Give meaning to your ambitions: discover the new Quæst program

Isabelle Panelli
Vice President, Office of the CEO

One-on-One with Isabelle Panelli

January 11, 2023 - One-on-One

We caught up with Isabelle Panelli, Vice President, Office of the CEO, at GardaWorld. Meet an authentic and determined woman who has learned to adapt to many different challenges in a changing market. What inspires this woman of action?

1- What does it mean to lead with impact in a male-dominated world? 

I really wonder whether we’re doing ourselves a disservice by highlighting the fact that there are women of impact in a man’s world. We become disassociated, we get marginalized. These days, when equity has become a major talking point, I wonder whether we’re broaching the subject properly. As far as I’m concerned, you have to fully embrace equity, even if some industries are still lagging behind. Women need to come together, but we also need to affirm that we belong here. People who don’t understand this are at a disadvantage on the market. That’s why I am quite hesitant about the notion of being a woman of impact in a man’s world. Actually, I would say it’s more about leading with conviction because every leader must have conviction, and carry their mission or cause forward. That, to me, is being at the top of your game.

2- If you had to describe your career path in two words, which two would you choose and why?

Number one: “change”, and at the speed of light! There were opportunities that I had to jump on very quickly in a very specific context. I had to trust my intuition, be flexible and be in tune with my environment to pick up the signals, integrate them and move forward.

Next, “perseverance”. On the course of a career path, if you lead with impact, you can achieve success – but it comes with many challenges and, sometimes, failures. Personally, I found the challenges were very organizational, very HR in nature. Because in a world that’s constantly evolving, what you need today will never be what you need tomorrow; you have be able to adapt and persevere. You have to hold your head high and always keep your goals and objectives in mind, and have managerial courage.

For me, being authentic means having genuine conversations with people, even when they’re difficult. When we stick to the truth, to facts, people are often more open and willing to listen to even the hardest conversations. I owe a lot of my success to being forthright and compassionate, because a conversation is so much more meaningful when it is real. Beyond the truth, you have to know how to say it, when to say it, and who to say it to. Having sound judgment and a political sense are also solid assets.

3- What have you learned about yourself over the course of your career?

I’m convinced that in order to be successful, to deliver impactful projects, you need to have a sense of conviction and share your passion authentically. You have to know how to mobilize people to get projects done. To really be influential, you have to surround yourself with the right people, cultivate meaningful relationships, manage expectations and constantly clarify things when things get chaotic.

4- La tête chercheuse celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, and you are a part of our story. Tell us about your unique story and what impact we had on you.

As a leader, I’m impatient (laughs), but I do listen. La tête chercheuse often allowed me to take a step back and try to find the best solutions. For every manager, managing talent is THE greatest challenge. Managing a website or a project, that’s easy. Managing talent, mobilizing teams, developing career paths is another ballgame. Because once you’ve hired your team, you not only have to build it, you have to maintain, motivate and engage it. You have a duty, and the relationship comes with expectations.

You’ve been a collaborator and you’ve often given me good guidance. You’ve really contributed to building my team over the years with every mission and mandate I’ve given you. You truly have the pulse of the market: it helps with decision-making in periods of rapid growth. That’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned: this knowledge is key to managing employees’ expectations. People want us to clearly define their roles for them because it gives them the confidence to take the lead and justifies what they do.  

5- What inspires you each day and fuels your professional happiness?

Being able to have an impact. I like seeing results. We see marketing and communications everywhere in a company, so it’s easy to see team results. I like to bring my logic, my team and our collective ideas to the table, for the organization and for business results. You always feel a tingle of pride when your initiatives start gaining traction. I’m a doer: getting things done is what makes me tick.

6- What do you hope to build and leave as a legacy, say, for the next 25 years?

Equality. Never having to ask questions like what it’s like to be a woman of impact in a man’s world ever again. And being productive. I think we’ve lost the value of working somewhat, accomplishing something together has to transcend individual motivations. We need to be driven by the desire to do something for the collective good. Success and pride in your work must be ways to grow as a person, to leave something bigger than you behind, to make your mark.

Was this article helpful?

Share this article