Women with a Story to Share
Osnat Benari, a fractional CPO, product and leadership coach, speaker, and bestselling author of “Starting From Scratch: Manage Change Like Your Career Depends On It,” has built a career on empowering women, promoting leadership, and helping individuals and companies achieve their goals through product development. In a recent interview with The She-Suite, Benari shared the methods she uses to develop a global mindset, how she achieved her success, and the need for a spotlight on personal and professional well-being.
Benari advocates for a more holistic approach to global mindset by emphasizing the importance of mental health in the workplace. She has seen that problems such as depression, anxiety, and burnout can decrease productivity, absenteeism, and poor job performance. While good mental well-being can not only help avoid those pitfalls, it can increase job satisfaction and promote career success.
Benari recommends that employees and employers alike learn to identify when a person is struggling. She encourages employers to take care of their employees by offering rest periods after big projects, coaching leaders to be open and talk to employees often, and teaching employees new skills through learning or knowledge exchange clubs. As she explains, “Being in a good mental space increases productivity and allows individuals to recognize opportunities resulting in new ideas, innovation, and output. Taking care of your employees’ mental health is a win-win situation.”
Healthy professional relationships are also a key to her success. Benari emphasizes the value of having an accountability buddy, a person that you commit to and who commits to you to accomplish a set of tangible things towards a bigger goal and a deadline. Benari finds that accountability buddies who have similar backgrounds or aspirations as her are the ones that keep her motivated and inspire her with new ideas for reaching her goals.
Benari’s advice on leaving companies in a positive manner is another aspect of her philosophy on career growth. Previous workplaces can be sources of feedback, guidance, and networking opportunities. In her book, “Starting From Scratch,” Benari stresses the importance of growing through change and how it is a skill that can be learned. As she highlights, “The stats are clear! According to a survey by HubSpot, 85% of jobs are filled through networking. In a survey by SilkRoad, 69% of employees said they got their job through a friend or colleague. And the best one, a survey by PayScale found that people who have professional networks make an average of 6.6% more than those who don’t. Your previous workplace has peers, co-workers, managers, and other leaders that can help you grow. They can provide feedback and guidance. So regardless of why you are no longer with your previous employer, don’t burn bridges.”
Change is scary, but it is the only constant in life, and embracing it can lead to growth and success. Benari’s starting-from-scratch mentality encourages entrepreneurs to re-evaluate their foundational skills, learn resilience, and develop a solid network to help them thrive in new and innovative ways.
While Osnat Bernari’s story is far from over, it is clear that she has become an industry leader worth recognizing and remembering. With an integrated focus on mental health, product success, accountability, and networking, she’s empowering organizations and individuals to navigate the ever-changing world with confidence and clarity.
Edna Ambundo is a remarkable leader whose life and career journey are truly inspirational. Born and raised in Kenya, she has made a name for herself as an innovation enabler, people developer, and trailblazer in the beauty industry. Ambundo is currently the Vice President of Research & Innovation at L’Oréal, a position she has held since January 2021.
Ambundo’s global mindset has served her well throughout her impressive career, and in a recent interview with The She-Suite, she shared some of the tactics she has employed to achieve her success, highlighting intention, patience, and integrity.
Ambundo describes herself as an “innovation enabler,” as she explains it, innovation is the process of converting a new idea into something of value. “As an innovation enabler, what has helped me challenge the status quo is to spend time to understand the perspectives of those who are resisting the new idea by listening empathetically to them and then being open to incorporating their feedback,” says Ambundo. She further explains that being open to input while still staying true to the essence of the idea enriches the innovation even more. By ensuring everyone feels heard, even if you can’t accommodate everything they suggest, people are more likely to support the idea.
Innovation is an exciting area to specialize in, but it’s always changing and results are consistently unpredictable. Ambundo has learned to embrace an ambiguous future by focusing on what is within her control. She explains that she used to spend a lot of time imagining all sorts of daunting scenarios, which caused her to get worked up about things she could not control, draining her energy and joy. Now when she finds herself feeling anxious about what lies ahead, she asks herself two questions: “what’s the worst that can happen?” and “what will I do if the worst happens?” She then focuses her time and energy thinking about the latter question. By doing this, Ambundo is well-prepared to face the challenges she is confronted with, enabling her to boldly embrace future uncertainty.
Despite her vast global experience and achievements, imposter syndrome is also something that Ambundo is familiar with as she has experienced it at multiple stages of her life, from when she was a student to when she was an early-in-career scientist doing experiments in the lab and even occasionally now as a seasoned leader. She has three strategies for combating imposter syndrome:
First, Ambundo pauses and grounds herself by swiftly interrupting the false narrative she is telling herself, challenges the reality, and talks to a mentor or coach as needed.
