As part of our Leading Women series, we want to highlight the professional challenges and career aspirations of the women we work with here in Asia. In this story, Alexandra Cerruti, Managing Director at Design Bridge, shares about the women that have inspired her professional career, what keeps her motivated and engaged at work, as well as how the company at large celebrates diversity on a day-to-day basis.
Q: What’s one thing you recently learnt that you would not have believed six months ago?
The agility and resilience of my colleagues at Design Bridge. What we have been able to deliver and achieve through remote working is mind blowing. As a creative business, collaboration and working physically together in the same room was the norm and default. At least that’s what we assumed. So, we were slightly nervous and hesitant about working from home throughout these disruptive times. However, the quality of our work was not affected at all. We developed active listening skills, and meeting efficiency has drastically improved! We are even organising online workshops, something that none of us thought was possible six months ago. I am very proud of these collective achievements.
Q: What was your childhood like?
I grew up in northern France in a family of female entrepreneurs. My grandmother was a realtor and a role model for me because she raised four children while fully managing her own business. My mother and her two sisters were also entrepreneurs who supported their respective families. Even though I am the only one who hasn’t set up a business of my own, I do possess the mindset of entrepreneurship, and I try to inject that passion and energy into everything that I do. That is why I am very proud of my French roots. I like to cultivate critical thinking and the creative spirit, which are characteristics that are inculcated at a very young age within the French education system.
Q: What energises you the most at work?
Intellectual stimulation brought on by a committed and talented team. As mentioned, our way of working is highly collaborative and inclusive. Everyone’s voice is heard during meetings, creative reviews and brainstorming sessions. I am constantly amazed by what a well-formed team is able to put together.
Q: How would you describe your role within the company?
My current role is like a conductor of an orchestra. I cannot design logos, I cannot create brand strategies, but I can devote myself to understanding every single aspect of various processes and provide the team with a framework that facilitates success and performance. Once you have this, teamwork has no limitations, and what you can achieve collectively is outstanding.
Q: What have you sacrificed for your professional journey?
Would you ask the same question to a male professional? Unconsciously, people tend to think that women have to make some sacrifices to progress professionally. As for me, I am very grateful to work for an inclusive organisation that gives equal opportunities to all. Three out of every five Managing Directors at Design Bridge worldwide are women, as are half of our most senior-level Creative Directors. Flexible working arrangements are becoming the norm and will be extended in the post-COVID world. This also facilitates a healthy work-life balance. Having two young children myself, I need to be flexible and organised, but nothing is impossible here. Internally, our culture is not to compete, but to celebrate each other and our collective wins.
Q: How do you engage and empower others?
First and foremost, the relationship has to be built on trust. It is critical to give space to team members and allow them to unleash their potential. The culture of feedback is also important to create a positive and mindful environment for people to progress and give their best. I also dedicate time to mentor young female team members. The number of women in creative leadership positions within our industry is still relatively low. In fact, while 70% of graphic design students are women, only 11% of Creative Directors are women. We are working actively at Design Bridge to re-balance this.
Q: Which woman has inspired you the most and why?
I was fortunate enough to work with and be mentored by several successful and inspiring female leaders. I started my career at Carre Noir in Paris under the helm of co-founder and Executive Creative Director, Beatrice Marrioti. Carre Noir revolutionised brand strategy and identity, and Beatrice herself is often considered a living legend. She taught me the attention to detail, uncompromising quality and importance of client relationships.
Our role as employers in the design industry is to create a positive and supportive environment for women to collaborate, foster their career development and to empower them. Having been guided by various talented female mentors has shaped the way I envisioned my career and has pushed me to pursue my ambitions. Being in a junior position at that time, it definitely made a difference to be inspired by a female leader. Female mentorship imbues female professionals with confidence to pursue their career ambition and I will always be grateful for that.
This interview was conducted by Jonathan Goldstein, Head of Page Executive in Southeast Asia. He has more than 14 years of experience in connecting women of the C-suite to both Asian businesses and Fortune 500 companies. Being the son of a mom who speaks 5 languages and received her masters in New York after immigrating into the country through Ellis Island in her teenage years, Jon was exposed to female leaders early in his life and was deeply influenced by them and their leadership styles.
He envisions himself to be part of the Gender & Diversity revolution in Asia Pacific and hopes to give prominence to women executives and the important elements they bring to senior leadership teams for companies to grow holistically.
Partner with Jon to strengthen your senior leadership team, discuss about your next opportunity or contribute to our Leading Women series to inspire others.