In part two of this in-depth interview with Mary Gilbert, Treasury Manager for The Duracell Company, she explains where her drive for success comes from and offers some salient points for others looking to follow in her footsteps.
Do you think companies generally make the best use of talent?
Recognising and developing the talent within a business is key to its success. Sometimes the talent is just not there and you have to go outside of the organisation. But sometimes the company culture can restrict individuals to certain roles, not seeing that they may be well-versed in other areas, and possibly overlooking them for different opportunities. If companies do not adapt to changing times, and fail to acknowledge that, for example, women can and do become experts in specialist fields, they will miss out on major talent.
Much of your career progress has been achieved under your own steam. Where does your determination come from?
I’d like to be seen as a driven individual. If I know there is something fundamentally lacking in the way I perform, I am one of those people who will always do something about it.
I grew up in inner-city Chicago, and not in the best neighbourhood. Opportunities were never just handed to you. I was only the third person in my family, after my father and brother, to get my High School Diploma, and I was the first to graduate and to earn a Masters, so this was a big accomplishment.
Something that I have always told myself is that if I want to be the best person I can be, I need to learn from my mistakes, adjust and make the best of every situation. So, if I’m in one of the worst schools in the City of Chicago and not learning the fundamentals from my instructors, then the best thing I can do is head to the library and teach myself. It has always been my mindset to think outside the box to get to where I need to be.
I don’t have a favourite quote from anyone else that I abide by to spur me on. But for myself – and I advise this to other people – I always say know your role and the power it holds, but also understand your own special energy or magic, your own ability, your true worth and your potential. It’s too easy to break the spirit of those who lack that self-belief. But if you hold true to your values, and you know you have the potential to be great, it is very hard for anyone to tell you that you can’t be.
There is a dividing line between confidence and arrogance, but confidence is key in achieving your goals. I take that message and employ it across all aspects of my life, not just my career.
Did you have to fight for the Duracell role?
It wasn’t dropped into my lap but my positive LinkedIn profile led someone to point me in the direction of the job. Initially, I thought it was not for me; it would have been more convenient to stay where I was. But the opportunities within Duracell, as a Berkshire Hathaway company, are almost endless. So I seized the moment.
At Duracell, I am learning a ton; I just eat it up! I love being put in new situations and being instrumental in starting projects from the ground up. Whereas before I was working in an already established organisation and hedging program, I can now experience the satisfaction of ownership myself. Along with my goals, these experiences will help me with my career plan to become treasurer, and maybe CFO.
As you move up the career ladder, what advice would you give to junior colleagues following in your footsteps?
Learn from your mistakes. At times, we get discouraged when we slip up, and then think ‘maybe this is not the right career path for me’. I say stay steadfast in your career path. If it is the one you wish to follow, be sure to use every opportunity and absorb as much information as possible. The more well-versed you are, the more opportunities there will be. I could have become an expert in FX but that would have put me in a box and meant not being able to experience the many other facets of treasury.
I encourage people to find someone within their organisation that they respect and then home in on what makes them great. Once you understand those qualities, try to develop those which you are lacking and can develop. Something I have had to learn was being open to criticism. If someone critiques you, don’t automatically perceive it as a way of putting you down; not everyone in your career is trying to do this – most want you to do well. If you own those critiques and work on them, you will go far.