Stephanie La Hive – An Inspirational Exec on Managing Work Life Balance and Achieving Career Success

On this issue of The Inspiration Executive Series, we are featuring Stephanie La Hive from IBM UK. In this interview, Stephanie shares a bit about her current role, some of the meaningful career and personal experiences she has had, along with advice for aspiring leaders.

 The Inspirational Executive series consists of interviews with our executive IBMers to demonstrate how you can 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.

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Stephanie’s career in IBM began in 1981 as an Office Administration apprentice. She progressed to experience ‘the field’ in IBM Commercial Branch Marketing Support. This has been followed by more than 25 years of experience in Service Delivery and Strategic Outsourcing in a variety of management and leadership roles.

Currently, Stephanie is the Single Accountable Programme Executive (SAPE) for CLS International Bank where she drives and leads the end-to-end portfolio of services for the client across the IBM brands.

How would you describe your role in IBM?

In essence I am the IBM ambassador and leader for my client. My role is exciting because it is owning the relationship, growing the relationship and IBM’s engagement on new initiatives, and ensuring we continually add value and drive the best that IBM has to offer.

What skills and experiences have you gained over your career that led you to attain a leadership position?

A difficult one to answer, but having had many roles in IBM over my career I have learned how to get the best from people for personal and team success. I believe that the best of IBM is its people. When you have a great team and you can bring them together to deliver their skills and expertise then success and pride follows for you and them.

Apart from the job that you do in IBM, are there other things you are involved in that keeps you motivated?

One of the most satisfying things for me is helping and supporting people as they aspire to grow in IBM. I have mentored many people over the years and hope to continue to do that for many more. It is very gratifying being able to share your personal experiences – good and not so good – to help people find a direction and succeed.

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

Whilst not working, my focus is my family – it’s really important for me to be able to find that time. After all, we need to be able to enjoy these times. My sons are very grown up now – one getting married and the other just left university and moving away from home to start work. If you don’t enjoy the moments and make time for them, you look back and it’s gone. I have a young daughter so I continue to ensure I make the time for her.

Like all of us I am sure my intention to get fit outweighs the time I actually spend doing it… so the odd gentle jog…. and walking. And now we have got two little puppies.

How do you manage your work life balance? 

The trickiest question of all and in reality there is no prescription for this. Being disciplined with yourself is very important. There will always be times when work overtakes your life for short periods of time but being strict with yourself and good time management is critical.

Enjoy the times when you can do the things you love outside your business commitments – whether that be children, sport, leisure – but always try and make the time, too. Easy to say I know but if you don’t make it happen, it won’t.

I am a real advocate of the phrase “You can have it all”. I believe work and career success alongside a family life can be had – just not all the time!  The ability to spin plates is essential!

Do you have any recommendations for employees aspiring to an executive career in a large corporation?

In my view it’s about these things –

  1. Talent: Of course you need talent – you need to focus on your skills, ensuring you keep yourself marketable and current, although this alone will not make you successful.
  2. Network: This is critical and, in my experience, something that underpins the right support, and the right coaching and mentoring. It’s not a static thing either – always think about who to connect with and what you can learn from them. Keep your network current too!
  3. Opportunities: Opportunities will come with your network but clearly this will be underpinned by your skills and achievements.
  4. Truth and Integrity: Another really key piece of advice I would offer is be true to yourself and trust your integrity – that way there is never a wrong answer, it will all be part of the experience!

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