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In our Diversity@NORMA series, we present the diversity of employees who work for NORMA Group. In 2021, the focus of the series is on female employees at NORMA Group. Female staff members from various departments and countries talk about their professional and personal experiences and provide insights into their wishes for the future.
Sharon Vessels is Vice President of Marketing & Ecommerce for the Americas Region of NORMA Group located in the California offices of Water Management. In this interview, she talks about professional challenges, her passion for her job and her hopes for the future.
What woman has had the greatest impact on you in your life? Do you have professional role models?
I have been extremely fortunate to be surrounded by many inspiring women in my life. In my immediate family, my mother, aunts and cousins are the women who have helped shaped and inspire me. They are very strong and self-confident women who have earned everything on their own merits. Outside of family, I have been very fortunate to have formed an amazing group of talented and smart women who mentor me to this day. I must also mention that I have met some amazing men who have impacted my life and career in such a positive way – allowing me to thrive and get promoted in a crowded field of men based on my work and accomplishments.
My very first boss had a huge impact on me. He took me under his wing when I was a marketing assistant at The Stanley Works – exposing me to major company initiatives with large retailers and other manufacturers. This allowed me to meet men and women who mentored me and taught me so much about people, career management and how to keep abreast of the field of marketing. These women encouraged me, motivated me and showed me how women can be assertive but not aggressive and how important those differences are seen in the business world.
I have never had a specific professional role model. I draw inspiration from many intelligent men and women. I find the stories of mathematicians and engineers Mary Jackson (NASA Engineer), Jennifer Doudna (winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for her work on CRISPR) are particularly noteworthy. They are extraordinary women that represent the past and future impact women have made on our country. Companies and countries that ignore the input from women are missing out on 50% of the solutions available. I think there are a lot of stories like that where the contribution of women has been overlooked or hidden. It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman, there is simply so much potential in all of us. Our gender should not play a role in the working world.
Why are you professionally where you are today? And what does your career mean to you?
I am where I am today in terms of my career because I love my career and my job. I truly believe that if we love and are passionate about what we do, we will be successful. My job means a lot to me, it gives me the opportunity to thrive as an individual and contribute based on my experience. I especially appreciate the international exchange of information and ideas with customers and colleagues from around the world. The intercultural exchange encourages me to constantly educate myself. In a world that is changing so quickly, we must always be willing to learn and be open to new things. Lifelong learning is absolutely vital in this day and age. In marketing you never stop learning, you can always reinvent yourself and develop. Marketing has evolved so much in the past 10 years – it is critical to keep up on trends and technology – I take classes and listen to podcasts all the time to stay educated and on top of my game.
What challenges have shaped your career? And what elements of society have changed?
Digitalization is probably one of the biggest challenges and at the same time the biggest social changes of the last few years. It has completely transformed marketing. The way I now communicate and interact with our customers, the way I learn and work has changed. Digitalization shows that we must all always be ready to follow new trends.
Things have also changed in recent years when it comes to equality. Women have closed the gap in terms of education, for example. In the U.S., more than 50 percent of university graduates are women. Attitudes toward women in the workplace have also changed in the U.S. I see that women no longer have to justify having children and pursuing a career as they did not so long ago. It is a biological fact that women are the ones who have children and we can’t change that. Professionally, that should not matter. I hope that this catches on worldwide.
What do you wish for the future?
I want to see a time when gender no longer plays a role in a new job, a promotion, or an application for a place at university. What counts are the values and characteristics of the person in question. I would also like to see women around the world being appreciated more for their work.
And do you have any advice for all women?
Take your career into your own hands, surround yourself with quality and motivating men and women. Be wiling to listen to feedback and them and ask them for support. Don’t let yourself be defined by your gender, trust your own experience and your passion. Reach out to young women and men in your company and mentor them so their path is a bit smoother. Live your life to the fullest and you will have a fantastic career.