International Women’s Week – Spotlight series: Lindsay Zwart

To kick off International Woman’s Week celebrations at Vodafone, we’re putting a spotlight on some of our fantastic Vodafone wahine.

Our first spotlight is on Lindsay Zwart, our Business Director and the Exec Sponsor of our Women’s Network. Read on to learn more about her life and career journey.

Let’s get to know you:

Where did you spend most of your childhood?

I grew up in South Africa, in a surfey town called Durban. I think I spent more time surfing than going to university in my first year, but it’s a beautiful country and a great place to grow up.

Tell us about your family

I have two beautiful daughters – one is fifteen and one is twelve – and a great husband. I also always have to say that I’m an identical twin, so if you think you see me walking down the street and I don’t wave back, it’s her!

What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t working?

I love paddle boarding so I’ve been making the most of this beautiful summer we’ve been having, especially with summer hours.

What were you known for as a child?

Being super sporty – I swam for South Africa, and did competitive surfing and volleyball

Tell us more about your career:

Where did you start in your career?

When I finished studying, I was asked to become a lecturer on networking and switching, in which I found I was the only woman in my Applied Sciences course. It was really interesting in those days – lecturing a room full of men on how to build a network and how to set up an exchange server environment. After this I decided to make the move to London and had the opportunity to run an engineering team – so I come from quite a techy/geeky background.

I progressed from a Team Leader to a Manager and worked my way up. I trained in Cisco to be able to understand the systems and build credibility, which was interesting as a woman – we have to go in and earn credibility before we’re able to have an impact.

Have you always been driven to build a career for yourself?

Yes, definitely. My dad had his own business and I would always go and help him out at his factory, so I’ve always had the strive to be in a successful corporate environment, run my own business and just do something.

How did you decide on what career track you wanted to take and how have you identified future roles?

Initially I wanted to be a marine biologist. My entrepreneurial Dad told me that I was “never going to make any money”. So I started a BSc in Psychology. However, a male friend of mine was taking some Tech papers and I found them interesting so I decided to switch my major.

What behaviour/attitudes/experiences do you think will fast track a career?

Leading with empathy and compassion – I think this is the foundation of where we need to be. Not just for our staff, but for our customers too. I think we also need to share clarity and vision of where we are going, no matter what role you’re in. How you deliver, pitch and frame your message is really important, which can ultimately make you win or lose.

Successful people are those that are able to deliver the message, multi-task and manage up. As women, we aren’t very good at saying what we do well – we just assume people will recognise it. So we have to start being prouder of our achievements and talking about them more.

What do you know now that you wished you knew at the start of your career?

That it’s okay to fail, and failing fast is a good thing because you’re able to learn. I used to be so scared of not doing everything perfectly. Sometimes things don’t work out the way you thought it would and it’s okay – it’s never as bad as you think it will be!

What’s an example of when something has gone wrong at work, how you managed this and what you learnt?

I’ve hired and fired the wrong people and launched projects that were a disaster. IT all comes back to learning from your mistakes and picking yourself up. Go with your gut even if it proves to be wrong – you’ll instinctively learn from it. I’ve learned to be open to adjusting my perspective, and I’m always willing to change my view if it’s articulated well.

How do you overcome self-doubt?

As women we tend to overthink and are so self-critical. We need to have a cheerleader – my husband is mine. You need the support network to remind you that you’ve got this, and you’ll be fine. Women tend to be vocal about our weaknesses and insecurities, but men are actually thinking the same thing – they just don’t articulate it in the same manner as women.

What is the best piece of career advice you have been given?

I had a manager in the past who gave me quite a few good bits of advice. One of them was: “Lindsay, lift your head up and speak from your diaphragm!” Another piece of advice is that no one gives you work/life balance – you own work/life balance, and the work will not stop coming to it is your responsibility to manage that yourself. Make a list of your tasks and if you get stuck, ask your manager to help you with prioritisation, but you should always be accountable for putting your hand up when you need help.

Working Mum life:

As you have built your career, how did you balance and prioritise yourself, career, marriage and children?

I learned that I have to control my work/life balance. When I go home, it’s all about the kids. Don’t be ashamed to leave work earlier if you need to – it’s archaic to be focused on hours spent, rather than the outputs of what you deliver.

What is your advice to working parents?

Manage your time, deliver on your outcomes and work for an organisation where you can put your kids first. We have to come together to support each other.

Stay tuned for the next spotlight next month!

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