Every day at Hitachi Vantara, I’m blown away by the caliber, passion, and energy of the women in our business. What I see from our female leaders is innovation, creativity, and then the commitment to deliver on their vision, with a unique level of responsibility and accountability.
As a leader, I’m grateful to those who challenge me and help me to think about things in a different way. These people are often the women on my team who are passionate about our business, are personally invested, and want to move things forward because it’s the right thing to do. I’ve also benefited from two female mentors, who have helped to shape me into the leader that I am today.
In the spirit of Women’s History Month in the U.S., and International Women’s Day globally, I was compelled to capture & share stories from some of the incredible women in our infrastructure business. over the next three weeks, each Monday, , I’ll be highlighting inspirational females – women who go above and beyond and are intrinsic to our success. I feel fortunate to be leading the digital infrastructure team and to be working with such talented individuals. I’m proud to introduce them to you.
In this first blog, I want to introduce Irina Yakhina, the Global Commercial Accelerator Lead in our Technical Sales team. Irina, who is based in Israel, has been with Hitachi Vantara for 14 years, joining us as a Solution Consultant. In her time here, has steadily progressed from an in-country role to EMEA leadership roles, and now a global role where she reports directly to our digital infrastructure Chief Technical Officer. I met up with Irina recently via video conference to learn more about her journey. The following is an excerpt:
MARK ABLETT: Irina, you’re highly tenured at Hitachi, having been with us for over 14 years. I’m interested to know what made you choose your current career path.
IRINA YAKHINA: I learnt early in my career that I was able to describe complex things in an easy-to-understand way and a friend explained the Solution Consultant specialism to me, which was an unusual choice for a woman at that time. It seemed ideal as you needed to know about technologies and present to customers and partners, to encourage them to use your company’s solutions.
After completing the graduate trainee program at Hewlett Packard (HP), I became a Solution Consultant. This broadened to management and then global experience. I’m now proud to work with all three geos, helping solution consultants to become more efficient and generate more revenue for Hitachi Vantara.
ABLETT: You’re an absolute inspiration to many women in the organization. What made you decide to join Hitachi?
YAKHINA: I joined Hitachi Data Systems in 2008 and it was a very easy decision. Previously, HP resold Hitachi’s high-end storage systems, so it felt like I was joining the technological leader and would be closer to the technologies. It was the right decision. Fourteen years on, I have gained interesting international experience, working with good people and brilliant technologies.
ABLETT: What obstacles or challenges have you met in your career and how did you overcome them?
YAKHINA: Being an international people manager was the most interesting challenge that I’ve faced. When you work in one country, you’re focused on the local business and work with local Sales and Services leads. People know you, value your opinion and rely on your decisions. When you become an international people manager, every country has its own market dynamics and its own culture.
My first international experience was in France and I was hiring for a Technical Expert. I wasn’t familiar with the team and the market, but I knew that my decision needed to positively influence the French business. I ran panel interviews with local Sales and Technical Sales leads to ensure it was a joint decision. I also started to learn a lot about the history and traditions of different countries, and when people see this, they support you, which leads to very positive results. Wikipedia is my favourite website!
ABLETT: That’s a great example of how a collaborative approach led to your success. It’s really important that we collaborate and support each other in a global environment, while also understanding the values and culture of the organization. What are you most proud of, in your career?
YAKHINA: That’s easy – I pride myself that my team always brings real value to the business, and will continue to do so. I can be described as tactical, but we’re focused on operational value, and doing the right things, and doing them well.
ABLETT: Great advice. I’m interested to know how Hitachi Vantara has supported your growth and aspirations.
YAKHINA: All my growth and success has been at Hitachi with great support from my managers. They set clear goals, provided the resources needed, gave clear feedback and adjusted my priorities if needed.
I’ve been lucky to work with good sales representatives who trained me to be focused real business, to act with a sense of urgency and do our best achieve our targets, to working with experienced technical engineers who helped me with tricky questions or very big and complex projects.
I really enjoy working at Hitachi Vantara and hope I will continue to bring value to the company in the future. Our competitive advantage is that we give people opportunities to contribute and grow outside of their job description. This is unique to Hitachi.
ABLETT: What tips would you give to our next generation of female leaders?
YAKHINA: My ethos is:
- Work hard and try to do your best in your current position. I had a tutor who said talent is 95% hard work and the rest is luck!
- Understand what else your function and you can do to improve business results and add value.
- Identify what makes your team and you successful and focus on this.
- Start new initiatives, even if they are out of scope of your current job description. If you do well, these new activities will become part of your job description and will help to develop your career.
- When you are a manager, you need to respect and value your people. A strong team with good and motivated people will ultimately make you successful.
ABLETT: What advice would you give me to ensure that we’re fostering more talent and more diverse female talent across Hitachi Vantara.
YAKHINA: I strongly believe that we should develop all talents and that people want to be developed but sometimes they need help with their confidence or knowing how to develop. I’ve known engineers who are too shy to apply for roles in different teams.
A good career path for Presales is engineering. We have brilliant engineers in customer services, global services, and global delivery. We could encourage job rotations to help people understand how different functions work and to give them exposure.
My career started with a graduate program, so I’m also a great supporter of using these to bring in top students and grow their skills.
ABLETT: Thank you Irina for your 14 years of dedicated service in the company and I look forward to working with you for many years to come.
This is the first in a series by Mark Ablett which will run each Monday in March.
Mark Ablett is President, Digital Infrastructure Business Unit, Hitachi Vantara.
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