To celebrate International Women’s Day, we asked some exceptional H+K women about their inspiration, what they wish they could tell their 20-year-old selves, and what single word has had the biggest impact on their lives and careers. Click on the tiles below to read their interviews.

                    

Don’t let life happen to you— make plans! And also don’t be afraid to change them…

 Avra Lorrimer, Managing Director, H+K London

Avra-Lorimer1Who inspires you?
I’m really inspired by Kate Robertson of One Young World and her commitment to mobilizing tomorrow’s business leaders to be a force for good. The world needs more people who advocate for responsible and accountable capitalism. I’m also obsessed with Sheryl Sandberg— she is so accomplished but speaks in an accessible voice that connects with so many women. She is a catalyst in the changes that are happening for women in the workforce today and I hope that Lean In keeps its momentum.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
Don’t let life happen to you— make plans! And also don’t be afraid to change them…

List one single word that has had a lasting impact on your life or career, or that is a focus word of yours at this time.
Curiosity.

We lied, do you want more than one word?
That was inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

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Invest in building professional and personal relationships.

Claudia Gioia, President & CEO, H+K Latin America

Who inspires you?
My mother is the first one on the list. She always looks for the bright side in any situation. Many women have inspired me throughout the years: the author Harriet Rubin and her book The Princessa; Katherine Graham who never hid from her responsibility as the heir of a major newspaper; Stacie Berdan, a former colleague who dared to follow a dream a became a bestselling author Stacie Berdan; Shelley Lazarus, for being the only woman in the room for so many years; Malala for her courage… so many more.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
Invest in building professional and personal relationships. Take nothing for granted, and know that nothing comes for free.

List one single word that has had a lasting impact on your life or career, or that is a focus word of yours at this time.
Courage.

We lied, do you want more than one word?
As women we have so much to give, to learn, to enjoy, to love… but we get stalled in prejudice, criticism, and fear. Imagine how richer our lives could be if we dare to do something that scares us each day? This is the type of thinking we should embrace.

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Comfort can be dangerous to growth.

Helena Mayanja, Managing Director, H+K Uganda + Rwanda

Who inspires you?
My mother is by far by biggest inspiration in life. Her hard work and humility knows no bounds. Career wise, Biola Alabi, Jackie Namara, Tina Byaruhanga, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Joseline Kateeba are some of the women whom I have looked up to from near and far throughout my journey. In their different walks of life, they have inspired me to create my own path, be brave, and not only work hard but also work smart.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
Goodness… I have so much to say to my 20-year-old self! In the interest of space and time I will pick on a few “If-Only-I-Knew-Thens”:

  1. If you are the smartest person in your peer group, you have outgrown that group— you need to consistently evolve and aim higher. This doesn’t mean cut out your friends, no. It means find your next challenge and be inspired by people better than you. Comfort can be dangerous to growth.
  2. There are no short cuts; work hard and be consistent at it
  3. Everything will work out in the end. If it hasn’t worked out, it is not the end— keep going.
  4. James 2:14-26 — this scripture is about Faith and deeds. To my 20-year-old self, I say: what good is it for you to be socially/politically aware and do nothing about it? You are equipped. Do something. While you are at it, learn to be in that moment and enjoy it….there are loads of distractions coming!

List one single word that has had a lasting impact on your life or career, or that is a focus word of yours at this time.
Consistency

We lied, do you want more than one word?
Consistency is key—yes I know, cliché, but it is true! if you consistently work out and diet, you will start to see change. if you consistently work hard, you will start to win. If you consistently work hard at something, you get really good at it. You grow, you evolve, and eventually you prosper. #ConsistencyPaysOff

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Sheryl Sandberg, for taking risks, turning a crisis into an opportunity and for inspiring women across the world.

Deepa Jayaraman, COO, H+K India

Deepa Jayaraman

Who inspires you?
Women are exceptional, they are talented, they multitask, their IQ is high, they spread love, they care for the earth and they never ask for much. Many women inspire me, but if I were to list a few: Oprah Winfrey tops the list (and I really wish she go through with the US presidential election 2020); Princess Diana for following her heart and not letting stereotypes prevail; and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, for taking risks, turning a crisis into an opportunity and for inspiring women across the world.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
Be curious and restless— do everything that is in your power. Take risks, keep learning, keep asking, question nomenclatures, think big, take risks, make mistakes and enjoy them, learn from them.

List one single word that has had a lasting impact on your life or career, or that is a focus word of yours at this time.
Me.

