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Executive Education

INSEAD Certificate in Global Management

Limitless Possibilities: Journey of Resilience and Transformation

Lidya Salim

Corporate Sales Account Manager, Google Cloud

Lidya Salim, formerly a successful professional in the competitive B2B tech sector, encountered substantial hurdles when she chose to navigate the realms of motherhood alongside her career. This interview provides insights into her transformative journey, shedding light on the challenges she faced, the victories she celebrated and the invaluable wisdom she learned along the way.

Limitless to me is a mindset. You can only be as far, as high, or as whatever your mind tells you to be. The state of your mind determines the limit you allow yourself to go.

In a world where societal expectations often clash with women's personal aspirations, Lidya Salim's narrative emerges as a powerful testament to the resilience and determination of women. Lidya, formerly a successful professional in the competitive B2B tech sector, encountered substantial hurdles when she chose to navigate the realms of motherhood alongside her career.

When Lidya Salim embarked on her career journey, she had a clear vision of working in strategic capacities within the tech sector. Rapidly advancing through the ranks, she honed her expertise in key account management within a B2B tech-focused global marketing agency. Eventually assuming leadership of the agency, she assumed responsibility for the entire APAC business, reporting directly to the global Chairman.

 Navigating the agency environment demanded versatility, requiring Lidya to seamlessly transition between roles such as Commercial Director, HR Director, Operations supervisor, and Key Account Strategist. Lidya relished the challenge, scoring big names in the industry such as Google, Microsoft, AWS, Oracle and Cisco as some of her past clients. These milestones marked significant career highlights as her work garnered various industry accolades and awards for these esteemed clients. 

Overcoming Stereotypes and Societal Expectations 

Her high-flying career came to a halt when she got married and had a first child. For Lidya, it did unfortunately shape up like a stereotypical story of women trying to balance between work and family life, and with constant friction from her family over childcare, her career took a backseat. 

“You know, even though we live in Singapore where equality is generally upheld and my husband is very supportive of me pursuing my career, we can’t deny that deep societal unconscious biases still persist, expecting women to prioritise family and children. This unfortunately does not work to the women’s favor. This pressure, combined with self-imposed expectations, adds to the challenges that I faced. And unfortunately this is not a unique case, many women I know are facing the same challenges quietly”

Battling Post-natal Depression and Returning to Work 

During her career break, Lidya shared her experiences with post-natal depression and the anxiety associated with re-entering the workforce after a two-year gap. She faced rejections and self-doubt, questioning her relevance and worth in the corporate world. 

“It impacts you mentally, these feelings. It’s like I had built my identity around work and suddenly- when I meet up with my peers all I can talk about then are my babies, helper woes and breastfeeding,” she grimaces at the memory. With the anxiety of being unable to return to her career constantly ringing, she started to send out resumes, eager to make up for the gap. 

With each rejection or ghosted application, Lidya felt her insecurities growing and she started questioning if she was still worthy to be hired, and especially so at the same salary that she was commanding before. Lidya was acutely aware that she could no longer go back to the long hours that she was used to, but the need to pivot to a new role was also incredibly daunting.

 “It was so tough, the feeling of not even getting a callback was particularly discouraging, given my prior achievements.” she shares.

The Power of Mindset and Having Supportive Leaders 

Lidya's journey took a transformative turn when she attended a women leadership panel event. A speaker's words resonated with her, reminding her that her relevance extends beyond the workplace. This realisation empowered her to embrace her role as a difference-maker in various aspects of life. 

“The speaker told me, whether I am having tea with a girlfriend, chatting with a stranger in a bus, I can still make a difference. Our ‘marketplace’ can sometimes be the actual ‘markets’. She was trying to say that our worth is not subjected to what we do or a career, each of us has something unique to offer and valuable experiences to share.”

That shifted my mindset and the way I approached my situation.

Mentorship and Sponsorship in the Workplace

 Lidya's career received a restart when she encountered supportive leaders who believed in her potential. These leaders, including a woman from the leadership panel and a male ally at her workplace, provided her with opportunities, coaching, and sponsorship. 

