Get to know your peers in the leadership community through our career profile series. Today, we talk to Rudi Symons, global chief talent officer at Maxus Global.
CV in brief:
- Global chief talent officer, Maxus (present)
- Head of talent and culture EMEA, Maxus (Sept 2015)
- Head of culture, ZenithOptimedia (14 years)
- Actress (and many other part-time jobs) (throughout 20s)
A day in your life
Tell us about your job and organisation
My role is all about building a culture that’s a source of energy for our people – through fantastic development opportunities, interesting career paths, recognition, creativity and great communication.
Who do you report into?
Lindsay Pattison, worldwide CEO at Maxus.
Tell us about your team
One of the things I love about Maxus is the collaborative spirit. I work closely with many talented people across the business on various projects – so my ‘team’ is ever changing and equal – we don’t need complicated hierarchy to get the job done.
What is the most rewarding part of your role?
I firmly believe that people’s experience of work should be life-enriching, I love that my role can have an impact on that.
I’ve recently had the honour of leading a gender equality initiative at Maxus called Walk the Talk. We knew this programme was something special, but we’ve been blown away by the results: huge leaps in confidence, clarity of ambition and global connection amongst our 220 senior female leaders – 17 of whom (including me!) have since made their own bold moves and been promoted.
What is the most challenging part of the role?
Trying to fit everything in. There’s so much to do…so much to create! Finding the energy isn’t the issue – I absolutely love what I do – but finding the time is a challenge.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I wake up super early – I’m definitely a morning person, so I schedule my most important prep or calls for then. When I’m not travelling, I’ll have most of my meetings in the London office – it’s an open plan space that creates a brilliant energy and allows ideas to flow. We have agile working there, which makes for great productivity because you can plan your time in the way that works best for you. For me, this means a walk at some point during the day for an energy boost – and a bit of yoga keeps me feeling zen.
Why did you choose your current organisation to work for?
I fell in love with the culture. Maxus has a distinct set of values in ‘PACE’; we’re passionate, agile, collaborative and entrepreneurial – and we genuinely live and breathe that spirit.
Also, once I’d met Lindsay, I just knew I wanted to come along on the journey – her leadership style is so empowering – I challenge anybody not to be inspired by her!
Perks and downsides of your role?
Perk – the opportunity to meet the amazing talent we have across the global network.
Downside – while the travel is incredible, it’s tough being away from loved ones for an extended period of time.
What skills are essential for the role you’re in?
You need endless amounts of energy. My role involves a huge amount of work across time zones. You also have to be brave enough to challenge the status quo, then be able back this up with new ways of doing things and creative problem solving.
Next: Emotional quotient (EQ), bags of it – especially in areas of self-awareness, empathy and motivation.
Finally: Great communication – on a one-to-one level and having the confidence to get on your feet to connect with larger audiences.
How did you get to where you are now?
By working very hard, having a huge fascination in people and a great amount of resilience. I tend to put my heart and soul into things.
What were your favourite subjects at school?
Drama, creative writing and science. I went to St Angela’s Catholic School in Hertfordshire which turned into a mixed school (John Henry Newman) half way through (which caused havoc – I started wearing illuminous yellow stilettos to school!)
What was your first job?
My first proper job in London was as a receptionist at ZenithOptimedia. I’d landed a role in a Mike Leigh fringe theatre production and needed an income to live in the city.
Have you followed the career path you set out to?
No, I dreamt of being a Hollywood actress when I was younger. Interestingly, working in talent also calls for empathy, creativity and clear, open communication – so I feel I’m putting all the training to good use!
What challenges have you faced along the way? How did you overcome them?
I’ve had to learn how to stop my own self-limiting beliefs from holding me back. I suffered a huge lack of confidence in my teens and throughout my 20s, as I think many young women do.
I’d left school at 16, and while I had plenty of work experience under my belt, I spent a long time doubting my academic capability. This all changed when I achieved my master’s degree – it gave me a newfound confidence. I knew I was good at communicating and connecting with people – now I also had theory to draw on.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to land a job?
I was once cast as WonderWoman in the BBC Proms trailer being filmed at Glastonbury. As it happened, I was already at the festival – selling tequila – so that worked out well…and my mum spotted me straight away when the ad was aired!
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
Being promoted to Maxus’ global chief talent officer.
Do you have any career regrets?
No. Every mistake I made has led me to where I am today.
What advice would you offer to others who are looking to get to where you are now?
Get involved in all aspects of the business that you work in – ask loads of questions and connect with people at every level of the organisation. Get involved in everything you can and more; take on new projects and make bold moves like starting your own initiatives.
Never forget the power of your organisation’s unique talent brand – own it and protect it furiously.
What advice would you give to your 22-year-old self?
I wish I’d heard this quote from Maya Angelou when I was 22: “I have learnt that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.
- App: Google Maps – I have no sense of direction whatsoever
- TV show: I don’t have a TV and rarely watch anything – but I do love a bit of Strictly
- Band: Rudimental (love them and not just because of their name)
- Song: Rumours by Fleetwood Mac – best when singing it with my sisters
- Book: A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle – this guy is like the new Jesus
- Sports team: The Hammers – me and my Dad used to watch them when I was little
- Thing to do on a Friday night: Drinking red wine, Italian food and spending time with James (my partner) – they all feed my soul!
- Place to eat: Prince of Greenwich – the warmest welcome in London
- Holiday spot: Andalusia (with James) or a yoga detox juice fasting retreat in the sunshine (on my own)
- Piece of advice you’ve been given: Know your lines – (know your content) so well that you stop focussing on the words and allow yourself to properly connect with the message and your audience
- Coffee or tea? Tea
- Jam or marmalade? Neither, just Kerry Gold butter
- The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? The Beatles
- Mac or PC? Mac
- The Guardian or The Times? Guardian
- BBC or ITV? BBC for Strictly
- M&S or Waitrose? Waitrose delivery
- Morning or night? Morning
- Rain on snow? Snow
- Sweet or savoury? Savoury
By Sarah Clark
Online features editor at Changeboard
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