A Solvay Master student has spent a day working alongside Telenet Chief Executive Officer, John Porter, as part of Odgers Berndtson Brussels’ initiative, CEOx1Day. Lenka Slezakova was one of five students selected to catch a glimpse of running a major company.
The finalists, who were chosen following a rigorous selection process, have been shadowing CEOs from AGC, Bank Degroof Petercam, EVS Broadcast Equipment, Solvay and Telenet in the past weeks. After her day with John, we asked Lenka for her thoughts on the initiative.
After her day with John, we asked Lenka for her thoughts on the initiative.
First of all, why did you take part in the programme?
I view the challenges and failures along the road as the best school and I try to learn as much from them, as from everyone I meet in my daily life. This is the reason why I am confident that CEOx1Day would not just be an item on my CV, but a life-enriching learning experience.
So, what was it like being CEO for a day?
It was very enriching. I believe a large part of that was thanks to John’s leadership style and Telenet’s culture. I not only got the opportunity to shadow John for one day, but I could actively participate in the discussions and bring some insights into the way that my generation thinks and works.
How was your contact with John?
It was very personal and informal. During the day, we had several opportunities to discuss 1 on 1. John not only was willing to share his experiences with me, but we got to discuss many other global issues.
How would you describe his leadership style?
I personally think it is remarkable. John is very informal, friendly and makes people feel at ease without imposing unnecessary hierarchies and formalities. I think what is really important for him is to be surrounded by diverse, talented people who are passionate about what their do. I believe what makes John a successful leader is that he empowers the people around him to succeed in doing what they are best at.
What parts of the day did you enjoy most?
Highlights of the day included discussions about digitalization and the future challenges with both internal teams and other industry leaders as well as a visit to the retention centre, where they took amazing effort to make me feel welcome!
What were the most important lessons you learned about leadership?
Probably the most important take away that John kept emphasising is that business and especially leadership is all about the people. Technical skills can give you leverage but only interpersonal skills can help you succeed and make it sustainable. I could not agree more with it. I could see that the organisation would not be what it is without all the people who work there and see the purpose in what they do! And lastly, I think I’ve learned that we should not forget to take ourselves less seriously!
How did the day influence how you look at your own career?
It made me realise that a career is really a long-run project formed out of a number of different experiences and endeavours. Sometimes, we are so focused on succeeding in each and every one of them that we neglect what an important lesson a failure represents. I think for the future, one should definitely not be afraid of failing, as long as he or she can draw valuable lessons out of it!
Why do you think initiatives like this are important for students?
I believe it is important for students, not only to see how everything they learn at school is applied in the real world but also to show how important it is to constantly work on oneself outside of school. Last but not least, I believe it encourages students to envision themselves in the long run and make a sense of the importance of every single project they undertake in the present.
Any last thoughts about the day?
The day itself, as well as the selection process, were both very enriching to me. I absolutely recommend participating to everyone who is eager to learn more about himself and from experiences of successful business leaders!
In addition to Lenka's thoughts on the day, we also obtained some insights from John Porter himself:
John, why did you participate in CEOx1Day?
Call it karma but I think it’s important to do something for the next generation. I think it is important to invest in upcoming talent and I also believe it is a good benchmark to do it with ambitious and professional students outside your own organisation.
How was the experience today? What were the highlights?
Participating in CEOx1Day was an exceptional experience. Lenka was very driven, she really participated in the meetings, shared her opinion, asked questions. Overall I was truly impressed by the high level of engagement between Lenka and the Telenet team members throughout all the different meetings.
What do you expect from Millenials in terms of skill set, attitude and motivation?
I think the ideal Millenial student has a strong international background and thus a global outlook and big interest in the global economy. He/she is strongly motivated to achieve what he/she believes in and has a strong work ethic. We are always looking for great team players too. As the saying goes: ‘if you want to go fast go alone and if you want to go far, go together’. That is something I strongly believe in.
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