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Life at Siemens
Irma Wilde lives in Mexico City and is Director of Corporate Strategy and Business Development across Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. She shares her tips for finding space to think among the daily noise. This is a day in her life...
5.30am I start my day eating breakfast with my husband. He’s really my rock, though we’re very different; I laugh very loudly and am very enthusiastic when I talk, and he’s more serious. He really helps me to look at things from a different perspective. We met in the gym – it’s not very romantic! When he proposed to me, I said, “You know my work is top priority for me, right?” And he does. I’m a workaholic, so we eat together in the mornings and evenings but spend most time together at the weekends when we drive [to] Cuernavaca to swim, train and cycle. I feel the need to get out of the city and breathe another kind of air.
After breakfast, I drive to the gym, which is right by work. I like to run a lot. Traffic in Mexico City is madness, so I use the 10km drive to think about work, or call my boss [Louise K. Goeser, CEO at Siemens Mesoamerica] and talk through ideas with her. That’s something I love about our teams – if you want to discuss an idea because you’re suddenly inspired by it, they’ll make time for you before you lose the thread. I find I do my clearest thinking when driving or running.
8.30am We’re seven hours behind Germany, so I check the emails which have come in overnight before catching up with my team – then I have usually have meetings with the sales board. The teams I work with are mostly pretty young and they’re open to new ways of thinking. We talk about current projects and leveraging momentum in Mexico.
11am One-to-ones with my boss happen once a fortnight. We’ve worked together for two years and Louise is my role model in a lot of ways – I’ve always looked up to her. She’s taught me to be more organized in my way of thinking, to listen carefully and to ask the right questions.
1pm Lunchtime. Tacos are pretty much what cross my mind but I go for salad throughout the week, and eat a lot of Peruvian food.
3pm It’s easy to get caught up in everyday priorities, but if we don’t take ourselves outside of the daily work, we’ll never be strategic and just continue closing open topics. So I carry a notebook to record anything related to the long-term and every two weeks I book a meeting with myself and return to my notes and reflect.
7pm I’m developing a women empowerment association with peers and friends, to give women the right tools to journey up to positions of power and influence, so some evenings we host talks, workshops and training. If it’s a Thursday, I go bowling with my team, which is something we do every week. We all get on well. When you’re a close team sometimes you share your life outside of work, even if it’s just sending them a photograph of an ice-cold beer on my terrace on a Friday night at the end of a long week.
Irma Wilde leads business development across Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. With an engineering background, she’s testament to what you can achieve when you throw yourself into a new field. We spoke to Irma about challenging the conventional.
“I’d sit in meetings in Munich thinking ‘What are you talking about?’” she says. “Discussing topics I knew little about was a challenge.” Back in her hometown of Mexico City, Irma’s expertise was in healthcare, where she’d worked her way from entry-level biochemical engineering graduate to managing business for the Magnetic Resonance Unit.
The invitation to transfer to a completely new strategic position in Munich was a challenge to her existing skillset and a test of character.
Most people have sat through meetings where they can’t grasp the subject matter, but Irma didn’t see her lack of experience as a barrier in pursuing a new field. Instead, she saw that though she wasn’t an ‘expert’, there was a world of opportunity beckoning beyond what she knew.
“The secret,” she says, “is to be thirsty for knowledge and not be scared of trying something different.” Irma believes that knowing what she wants has helped her climb the ranks at work. “I was sent to a new role in Munich because they believed I could do it. Why should I not believe the same?”
I knew I wasn’t an expert. But it taught me there’s a world of opportunity beyond what I was used to
Exploring the unknown paid off. It’s allowed her to move across countries as well as the company. Now she’s Director of Corporate Strategy and Business Development, leading projects with influence over the future of entire regions. In Mexico, she recently orchestrated a major Memorandum of Understanding with the government, including investment plans for healthcare, mobility and energy reform over the next decade. This work was, she says, “her baby”.
In Cuba, Irma leads the team exploring development of an energy infrastructure which will, for the first time, bring a reliable supply to the island’s industries and attract foreign investment. Right now, power blackouts in Cuba prove a frequent challenge to manufacturing, so improving grid reliability will have a great impact on the country’s growth. The team is already planning similar initiatives to be rolled out across the rest of the Caribbean.
So what inspires her to push for change? Mentorship. Often people have been through similar situations in their own careers. All it takes is to ask, to reveal a wealth of advice that comes from experience. “There is always a similar story behind us,” Irma says, “we are not isolated.”
Irma pays it forward, mentoring younger colleagues. It’s not always easy to give honest advice, but it makes for better mentorship with a foundation of mutual respect. It’s Irma’s tendency to ‘tell it straight’ and her passion that inspires her protégés. She says: “When I do something I always try to find a benefit for the company, or society, I think always finding a holistic objective inspires them too.”
What advice has helped her to forge ahead? She says, without hesitating: “Don’t create barriers that don’t exist.” Being unafraid of exploring new avenues means being prepared to leave your comfortable routine behind. Often that means picking up the phone and making calls. “Talk! If you don’t communicate or find a common understanding on any topic, it’s impossible to spread a message or win a deal.”