Inspirational Executives Series – IBM Europe.
This series consists of interviews that profile executive IBM’ers across Europe to demonstrate how one may successfully build an executive career in this increasingly demanding market.
Juggling work, life, and family commitments is a daunting challenge, but this series reveals how, with careful time management, flexible leadership, and a willingness to embrace challenge, IBM can support successful executives throughout Europe to succeed in every aspect of their careers.
Sarah Bernuit – Executive Partner – Global Business Services (GBS) Europe.
Sarah is an IBM Executive Partner in GBS Financial Services. She has almost twenty years of experience in leading technology intensive organizations such as Cognizant Technology, Atos Origin, and Schlumberger.
Her CV reads as an inspiration to any professional aspiring to an executive career at IBM. And today she gives us an insight into her role at IBM, how her career developed, and how she manages her work life balance in such a demanding environment.
Can you describe your role at IBM?
The Strategic Deals Sales Leader in Financial Services is all about supporting our big deals across Europe. It touches several levels of the sales process
- The initiation part requires qualifying the opportunities, interlocking with GTS, working with Service Lines to keep an eye of contract renewals and through IMT Sales leader during Client Partner account plan.
- The progression part deals with ensuring the right content/people/deal coach and sales approach are applied to the opportunity. It could be a “solution oriented” session with the right experts or a 3 day session to mature the deals in all its aspects (stakeholder, value proposition, competition, etc.).
- The closing part is all the support from proposal submission, negotiation to contract signature.
What are the most rewarding aspects of your role?
When the deal is won! There is such a great sense of pride and accomplishment when the team’s hardwork and all the sweat and time materialize into a signing.
What is equally rewarding is developing long lasting relationship with clients, observing how their sector is evolving and discussing the possibilities to adapt. Then deriving these possibilities into sales opportunities.
I am also blessed to travel across Europe to support deal teams. It is fulfilling to work across different cultures and countries and share best practices.
What attracted you to work for IBM?
The continuous re-invention. It is EXTRAORDINARY to be part of a 100+ year old IT company. It is a challenge to remain relevant in our Industry and I believe IBM manages well to balance the day to day P&L imperative while defining what the game will be about next year and beyond to ensure we internally prepare ourselves and our teams for the new game.
How do you manage your work life balance?
My husband works full time at a Tier 1 International Pharma company and we have 3 children (8 year old, 4 year old and 3 year old). I usually travel 2-3 days/week so it is a lot of planning and organization. I am blessed to have a flexible child minder and a wonderful husband.
Dropping the need to be perfect in everything, prioritizing and keeping a sense of perspective are key to maintain a balance. It is common for women to work so hard to be the best mother, wife, friend, leader, etc. It takes time and confidence to say “no,” but so essential to preserve yourself.
Do you have any recommendations for employees aspiring to an executive career at IBM?
One of the best pieces of career advice I received from a senior person when I was in my 20’s was “to grow your need competences and sponsors.” You must work hard at developing the two and don’t hesitate to ask for help, don’t be shy!
I like Sallie Krawcheck’s advise to have your own “personal board of directors.” The Coach, the Connector, the Cheerleader and the Challenger. I think many of us have it unconsciously, but I recommend you have this in IBM and in your own ecosystem. Call upon them when you face a situation or a challenge. The worst you can do nowadays is to not ask for support to build your competences and your sponsors’ network.
If you are interested in learning more about our executive opportunities within Global Business Services, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
What will you make with IBM?