Second, she focuses on the opportunity for growth and learning, recognizing that new experiences are rife with opportunities to stretch and develop.
Lastly, she gives herself grace, keeping her standards high while being gentle with herself, particularly in the early phase of new experiences.
In service to others, Ambundo finds great fulfillment as a “people developer.” Her approach is to understand an individual’s capabilities, identifying their superpowers as well as their Achilles heel. She helps people develop and achieve things that they didn’t think they were capable of. Ambundo believes that it’s essential to identify an individual’s purpose path to continued growth and empowerment.
“My job is to observe, give feedback, and coach from the sidelines while utilizing their motivations to keep them on track. To use an analogy, you can think of the role as a route, the superpower as the vehicle, the aspiration as the destination, and fuel as the motivation, with me as the navigation system and speedometer. You need to set the right course and select the right vehicle to reach the desired destination; you would never try to drive a car to the moon or sail a train in the ocean,” she explains.
Ambudo’s sense of purpose is at the core of all of her tremendous work and guidance as a thought leader in the industry. She offers, “I focus on helping people reach their full potential, and for now, I do this in a professional setting. Having had the opportunity to live and work in the US, Mexico, and India, I have witnessed the far-reaching impact that this can have on people’s lives, families, and future, and I am both humbled and inspired to do more.”
Dahlia Mihyar is a woman who exemplifies true leadership, embodying the traits of resilience, adaptability, and emotional intelligence. As the Global Head of National Security Accreditation at SAP, her role focuses on ensuring that global government security standards and requirements are met when it comes to dealing with government classified information and data sovereignty requirements. Her team aims to demonstrate that the organization has implemented appropriate security measures and is committed to protecting sensitive data. Mihyar’s experience is vast, ranging from implementing cybersecurity solutions across various industries, such as oil & gas, automotive, and critical infrastructure. She is also highly adept at seamlessly aligning her sense of purpose, compassion, and professional career, which is why we sat down with this determined executive to figure out how she does it.
A proud BLI Alumna, one of the key elements that make Mihyar so unique is her development of a global mindset and how she achieves a more evolved approach to her work utilizing this concept. According to Mihyar, a global mindset involves having an open attitude toward different cultures and experiences and recognizing that diverse backgrounds can lead to varying perspectives and opinions. To cultivate this, women can explore a range of new experiences, including traveling, trying new things, and learning about different customs and traditions. Mihyar believes that stepping out of one’s comfort zone and building relationships with other professionals can help women break barriers and succeed in male-dominated fields. As she explains, “It’s not just limited to professional experiences but all sorts of opportunities to broaden one’s horizons.”
To help build confidence, stay motivated, and continue to grow personally and professionally, Mihyar encourages women to celebrate their successes, even the small ones. She also suggests conducting self-assessments or self-audits, seeking feedback from colleagues, mentors, sponsors, and coaches, and challenging themselves by taking on new projects or roles to stretch their capabilities and expose them to new experiences.
When asked about what steps organizations and institutions can take to support and encourage women to break barriers and achieve gender equity, Mihyar suggests that mentoring and sponsoring women in meetings where they are not present can help improve their current and future prospects of promotion, “More often times than not, women don’t take the time to celebrate the small wins which leads to burnout and demotivation.” She believes that organizations must proactively advocate for women’s skill sets and promote their work in environments where they are not typically present.
However, Mihyar acknowledges that the biggest challenge that women still face in breaking barriers and achieving gender parity is the lack of role models, especially in male-dominated fields. She emphasizes the need for women to become role models themselves by sharing their experiences and successes with other women. As she shares, “Do not underestimate the power of building relationships with other professionals. New and current relationships can provide opportunities to learn from others, gain new insights and discover new perspectives.”
Mihyar believes that women leaders should strive to exemplify a vital mission, vision, and purpose (MVP, a tool utilized within The She-Suite’s Brand Leadership Institute) and have integrity by being honest, ethical, and transparent with their actions and decisions. Additionally, developing emotional intelligence can help women navigate through complex situations and build strong relationships. Cultivating the ability to bounce back from setbacks and challenges, being assertive, and adapting to changing environments and circumstances are crucial traits for women to cultivate in male-dominated fields.
When asked what resources she recommends for our readers, Mihyar stated, “I thought through this one long and hard, and although there are great leadership books that I could recommend, the one book I decided on is “The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday. Stoicism is a philosophy that emphasizes self-control, rationality, and acceptance of what is outside of our control. It works on teaching individuals what they can control and to accept what they cannot. This book is broken down into days and is extremely digestible. Your commitment would be to read a page a day which I usually do in the morning. This is something that you can easily include in your meditation/morning routine.”
