In the latest episode of The Best Run podcast, I was fortunate to sit enough to sit down with two women at the top of their industries – Kirstie Hepburn, Chief Sales Officer from Winc, and Peggy Renders, Head of Digital Transformation Office at SAP APJ. We discussed the lessons and experiences that led to their respective journeys in high-level leadership.
Kirstie began her career as a pharmacist with Lloyds Pharmacy in the UK before moving to Australia in 2014 with retail giant, Coles. From there she returned to the healthcare sector with Sigma Pharmaceuticals in a B2B capacity and has spent the past two years with Winc.
Peggy has a double degree in business and strategic information management, which has maintained her career trajectory in the IT sector. Her first role was with Arthur Andersen & Co. where her first IT audit was an SAP system. This sparked an interest in system implementation, which eventually led to a promising approach from SAP.
“It was fantastic because I got free access to all these amazing SAP courses,” she explained.
“That was 19 years ago and since then I’ve been with SAP across Belgium and Germany before moving to Australia 15 years ago. I’ve been in the APJ role for the last two years.”
Looking at the challenges they’ve faced over their careers, Kirstie singles out a lack of cohesion across teams and businesses as a major detriment to companies everywhere.
“I think alignment in organisations is critical,” she affirmed, “having people understand what the common goal is and putting that above their own personal goals. On those occasions, these people have been the most testing because they stop the organisation from moving effectively to solve common challenges.”
Peggy admits her key career challenge was internal conflict that held her back. “Early on in my career, I think I was too much in my head and giving too much importance to the limiting, self-policing thoughts I had about myself, which would prevent me from putting up my hand for bigger roles,” she said. “I think I’ve had a time in my career when the decisions about my next steps were not necessarily made by me, but more by other people that I was working with.”
Kirstie said she pays little credence to the male-female dichotomy in business. “It’s more about your individual contribution – the way you represent yourself and the organisation you work for,” she explained.
“I’ve definitely experienced, especially early in my career, feeling it is difficult to have your voice heard,” Kirstie continued. “But I think tenacity, determination, and backing yourself to believe that your contribution is equal value to another is really important and something that I think women can really focus on in terms of their own development.”
While women tend to neglect networking in their roles, both Peggy and Kirstie agree it’s a vital opportunity for sharing challenges, getting advice, and helping other women succeed.
“As a woman, I feel we tend to put networking in last position on the priority list,” Peggy said. “But people in similar positions or similar levels in their organisations, they can relate to the pressures that I’m under and the challenges I face, which means I can have very open and honest conversations with these people and get help with my decision making.”
Kirstie agreed that networking can often feel like an ancillary business function but notes how crucial it is for building confidence and uncovering growth opportunities. “Having sounding boards and actually sharing innovations inside different organisations, different networks, and different sectors – these are the types of things Peggy stretched my thinking on in terms of how much time I spend on it and how important it is.”
To hear more from my guests about work-life integration, how to be a woman in leadership, and the challenges of leadership, listen to the full episode of SAP’s The Best Run Podcast here.