Anna Zubytska is Sales Director of Danone Dairy in Ukraine. She holds EMBA degree from Central European University and has 17 years of leadership and business management experience developed in multinational FMCG environment in Europe. In her today’s interview, Anna speaks about her approach to individual development and life in general, which helps her to keep learning, growing, discovering and having fun J
So far, my live and personal growth has been advancing this way due to my belief, that the outer world is full of opportunities. Seeing the world big allows us growing and gaining new experiences, insights, enriching our lives with joy, satisfaction and new levels of mastery.
When I was a teenager, my biggest dream was to live through variety of different exciting situations and life experiences at the same time, i.e. to be in different places living at the same time different lives. To my knowledge then (and now), it was impossible to make my dream true the way I wanted. Since I was unable to collect all treasures offered by life, I decided to be selective, choosing from the world around me the opportunities, which were right for myself. Being proactive in reaching life opportunities and selecting the best ones has become my life motto.
How did you select these “right” opportunities?
Firstly, I developed a habit to complement my view of what I wanted (“my goal”) with understanding of why I wanted it (“my motivation”). I used to probe asking myself further “why’s”, until I got to the root of my motivation. Sometimes, I even modified my original goals, based on more in-depth understanding of my motivations. It indeed helped me to be selective, so I started to go for those opportunities that would be meaningful for me – especially, the ones, which would pave the way to even greater opportunities in my life further on. For example, during my last international assignment, I was offered a new challenging job with broader responsibility, which implied my repatriation to Ukraine. As alternative, I could have continued with my job of that time with really attractive expatriate compensation package. My gut feeling was that new job in Ukraine could open for me a door to further greater opportunities significant to me. As my primary motivation in that period of time was learning & professional growth, I preferred challenge over comfort & attractiveness of expatriate package. Today, I am also satisfied with the decision I had made at that time. In 1 year and 2 months after my repatriation, I was promoted to another job in Ukraine I was strongly aspiring for.
Secondly, I learned being OK to give away. Every choice we make at the certain point of time, selecting one path amongst all available options, means letting other alternatives go. Having realized that important life choices are often coupled with trade-offs, I learned to focus on the right opportunities and to let go or put aside others – at a time very attractive and exciting, but not connected with my “why” at the certain phase of my life.
Thirdly, I’ve acknowledged that different stages of my life have impact on or shape my “why”, my motivation. I dedicated to the topic of life stages a part of my earlier Femflection blog “Another Kind of Juggling”1 . I believe we should listen to ourselves, feel and sense, which opportunities match the best to specific life season we live through.
What personal attributes have you used to overcome the adversity in your life?
The world around us is fluid and versatile. Nothing lasts forever: sunny days change dull & gloomy ones, the periods of good luck succeed the periods of misfortune. Acknowledgement of this phenomenon helps me to enjoy great moments of life and live through other periods, which I perceive as hard times. It also helps me to move forward no matter what, identify and reach out for new opportunities offered by life. Another insight, which supports me on this, is knowledge of my sources of energy. My curiosity, adventure seeking, passion for new ideas and experiences allows me to build-up my energy level and not to be overwhelmed by day-to-day routine. For example, in order to re-energize myself, I travel to my dream locations around the world. I really enjoy interacting with bright, outgoing, intellectual people, being a part of great teams, encouraging our mutual success and superior team performance. Positive “team chemistry” stimulates me to invest energy into our progress towards common goals, but also feeds me with even stronger energy in return.
What are the sources of your continuous growth as a leader?
My belief is that leadership is not something, which you leave at your work place in the end of the working day or give up when you have bad mood, hard times, other priorities, etc. Responsibility for people & teams, which trust you, and wider organizations, as well as accountability for business results in assigned functional area and/or for the company in overall, is always with a leader. This belief helps me moving forward in learning, improving myself, keeping up-to-date, discovering the unknown, trying and testing new break-through solutions and non-trivial paths to success.
I also find extremely important an ability of a leader to go beyond the boundaries of her function or industry. One of the greatest inspirations I had during my EMBA studies at CEU Business School in Budapest was an opportunity to interact and cooperate with my group peers with very diverse functional background operating in wide range of industries. And now in my today’s job, I ensure that my outlook on the company’s business and organization development goes beyond narrow functional perspective.
In the course of my life and career, I have been fortunate to belong to successful companies, great organizations and teams. I found that company’s internal environment, strong organization culture and positive climate are strong drivers for my desire to excel as a leader. Openness, proximity and inclusiveness, important elements of Danone culture, inspire me to reach out to all levels of people in my organization, to set ambitious goals together with my team and stimulate growth and professional development of my people.
How is it for you being a female leader of commercial function?
For me, it is not a matter of a given function. The overall working environment should be comfortable and stimulating for women in leadership. I have experienced working and leading large teams in both – in rather competitive, masculine company environment and in organization with participative management practices and collaborative culture. Some women managers may prefer the first type of environment, others – the second. I feel that the first type of environment made me strong and the second allows to blossom.
What advice would you give to the generation of women behind you?
Be active and proactive in identifying and taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the outer world. Discover the true of yourself, answer your “why question”. Select your path and accept the need to choose, trade-off or give away the rest, which you can’t have at the same time.
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