We lied, do you want more than one word?
Me, Moi, Meh…I am the most important person in my life. Only you can help yourself and your happiness depends on solely yourself. Women tend to put others first in most cases— partners, parents, kids, and specifically in our business, clients and bosses, before we think of ourselves. It is important that we care of our happiness and our growth and focus on that, otherwise we will continue to live for others. When we start putting our growth, our happiness, our goals, our desires and our aspirations before anything else, we will be truly happy. This, in turn, will lead to a happier and more productive ecosystem all around.

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If you have the spark, you will put in the time.

Jenny Åström, CEO, H+K Sweden

Who inspires you?
So many women have inspired me— within my family, my friends, my workplace. Just looking around the office at this minute, I see so many hard-working, fun and interesting women around me. I try to keep up and learn from all people as much as I can. A new perspective, a point of view, something I didn’t know anything about a minute ago. In answering this, I want to send out love to the many women who inspire me, but it would be such a long list. I am inspired by people that go above and beyond, people that really have knowledge and really care.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
Nothing. I was fab. Studying hard, having fun, worrying, traveling. A lot of what I am doing now. Just go, you know?

List one single word that has had a lasting impact on your life or career, or that is a focus word of yours at this time.
Spark.

We lied, do you want more than one word?
A leader of mine once said to me, “I hear you are putting in the time”— he meant that I was doing what needed to be done to move into the right direction. And sometimes, even when stuff isn’t going my way, I think of that. Am I putting in the time? If you have the spark, you will put in the time. And that’s the first step to being great at what you do.

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‘What would you do if you weren’t afraid?’ That has been the question I ask myself when an opportunity or challenge is presented to me.

Jill Peng, China Business Lead, H+K London

Who inspires you?
In my personal life, my mother has inspired me to be kind, positive and true to myself and others. In her I see the endless strength of a loving heart. An awakening moment in my career was when I read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. In her book, she asked her readers, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” That has been the question I ask myself when an opportunity or challenge is presented to me.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
Be bold. Have opinions. And make sure your opinions are heard.

List one single word that has had a lasting impact on your life or career, or that is a focus word of yours at this time.
Compassion.

We lied, do you want more than one word?
Our work is all about people. I believe the ability to relate and connect to people is an important strength.

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Listening will prove to be one of the loudest things you can do.

Lindsay Broadhead, VP Corporate Communications, H+K Toronto

Who inspires you?
Jocelyn Palm.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
The Top 4:

  1. It’s better to start small than do nothing at all— small turns into big fast.
  2. Listening will prove to be one of the loudest things you can do.
  3. Don’t be afraid of the big decisions— they always, always, always bring the best results.
  4. Most people can’t dance, so shake it.

List one single word that has had a lasting impact on your life or career, or that is a focus word of yours at this time.
Authentic.

We lied, do you want more than one word?
The best people. The best clients.

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My mum inspires me for her work ethic and family values.

Lorna Campbell, Regional Director Sports Marketing + Sponsorship APAC, H+K Singapore

Who inspires you?
My mum for her work ethic and family values. Hazel Irvine and Alison Walker for inspiring me to want to work in the media and sport world—an industry largely dominated by men.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
Do it all again…take your chances and only regret not doing something.

List one single word that has had a lasting impact on your life or career, or that is a focus word of yours at this time.
Believe.

We lied, do you want more than one word?
Believe in yourself, believe in your judgement, believe in the good in others.

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There is not only one correct answer to a question of your life and career.

Maggie Lu, Managing Director, H+K Shanghai

Who inspires you?
My mom.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
There is not only one correct answer to a question of your life/career. Just try your best to get your favorite one.

List one single word that has had a lasting impact on your life or career, or that is a focus word of yours at this time.
Harmony.

We lied, do you want more than one word?
Harmony means you always follow your heart and try to achieve balance in life and career.

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I never give up on anything in life.

Tokunboh George-Taylor, Managing Director, H+K Nigeria

Who inspires you?
Condoleezza Rice.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
Start saving early.

List one single word that has had a lasting impact on your life or career, or that is a focus word of yours at this time.
Assiduous.

We lied, do you want more than one word?
I never give up on anything in life. I always persevere.

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You are unique, so you have to find your unique way of doing things

Alessandra Favilli, General Manger, H+K Milan

Who inspires you?
Mary Poppins was my heroine when I was a child. She was nice and sweet, but at the same time strong and independent. With her bag full of the most incredible things, she was the perfect problem solver but at the same time able to empower people around her. Wise and crazy, she’s the perfect balance of qualities needed at work and in private life.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
You are unique, so you have to find your unique way of doing things. Don’t conform and be proud of what you are!

