Name: Heidi Silva
Position: Head of Financial Planning & Analysis at MetLife Australia
Industry: Finance
Graduated: 2014
Promotions since graduating: 2
Biggest takeaway: A well structured conversation can escalate your career trajectory

Struggling to find direction in her finance career, Heidi signed up to the Women’s Career Advancement Program (WCAP) in search of some guidance and assistance with her communication.

 “I had varying roles and job types within accounting but could not choose a specialty and by chopping and changing pathways I felt I was not building up enough knowledge to become a subject matter expert.”

From the onset, any pre-conceived ideas Heidi had around the steps required to realise her career potential were challenged. She’d assumed the program would centre around confidence-building; and while self-assurance certainly played a part, she was introduced to some brand new strategies.

The power of communication

“There were many skills that I picked up regarding confidence, however the biggest outtake from the program was the power of communication.”

Under the leadership of her coach, Heidi worked on her articulation and structured well-thought out conversations. This allowed her to communicate better with her managers, and new sponsors. She received almost instant pay-off, gaining a promotion mid-program when one of her sponsors recognised her potential and made a recommendation to top management.

“I learnt that great communication coupled with powerful stakeholders can really escalate the trajectory of your career. Obviously you need the portfolio of work to back up the sponsor, but you cannot underestimate how beneficial these relationships are.”

Since completing the program 2.5 years ago, Heidi has continued to foster these relationships and was awarded another promotion recently due to an offshore sponsor suggesting her for a new position.

Invaluable personal coaching

While the Women’s Career Advancement Program equipped Heidi with the necessary tools to build a solid career plan, she cites the 1:1 coaching as the most valuable and unique part of the program – and something not commonly offered in other leadership programs.

“Wow was the coaching was impactful! Having someone who is impartial, but so understanding and knowledgeable, giving you individual coaching is worth the program fee on its own.” It was this personal input which encouraged her to get out there and really push her boundaries.

The program also opened her eyes to the differing challenges faced by women in the workplace.

“Having the ability to mingle and discuss work situations with like-minded people and hear interesting and new ways of dealing with issues was extremely beneficial.”

“That’s the great thing about the WCAP. It’s designed in a way that benefits a really wide audience. Each participant drew something different from the program, but all had immense impact.”

Although the program has long since wrapped, the invaluable lessons remain. Heidi still frequently finds herself “bogged down” with work, but tries to reminds herself of the importance of stepping away from her desk and into new networking opportunities – and encourages her peers to do the same.

“I’ve attempted to instill my knowledge to other women in my office and have recommended the Women’s Career Advancement Program to others, as it really opens your eyes to endless career possibilities.” And Heidi has two promotions to prove it.