Karen Silk is the General Manager for Westpac NZ’s Experience Hub, as well as Co-Chair of the Aotearoa Circle Sustainable Finance Forum and Chairperson of the NZ Sustainable Business Council.
REDnews sat down with Karen to learn her top tips for leadership and success.
1. Do you think you’ve had to work harder as a woman to prove yourself for leadership?
“Being successful and demonstrating readiness for leadership requires hard work no matter who you are, but it is fair to say there have been times through my career when I have felt I was required to deliver more as a consequence of my gender to get ahead. On the other hand, what I also learned pretty quickly is don’t let that drive your mindset. Use being a woman as an advantage – it has often been a key differentiator for me. Having a mindset that embraced this as an advantage meant I was often able to create instances where men really struggled to compete against me effectively, specifically because I am a woman.”
2. How have you managed your career?
“People often say to me, oh gosh you’ve managed your career really well, but managing my career from a leadership perspective has never been an intentional thing. My focus has always been on finding opportunities to learn new things that offer challenges and interest me. Continuous learning is a key driver for me and has often been the initiator for changes in roles throughout my career. So, if I have had a stated goal it has been to follow my desire for interesting work and the opportunities that allow me to learn new things.”
3. What is one of your secrets to success?
“If you want to be successful in your career, then you need to be prepared to take personal risks. Recognise that by stepping outside your comfort zone. You will build your resilience and that in turn will support you to continue to take on new challenges.”
4. What is your advice to people in leadership roles?
“Don’t be afraid to build a team around you that know more than you. The best thing a leader can do is to develop a business and team to the point that they are not reliant on you. Success is when you walk away from a business knowing they have the skills and capability to continue to grow and be successful without you and then seeing that happen. It’s a very proud moment.”
5. What advice would you give to your 25-year-old self?
“Make sure you enjoy what you do and the environment you’re working in. You will always apply yourself more, have the greatest chance to make a positive impact and be more successful if you enjoy what you do and where you do it. For me that has included a strong emphasis on values and ensuring my values and the values of the organisation I’m working for are aligned.”