List one single word that has had a lasting impact on your life or career, or that is a focus word of yours at this time.
Resilience.

We lied, do you want more than one word?
Resilience is a word that has become popular recently, but that for me has always been a mantra. Be positive, set objectives, and work to achieve them. If you fail, accept it and start again, fine-tuning your approach, reconsidering your vision and reorganizing your action plan.

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They always told me that they trust my judgment in any decision I make, and that they stand behind my choices, no matter what.

Pelin Kocaalp, General Manager, H+K Istanbul

Pelin-Kocaalp

Who inspires you?
Many people in my life have inspired me. Everyone with whom I have ever crossed paths has affected me and made me who I am today.

First and foremost, I was inspired and encouraged by my parents— both my mother and my father. They have supported me in any decision I made and at every step that I took in life. This support makes you stronger, in terms of feeling supported and knowing you are loved. They always told me that they trust my judgment in any decision I make, and that they stand behind my choices, no matter what. Because of this, I was able to pursue my dreams and take advantage of every opportunity that has come my way.

I would also like to highlight another individual who has been an inspiration for myself and many women in Turkey: Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey and one of the greatest men of the 20th century. Ataturk’s leadership was a source of inspiration to Turkish women; his reforms empowered women in Turkey and included the introduction of modern education, co-education for boys and girls, and equal rights for women. I appreciate his faith in the vital importance of women in society and the fact that he encouraged us to make the difference in the world.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
Be good and do good! The total package of finding something that makes you happy and making it into a great career comes together when you have three things: hard work, good heart, and faith. Good luck!

List one single word that has had a lasting impact on your life or career, or that is a focus word of yours at this time.
Good.

We lied, do you want more than one word?
Be good, do good.

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My father told me from an early age ‘choose a job you love and you will never work a day in your life’.

Meaghan Campbell, Senior Account Director and Communications Group Leader, H+K Vancouver

Who inspires you?
Shelley Silbernagel, Jan Selman

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
My father told me from an early age “choose a job you love and you will never work a day in your life”. I only realized how wise this advice was recently and wish I had believed it earlier.

List one single word that has had a lasting impact on your life or career, or that is a focus word of yours at this time.
Share.

We lied, do you want more than one word?
The things that I have enjoyed the most in my life and career have been things that have been shared experiences working with teams, friends and family.

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You will need to be stronger than you ever thought possible.

Fiona Parker, APAC Technology Practice Director and Hong Kong Technology Lead, H+K Hong Kong

Who inspires you?
I am endlessly inspired by the dedication, humility and compassion of Dr Catherine Hamlin, an Australian obstetrician and gynecologist who co-founded the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, the world’s only medical center dedicated exclusively to providing free obstetric fistula repair surgery to poor women suffering from childbirth injuries. Catherine recently turned 94 and still works every day in Ethiopia for her cause.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
The road is long and there will be many mountains to climb. You will need to be stronger than you ever thought possible. That’s OK. Take a deep breath, and jump. You can, you will, and you deserve to succeed.

List one single word that has had a lasting impact on your life or career, or that is a focus word of yours at this time.
Resilience.

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If you want something, you have to ask for it.

Liz Torrez, Managing Director, H+K Chicago

Who inspires you?
I have a close group of friends from college who are amazing, hard-working, fun-loving and super talented and they inspire me immensely! Colleagues all around the H+K network also inspire me with their creativity, passion and and dedication.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
If you want something, you have to ask for it— go after it and don’t give up until you get it! Something worth getting is never just handed out.

List one single word that has had a lasting impact on your life or career, or that is a focus word of yours at this time.
Inspire.

We lied, do you want more than one word?
“The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall.” – Vince Lombardi

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Make your dreams happen and never give up.

Corinne Got, General Manager, H+K France

Who inspires you?
Simone Veil, one of the most well known French politicians who defended the rights of women and had a very difficult youth during World War II. She passed away last year and had national funerals as an iconic woman. She is an example for all women in France.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
Make your dreams happen and never give up. Don’t be afraid of challenges and catch opportunities. Life is short and explore the world. Always be curious and open-minded. I would certainly add two words: care and dare !

List one single word that has had a lasting impact on your life or career, or that is a focus word of yours at this time.
Alive.

We lied, do you want more than one word?
This word is the most important word for me and closely linked to my own experience. Sickness reveals that life is precious and that you must not lose a single moment of it.

