How a Millennial Female Executive Thrives in the Workplace

As a millennial, Agnes belongs to a new generation of IBM executives. In her interview, we learn how she stays motivated and focused, how she balances the duties of an executive with the demands of her personal life, and shares her advice to succeed in an executive role.

The Inspirational Executive series  consists of interviews that profile executive IBMers 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 to succeed in every aspect of their careers.

Agnes Heftberger photoAgnes Heftberger is a millennial who belongs to a new generation of IBM executives, advocating new ways to work and new ways to collaborate with our clients.

Agnes joined IBM  in 2001 after completing her Masters in International Business from the University of Business Administration and Economics in Vienna. Today, she is the Vice President for Consumer Industries in IBM Germany where she leads IBM’s business in the industries Retail & Consumer Packaged Goods, Travel & Transport, and Telco/Media/Entertainment.

Before taking her current role, Agnes held various executive and management positions in Central & Eastern Europe, Middle East, and Austria. She was Sales Leader for Small & Medium Businesses in Austria, led IBM’s Storage Solutions Sales in Central & Eastern Europe and most recently was Vice President of Systems for IBM in Central & Eastern Europe.

What is your role in IBM?

I lead the Enterprise Business Unit for Consumer Industries in IBM Germany. Together with my team of Sales Leaders, Client Executives and Architects we work with clients from three industries (Retail & CPG, Travel & Transport, Telecommunications / Entertainment / Media) in order to transform and grow their businesses – from better understanding and leveraging their essential business data, to finding new ways to engage with their customers, to launching new business models based on cloud and cognitive services.

My role is to support my team to build deep industry insights, establish or extend lasting client relationships, and fortify IBM’s role as a thought leader within these industries’ ecosystems. I spend a lot of time finding new talents for our team and determining new ways to digitally reinvent existing businesses through emerging technologies, for example Blockchain.

Outside of IBM, what are your hobbies, interests, and passions?

My one great passion outside of IBM is traveling – there is not a moment when I am not on a city trip, researching new places to go to or, having recently moved from Vienna to Hamburg, exploring a new part of my home town. I love adventures and foreign cultures so much that a while ago my partner and I took a 12 month break from our careers in order to travel around the world. In our 360 days on the road we joined a Thai Boxing Camp on a Thai island, explored a remote chain of Indonesian islands by kayak, ventured into the Andes on horseback, dove with sharks in Galapagos, and traveled for three months through the African bush in a 4WD with a roof-top tent. I believe my quest for adventure and curiosity came in handy when taking on new job roles within new markets like I did in the beginning of this year.

When I am not traveling or spending time with my family you will find me with a book in my hands. I adore literature and it is practically impossible for me to pass a bookshop without adding a book or two to a collection already far too big. As I moved around a lot in the past years I tried several times to switch over to eBooks (makes for far less boxes to pack and unpack), but I simply miss the physical feeling of hundreds of pages filled with great stories.

How do you manage your work life balance?

Over time I have learned to stay in tune with my personal needs. I have developed ways to sense when it’s time to recharge or to focus my mind on something else than a business challenge. Rather than forcing myself to be creative or productive when the moment simply isn’t right, I go for a run and return to my task later on. That’s a great aspect of working at IBM – as long as you get the job done you have the freedom to design your schedule around your own rhythm.

I also try to spend as much time as possible with people – be it with friends and family outside of work or with colleagues over an extended lunch during the week. I am convinced that it’s the interaction and discussion with others that make stress levels drop and creative juices flow. And I’ll choose a good, hearty laugh over a healthy smoothie any time.

Do you have any recommendations for millennials and employees aspiring to an executive career in IBM?

1. Pick an area that you are truly passionate about.
It’s simply a lot easier to excel if you are naturally excited by what you do. At IBM there are so many different areas to explore – look for the one that sparks your imagination.

2. Stay curious and keep asking questions.
At no point in our career are we done with learning and experimenting. I believe we always need to assume that there are other and better ways to solve a problem. Keep on searching for these different solutions.

3. Care for others.
No matter what type of career you choose, most of the time you will work in and with a team. Your success will always be defined by the success of this team. You’ll be at your own best when you bring out the best in those you work with.

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