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7 Questions with Vanessa Eriksson
helps you in your leadership.
7 Questions with Vanessa Eriksson
Name: Vanessa Eriksson
Current title: SVP, Chief Digital Officer
Current organisation: Zenseact
A purpose-driven data professional, experienced public speaker, I hold a proven track record in influencing key decision makers. Results oriented, my leadership skills include communication, motivating teams and credibility. Exploring new technologies, identifying business potential and successfully selling concepts are my forte. Enthusiastic and determined, I firmly believe that business stays in the driver’s seat and leads them in addressing key data issues.
A certified Board Member from Styrelseakademien (Board Members Association), I have been the Chairwoman of PwC’s CDO Advisory Board in 2017/18 and on Gartner’s EMEA and The America’s Data & CDO Advisory Boards between 2012 & 2017.
A mother of 3 girls, I am passionate about encouraging Girls in Tech and have effectively launched my brainchild, the first GiT event in 2017. I continue to drive this project forward and am currently associated with 4 large organizations who support and promote my cause. Women in Leadership and Gender Diversity are topics that are close to me.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
My constant challenge is wanting more hours in a day. I tend to fall in love with my work and dive into what I do, irrespective of the organization or the role I have had. I am energetic and have a million little strategies that I would like to action. At the same time, I have a wonderful husband, am a ‘mum’ to 3 young daughters, and now our little dog has joined the family. I want to be present and be a crazy mum with fun things to do. All that, while setting time aside for self-reflection, learning, keeping myself informed and most importantly, finding the time to pray in the silence of my heart. And 24 hours just does not seem enough.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
Looking back, I believe my journey to being an Executive began at Telia.
It was in 2009 when I joined Telia as a Project Manager to drive Master Data Management within the Procurement area. Being knowledgeable with data, it did not take me long to notice the huge areas where improvement was needed. Change is never easy and the Change Management program I started with Communications was met with a lot of resistance. Not being discouraged easily, I persisted and challenged everything from the way of working with data to the top leadership team not treating data as the asset it was. I even got nicknamed ‘the lady with the whip’; but nothing mattered as I got results accomplished and I built up my integrity.
I had the honor and the opportunity to initiate Data Governance under the leadership of the CFO Per-Arne Blomquist, while it was still a fairly new concept in the world. Organize, lead and develop information management strategies, improve analytical and reporting capabilities and business-wide accountability of the Data Governance strategy.
My journey at Telia moved levels upwards and it was really in 2014 that I had my first experience of being an Executive working as Vice President, Business Compliance and Data Security for Telia - Region Eurasia. I had the privilege of working alongside CEOs and CFOs of 7 Regional Business Units (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Moldova, Georgia, Nepal, Tajikistan, and Azerbaijan) to establish vision and secure business compliance to data through information management strategies.
From there on, I have continued to work as an Executive, being a member of leadership teams, launching the role of the Chief Data Officer and spreading knowledge within data management.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I am an early bird; I love the silence of the mornings. Believing that I am blessed beyond measure, my day always begins with a ‘coffee and chat’ with my wonderful God. It gives me perspective and allows me to stay true and humble. A quick walk with my dog followed by breakfast for both of us, is usually next on my list before I log in and get started.
Everyday is a new day and an opportunity to add value to the organization and to the people I meet.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Being a woman in a male dominated territory, over the years I have developed my own personal brand and assertive style of leadership. However, leadership is humbling, requires a constant review and ratification and I have realized that the more I can learn from the experiences of others – good or bad– the better off I am when positioned to make decisions.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
While I am not a passionate reader of leadership books in general, the book that I have read and find most influential is Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” - it’s fundamental. Understanding the WHY gives me purpose so I know what I am striving for every day. It is also about identifying WHY I do what I do. I have also heard his Ted Talk, which was one of the 5 most watched Ted Talks of all time.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
While some are born with a natural flare to lead, leadership skills can be inculcated. Providing opportunities to lead, empowering decision making, fostering collaboration, encouraging tolerance for failure are some examples of developing leadership in large enterprises.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
I love sharing experiences and knowledge to an audience, and although I am not a great storywriter, I decided to write an article on LinkedIn, describing my role, my tasks and responsibilities mainly due to the many questions I received as soon as I had updated my profile as Chief of Staff at Nets.
Some of my followers were grateful for the explanation and thanked me, and I thought no more about that. So, imagine my surprise when a year later, I received a request from a Ukrainian software company wanting to translate my article into Ukrainian. They were looking to share knowledge with their staff! That humbled me to no extent.
I believe in paying it forward and sometimes we do things where we could not possibly know the impact and value we could add to someone else’s life.