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I am hugely inspired by people from all walks of life, especially those who, when they see something wrong, do something about it.

Pippa Burridge, Managing Director- Operations, H+K London

Who inspires you?
I am hugely inspired by people from all walks of life, especially those who, when they see something wrong, do something about it, those individuals who show immense courage and bravery and often every-day people who are doing remarkable things. Three people that particularly stand out for me, whom I find hugely inspirational are:

Malala Yousafzai- In retaliation for her high profile campaign for education and criticism of the Taliban, she was shot in the head at close range by a Taliban gunman. She survived the gunshot wound and has become a leading spokesperson for human rights, education and women’s rights. She has received numerous peace awards and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.

David Nott- a volunteer surgeon working in disaster and war zones. He has helped vulnerable people in some of the most dangerous and disadvantaged places in the world, often operating with minimal surgical equipment and basic facilities.

Baroness Hale of Richmond- the current President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom and the first family lawyer to fill the post. She has campaigned for greater judicial diversity in the UK and her judgments have changed family and equality law in the UK She is outspoken about domestic violence, women in prison, and the rights of children.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
Be yourself. Focus on how you use your time and energy and don’t get distracted. Tenacity, resilience, and enthusiasm are key. Bring solutions, not problems. Encourage other women. As Madeleine Albright said, “there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”.

List one single word that has had a lasting impact on your life or career, or that is a focus word of yours at this time.
Smile.

We lied, do you want more than one word?
A smile goes a long way!

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Never give up challenging the status quo.

Frédérique Demenint-van der Ven, CEO H+K B.V, H+K Amsterdam

Who inspires you?
I have had the privilege of growing up in a family with many unique and inspiring self-made women, who successfully combine(d) raising families and building and running businesses. They did so in a time when, as a woman, it was neither easy nor obvious how to make a career. It makes me extremely proud to be part of that heritage and I feel a strong responsibility to make full use of the opportunities they have created for me.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
Be fearless. Stay true to yourself and stay the course, put in the hours and bide your time. Surround yourself with people that challenge you so you can learn how to challenge others. Never give up challenging the status quo. Always ask “why” and continue until you have an answer you value. And enjoy the ride while doing it.

List one single word that has had a lasting impact on your life or career, or that is a focus word of yours at this time.
Fearlessness.

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Strong and passionate women in my family and a certain group of friends have been a great example and have always inspired me to do more.

Ana Baptista, Director, Technology Practice, H+K Hong Kong

Who inspires you?
I have been lucky enough to have met many inspirational people who have had a big impact on who I am today. Strong and passionate women in my family and a certain group of friends have been a great example and have always inspired me to do more. Moreover, I have also been blessed enough to work with some of these women including Sconaid McGeachin, Sara Gourlay and Lisa Welsh who have not only inspired me, but have given me the opportunity to learn and grow, and have supported me throughout my career.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
It might sound a bit of a cliché, but take risks and believe in yourself— give it a TRY! If it doesn’t work, you will have plenty of time to figure out why it didn’t work, or why you didn’t enjoy it, and start over again.

List one single word that has had a lasting impact on your life or career, or that is a focus word of yours at this time.
Care.

We lied, do you want more than one word?
If you care, it is because it matters to you— this is what will drive you and, ultimately, what will make you different.

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Know your self-worth. Care little for what others think of you for all that matters is that you take leaps of faith and act boldly, while behaving with integrity and a good dose of humility

Roz Thomas, General Manager, H+K South Africa

Roz ThomasWho inspires you?
Christiane Amanpour

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
Know your self-worth. Care little for what others think of you for all that matters is that you take leaps of faith and act boldly, while behaving with integrity and a good dose of humility.

List one single word that has had a lasting impact on your life or career, or that is a focus word of yours at this time.
Thrive.

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Focus and trust your judgement also remember to have fun along the way!

Sonali Das, Executive Director, H+K Kenya

Who inspires you?
I don’t need to look outside for inspiration, I come from a household of strong independent women – my mum and two elder sisters— they have always inspired me and continue to motivate me by their dedication and honesty towards their profession and home.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
Focus and trust your judgement also remember to have fun along the way!

List one single word that has had a lasting impact on your life or career, or that is a focus word of yours at this time.
Learn

We lied, do you want more than one word?
I believe that one should never become stagnant in life— keep developing. Whether its in your career or your personal life. Till the time you are learning you are growing. Be hungry to learn.

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