Believing in myself: Michaela’s story

Michaela has achieved more than she thought possible with the support of her colleagues

Michaela Goicoechea, Director, Senior Audit Manager, Group Internal Audit Americas

USA

If it doesn’t scare you, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. That’s what I tell myself whenever I look to take on my next challenge. I would say that for every new role I’ve ever applied for, I had probably less than half of the required skills, and learned the rest on the job.

But this inner confidence has not come naturally. There have been times when I’ve struggled with ‘imposter syndrome’ even though my results told a different story. This is a common feeling for those who doubt their abilities at work, especially women. I had to regularly remind myself of my achievements and stretch myself to take on new challenges to build up my self-confidence.

I moved to New York City 15 years ago from Connecticut, having originally migrated from the Czech Republic. I had experience as an executive assistant and I considered myself lucky when I was offered the position of executive assistant to the CEO, Americas at Standard Chartered. I never dreamed I’d get a job with a huge bank in New York City at that level.

“Stretching myself to take on new challenges has built up my self-confidence.”

This led to career progression as a business planning manager (BPM) for the CEO, Americas before moving to Singapore as the BPM for the CEO of Southeast Asia. In this role, I was managing a challenging governance project on his behalf with one of our bank ventures in Indonesia where he served as chairman of the board. I got to spend a lot of time in Jakarta as his proxy, negotiating with the directors of this large local bank and serving as a go between with Standard Chartered’s executives in Singapore. The experience was challenging and amazing at the same time. When I was ready to return to New York from Asia, I took a role in finance as a project manager before making the move into the audit department as an audit manager. Here, I was given challenging performance goals in the first year, which got me a further promotion to a Senior Audit Manager. That was eight years ago, and I feel I found a real calling for myself in audit. I love it.

It has been – and continues to be – such a rewarding experience working here, but a few years ago I was ready to quit. After the birth of my eldest son I simply wasn’t ready to come back to work full time. It was with a heavy heart that I felt I needed to resign, but the team around me was determined to find a solution that would work for me, my family and my team. Thanks to them, I took on a flexible working arrangement working three days a week, including one day from home. This allowed me to continue progressing my career while being able to spend more time with my little boy. When my second child was born a few years later, I continued with this working arrangement until both children were settled and I was delighted to come back to work full time, while keeping my work-from-home days. I make sure I have some backup support at home for those days when I need to spend extra time at the office. As the Bank allows me to work in a flexible way, I do my part to be flexible when I am needed at work. My manager continues to challenge me with stretching assignments, and as a result my career keeps progressing.

This flexibility is especially important for me as my eldest son has special needs. My diary is a constant whirlwind of doctors and therapy appointments. It means I have to be super-organised all the time. When I’m at work, I focus 100 per cent, but during my off time, I have to be there for my family. The love and support I’ve been shown by my colleagues, and especially my manager, has been extraordinary. They’ve shown me what I’m capable of and that it is possible to be supported in the workplace.

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