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Learning to Love Leadership: How My Career as a Leader Emerged

Fabien Gitenay

Global Head of Digital Applications in Vodafone Business

Earlier in my career, I was not focused on leadership roles. I just wanted to learn and be exposed to all kinds of challenges. I started out as a management consultant and my priority was tackling different business problems and learning about different industries.

I advised clients in a number of sectors including technology, telecoms and energy, where I saw some very interesting business problems and developed many foundational skills. Then I decided to do an MBA to sharpen my understanding of business fundamentals and that spurred me on to diversify my roles and experience further. As I progressively took on more responsibilities, my appetite for leadership roles grew stronger and it set me on the path to the career I have today.

Moving into leadership roles

I had been thinking about making the move from consultancy to industry for a while. Then, once I’d completed my MBA, I began taking on roles with more and more responsibilities and started to manage teams, which was an important step. I spent a number of years in the professional services industry before moving to Visa Inc, where I led the corporate strategy function in Europe and subsequently moved into a Product leadership role. Then I joined Vodafone in 2021 in my current role.

As Global Head of Digital Applications within Vodafone Business, I’m responsible for a fast-growing portfolio of software as a service (SaaS) products that help small businesses become more digital. My scope of responsibilities ranges from strategy development for the portfolio, to partnering with SaaS leaders such as Microsoft and Google, to commercial management, to managing products through the lifecycle – and ultimately owning the global P&L.

The unique satisfaction of being a leader

Leadership roles put you in a unique and rewarding position. You’re not only able to have a bigger impact on company results and the customers themselves, but on the team members you lead as well. You have an opportunity to make a positive impact on their careers. 

My teams have brought to market innovations and new products that help millions of consumers and businesses every day. I’ve also had the enormous pleasure of helping develop people on my teams and watch them grow in confidence and progress in their careers. That is a truly rewarding experience.

I really enjoy the challenges that get thrown at you in leadership roles. You get some complex problems to solve when you’re a leader and it’s extremely satisfying when you and your team come through and deliver a great result.

Chase change, challenge and new experiences

When I look at the last ten years, I think a few things in particular have helped me to grow as a leader.

The first is that I kept looking for new roles that stretched me. When I joined Visa Inc, I was working on corporate strategy leading a wide range of strategic initiatives to capture new growth opportunities or respond to competitive or regulatory changes. I then a new set of challenges, not only develop the strategy, but also to execute it and bring business results.

So I managed to move from a strategy leadership role to a product leadership role which really allowed me to flex new muscles. It put me in a situation where I had to deal with so many things that were new to me and I really enjoyed that. I still do.

The same thing happened when I moved to Vodafone. I went from working in payments to working in SaaS and business software, which to me is such an exciting and dynamic space. I knew that once again I would learn so much and ultimately it will make me a better well-rounded business leader.  

The message here is that curiosity – to explore new industries, absorb new skills and learn everything I can from my colleagues, clients and partners as I go – has been key to my growth. I really believe that curiosity and a continuous desire to learn is key to a successful career.

A career with Vodafone is a journey

Vodafone really supports employee development and internal mobility. You see people changing roles from one country to another, from a Group role to a local role, from product to go-to-market, and so on. It’s an extremely positive environment for anyone who wants to develop and grow as a business leader.

Because of this, I’ve come to see the Vodafone experience as a journey. The role that a candidate applies for here is only the starting point. People have the opportunity to move around, show their skills in different areas and develop constantly. You need to be ready for the diversity of the challenges at Vodafone because we are a unique company with global scale – and I think that is the most exciting part!

Our industry is very changeable. We’re always venturing into new spaces, like mine (SaaS) or Cloud or Security, for example. It is such a rich environment where we face some really interesting business challenges, but the opportunities we have are incredible. We are able to build products and services that will impact millions and millions of people or businesses in a very personal way.

Whether it’s connectivity, security or business applications, the things we do touch daily lives in a positive way. For me and my fellow Vodafone employees, that certainly is an inspiring thought!

If you’re interested in joining the team, head to our website to browse open roles.

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