Dahlia Mihyar herself prioritizes empowering women to break barriers and achieve gender equity by consistently sharing her experiences, successes, and valuable insights. Her journey to becoming a successful leader in cybersecurity serves as an inspiration to all women looking to find their sense of purpose and achieve their dreams.
Aliza Knox is an accomplished author, speaker, and non-executive director who has spent the last two decades in tech, helping others find their footing in the industry. Her latest book, “Don’t Quit Your Day Job: The 6 Mindshifts You Need to Rise and Thrive at Work,” is a response to the Great Resignation, a guide for those looking to improve their careers without necessarily leaving their jobs.
Throughout her career, Knox has found that people often come to her at turning points in their careers. She attributes this to her status as a woman in tech, as well as her age and experience. “They call me up and ask, ‘Can we have coffee?’ And I don’t even like coffee, but we go out for an hour, and I listen to them and talk to them about their careers,” Knox explains.
Knox believes that finding meaning in life is important, but it doesn’t necessarily have to come from one’s job. She encourages people to invest in themselves and their passions, even if their careers don’t fulfill them. Pursuing one’s passions can give them the energy they need to succeed at work. Knox also emphasizes the importance of stamina, a combination of perseverance and enthusiasm. “Stamina is not just about pushing through tough times; it’s also about finding the things that give you energy,” she says.
Knox also recognizes the importance of investing in one’s career by continuously learning. The world is changing rapidly, and the ability to learn and adapt is becoming increasingly important. She encourages people to take courses, read articles, and learn from colleagues. Knox notes that during the Great Resignation, people cited leaving for flexibility and higher pay, but the most consistent issues for employees are feeling that their firm has invested in them and that their manager cares.
The dedicated female leader acknowledges that women are still underrepresented in tech. She believes that diversity of all kinds is essential in the industry, and while progress is being made, it’s not happening fast enough. As a woman in tech herself, Knox knows firsthand the challenges women face in the industry.
When asked about her book, Knox explains that she wrote it to scale her “coffee mentoring” sessions. “There are 24 hours a day, and I can’t—and don’t—want to spend it all at these coffee mentoring sessions. But, if I wrote it down, maybe I could scale it and help many more in the process,” she says. Writing the book was also a way for Knox to give back, as all the profits go to charity.
Knox’s dedication to empowering others, particularly women in tech, is inspiring. She has found a way to align her altruism with her work, using her experience and knowledge to help others navigate their careers. Her emphasis on investing in oneself and continuous learning is a reminder that success is not just about achieving one’s goals but about the journey along the way. Knox’s message of perseverance, enthusiasm, and investing in oneself is a reminder to all of us that we can rise and thrive at work, even in challenging times.
When asked about Knox’s alignment of passion and purpose with work, Knox explained how the profits of her book go to Vital Voices, which is an NGO out of Washington DC that tries to give support to women in power, either politics or policymaking, so that there are people considering gender issues in governments and business positions of power. Furthermore, Knox serves as a mentor for several organizations, including the Minerva Program. As she shares, “I think the one that I spent the most time on is this young woman who I used to mentor at the Asian University for Women. There’s a mentoring program that I participate in that’s in Chittagong. It’s a university that was set up for marginalized women from marginalized parts of Asia. It takes people from Gaza, Afghanistan, and the hill tribes in different parts of Asia and gives them an education. I’m not mentoring there right now because working with this one mentee takes up a huge amount of time. She’s amazing. She’s resilient even after graduation. They sent her back to her hometown, she got there right after her father passed away from COVID, and then Kabul fell. She was able to get into the university that I attended—Brown on the East Coast—which is a great University. She got in due to a temporary program and then applied for a Masters there. So she’s now getting a Master’s in public health at Brown.”
However, Aliz also shared how these women still struggle with safety and family struggles even after finding mentorship assistance in Australia, “Most of them are quite worried about what’s going to happen to their families because the families are still stuck there. So I’m working with her to help support her in the US and get used to life and integrate, and then her sister just got into the US, and we’re trying to support her family in Kabul. She also has two siblings who are entitled to SIVs, Special Immigrant Visas, because they work for the US military, and filled out all the papers for the US, but we’re not letting them in right now. Anyway, it’s a huge project. It’s something that I am really passionate about. So that’s how my altruism is playing out; more money to nonprofits, the book, and these two very committed mentee roles that are awesome.”
Aliza Knox’s dedication to empowering others and making a positive impact is truly inspiring. Her commitment to helping women in tech and supporting marginalized women in Asia is a testament to her character and values. By sharing her knowledge and experience through her book and mentoring programs, Knox is making a difference in the lives of many people. Her emphasis on investing in oneself and continuous learning is a valuable reminder that success is not just about achieving one’s goals but about the journey along the way. Knox’s work is a shining example of how one person can make a significant difference in the world simply by aligning their passion and compassion with their career.