing the #metoo movement. Ada noted that one powerful aspect of the movement is the focus on eliminating the shame and guilt around being the victim of sexual harassment or violence. She encouraged male allies to participate in the movement and do something right away: help women in your life to have the space to be free, to be themselves, and to be heard.
Ada had additional advice for women who are trying to make change for themselves or their situation but are finding it hard without the needed communication skills. She suggested finding someone who is effective with those kinds of communication skills AND understands your needs and challenges so that they could be an advocate or amplifier for you.
When thinking about her own leadership approach, Ada spent some time reflecting on leaders and mentors that have made an impact on her. She shared some insight into being an effective leader:
- Allow those you are managing to take the lead around important initiatives. This fosters ownership and permits individual growth.
- Follow the examples and methods of other leaders and mentors that have had positive impact on you.
- Be social and approachable and use those social skills to have honest interactions with colleagues. Be genuinely present and create the occasions in a work context where you can make those social connections.
- The essence of leadership is staying true to yourself.
Ada’s stories detailed not only her business success but also her joy and satisfaction with her journey. There was some discussion around how the audience could dictate their own best terms as they progress through their careers. Ada left us with many salient points and tips that included:
- Focus on your already accomplished outputs when negotiating for more.
- As part of your ask, present your plan for developing yourself (in order to achieve more for the company/project); this development plan should have costs beyond your current needs and thus justifies your call for more.
- Before you have the actual negotiation, prepare and write out the approach and strategy you will take in the negotiation itself.
There were a few personal themes around parenting that Ada discussed including: finding balance between workplace ambition and being a supportive and present parent and raising children with the kind of awareness that enables them to succeed despite the disadvantages inherent in society. The formula that has been working for Ada includes these elements:
- Raising children with the goal of giving them the chances to do things that you couldn’t or didn’t do as a child.
- Finding a good mix of hours working in the office and time spent at home.
- Having an understanding manager that appreciates and respects the circumstances and needs around parenting.
- Having a mentor that understands your context and can help you discover the best path through your challenges.
- A book recommendation: Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls.
Digital (“new school”) in Banking (“old school”)
Ada conceded that the banking sector (where ABN Amro functions) is not the epitome and tech and agility. And even though ABN is an old company, working in the digital context means that teams and the vibes at work are youthful and contemporary.