““Someone (the speaker at the leadership panel) took a chance on me, seeing potentials beyond the career gap and offered me a position in her organisation. I seized the opportunity to learn as fast as I could, and was determined to work X-times harder than others in order to catch up. There is a saying that goes ‘be faithful in the little things and bigger things will be added unto you’, and that is so true for me. Recently, another leader came to notice my work and eventually became an ally, a sponsor and an advocate - my efforts were amplified and recognised thanks to their voice. We are breaking gender stereotypes in the workplace, a positive direction of where the society is going,” 

Today, Lidya is no longer the depressed new mother who was anxious about what’s next. It took time for her to gain confidence and shake the feeling of being lost, but she succeeded thanks to the leaders and mentors around her. 

Having received all these support, she is also encouraged to give – Lidya is currently a mentor in her organisation, sharing fondly of a mentee whom she was initially reluctant to take on due to his seniority in the organisation as compared to her own. 

“He said, ‘I found something intriguing about what you do, and I want to be coached on how I can be a better ally for my female colleagues'." Finding his sincerity and kindness incredibly humbling, Lidya understands the importance of sharing her perspective as a woman and advocating for more allyship.

Addressing Unconscious Bias 

Lidya speaks about the prevalence of unconscious bias, particularly in male-dominated industries like tech. She shares anecdotes of demeaning comments based on a woman's youth or looks, calling for increased visibility of female leaders in senior management positions. 

“We are fortunate to live in a time where diversity and inclusion are celebrated. However, society is still very vulnerable to unconscious bias.”

It is often the unconscious biases that show at the cracks and Lidya hopes that this will abate with generational change. “Advocating is just the first step, it is also about going deep in conversations to discuss and make aware what those unconscious biases might be and increasing visibility of female leaders in senior management, in boards etc. Overall, we are on a good track and it will keep improving with companies investing time and resources on the challenge.”

Passion for Accelerating Digital Transformation

Working in Google, she shares that her role is to be responsible for end-to-end customer engagement. As the world moves incredibly fast, Lidya views her role as helping and consulting organisations to future-proof their business with the power of technology. 

“A digital transformation is not just about technology, it is also about the Process and People. An important topic which I often need to address with business leaders is the topic of Change Management and leading successful change. ” 

With digital transformation being a top of mind of her and her customers daily, she turned to taking programmes at INSEAD to elevate her thinking to be a better advisor to her stakeholders and to better strategise the winning team to support her projects and growth trajectory.

Embracing Executive Education at INSEAD

Lidya's pursuit of executive education at INSEAD transformed her thinking and strategic approach. She commends the thought leadership, interactive faculty, and application and simulation exercises with coaches.

“I have taken 3 courses with INSEAD in the last 2 years and found them highly valuable. Firstly, the thought leadership and theoretical knowledge the programmes put forward are top-notched. Secondly, the programmes are well thought-of, and very interactive - it’s not all theory.  But my favourite part has to be the leadership coaching sessions that are included as part of the courses. The sessions I had with my Coach for the High-Impact Leadership Programme was life-changing! They transformed my mindset, elevated self awareness and improved my practical skills.” 

The Power of Supportive Mentors and 10X Thinking

“I am forever grateful for leaders who saw me beyond my career break and helped me find my way back. It’s also amazing that my current workplace is helping normalise successful men and women prioritising their family through various employee benefits and programmes”, she said. Lidya also encourages women who are going through the same thing she did to find a Mentor and Coach to speak to, “sometimes we can’t see the way out ourselves.” 

Lidya stresses the significance of a positive mindset in unlocking limitless possibilities. She recommends "The Power of Your Subconscious Mind" where she summarises that a person’s subconscious mind is unable to differentiate between a Thought or a Fact - if you tell yourself negative or positive things, your sub-conscious will believe it and that eventually becomes your Fact. To Lidya, being ‘limitless’ is a state of mind - putting a lid to your mind is likened to putting a limit to your possibilities. 

From the very first day in Google, Lidya is taught ‘10X thinking’, a mindset that believes the key to true innovation is when you try to improve something by tenfold, rather than by 10%.

I don’t know yet where my 10X limit will be. I am opening up to limitless possibilities and to whatever comes my way.