Author: Celine Daubresse
‘Decide what you want in life and what your priorities are: then make choices which reflect that.´
In a new series of blogs to mark International Women’s Day, VPs from across CluePoints share their experiences, challenges, and advice for anyone wanting to pursue success. Celine Daubresse, formerly VP of People and most recently Chief People Officer, discusses how being forced to reinvent herself led to new opportunities and a better work-life balance.
For the first 16 years of my career, my vocabulary was predominantly ‘dumpers,’ ‘conveyer belts,’ and ‘quarry mining.’ Then, after studying organizational psychology, I worked for a lime-producing company, and by the age of 25 was HR Manager for Eastern Europe. It was a fantastic opportunity, allowing me to discover the richness of cultural diversity.
In the coming years, I had two children and had the chance to grow in the organization and test different roles. I also got divorced and eventually became VP of HR for Europe. Then, after 16 years of service, I was made redundant.
That was October 2019, and then COVID-19 struck.
I had to reinvent myself after 16 years. It was a great opportunity because I was only 40 – the perfect age to make a career switch.
I took time to build my projects and put together all the knowledge I had acquired to make HR tools for other companies, but I also spent more time with my kids.
I started working as a freelancer, and a whole new story began. I experienced the pharmaceutical industry for the first time, supported candidates via a head-hunting agency, and joined a start-up.
That led me to my position as Chief People Officer at CluePoints.
Listen to your heart and speak up
My advice to anyone is to listen to your heart if you start feeling things are not in line with your priorities in life. Then, trust your gut if you begin to feel a situation is unhealthy for you.
In a way, I was relieved when things ended with my old company. However, there were times when situations bothered me, such as calendar conflicts with childcare and being made to feel guilty for leaving meetings that were running way over schedule, and I was not raising my voice.
That is not just an issue for women. It is an issue for lots of parents.
In my previous role, I was expected to travel around 30% of the time. This was impossible as I tried to take good care of my kids and maintain the work/life balance I wanted.
However, this is not the same in all companies. For example, when I came to CluePoints, I mentioned that an important meeting time didn’t work for me and was changed to accommodate my constraints! This was a very positive sign to me.
We need to speak about these issues without shame, as only then can something be done to change it.
We should consider people as a whole. We are not robots. That is something I learned from that hiccup in my career – don’t sacrifice what is essential to you. Instead, carefully assess the compromises you are ready to make. If your job is well aligned with your values in life, this is where you can give 100% of yourself!
Decide what you want in life and your priorities, then make choices that reflect that.
A shift in equity
I think there has been an evolution with more and more men asking for parental leave or working flexible hours. At CluePoints, we are split relatively equally gender-wise, with 44% female to 56% male.
However, I don’t think we are at total equity, and it is not consistent across countries.
Here in Belgium, it is normal to work four days a week and have one weekday to take care of your kids, whether you are a man or a woman.
When I speak to my colleagues in the US, there is a perception that working part-time will be disruptive to the role. However, I still see gaps that are not a question of gender but of different work cultures.
We must keep fighting for gender equity but are also responsible for our destiny. You can make a career work for whatever your situation is, even if it may be more difficult. The important thing to realize is the opportunities are there, but you need to make them work for you.