To start this series of interviews, with alumni of the Advanced Leadership Program, we spoke with Head of Quality at Coloplast, Hella Roashan, about her recent promotion and relocation to Costa Rica from Denmark, where she will be part of establishing a new Coloplast manufacturing site. Roashan shares the lessons she learnt within the ALP class of 2017, and her approach to leadership challenges.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your career journey, job titles etc., before and after joining the Advanced Leadership Program (ALP) in 2017?
After finalizing my master’s degree from DTU, I started as a Validation specialist in the Quality organization at Coloplast. In my first 3 years as a young engineer, I was going through a major professional transformation where I got to know the organization and the business, and the different career paths, but most importantly I discovered what motivates me and how I can add value to the company. Therefore, I decided to pursue a management role and became Head of Quality Process Engineering in 2013. Since then I have held different management positions within the Quality Organization at Coloplast Headquarters. When I joined the Advanced Leadership program in 2017, I was Head of Product Support where my team was responsible for technical lifecycle management of Coloplast products on the market.
After ALP I decided to pursue an international career and got the privilege to join a start-up team responsible for establishing a new Coloplast manufacturing site in Costa Rica, as Head of Quality.
What motivates you to pursue a leadership career, and how does your company enable this?
I was fascinated by the culture when I joined Coloplast. There was this feeling of having a common goal and helping people with intimate healthcare needs. People were eager to share their knowledge with me even though I felt that as a young engineer, I could not (yet) offer much in return at that time. And then most importantly, despite ambitious deadlines, high workload and busy schedules, people were having fun and enjoyed coming to work every day. I was fascinated and at the same time really curious about organizational culture and how to lead people. I could see a potential in me and this is the great thing about Coloplast – If you have the potential, you want something and are ready to work hard for it, then anything is possible.
What is one thing that you took away as a key learning from the 5 modules?
The one module that especially stood out for me was Simon Lancaster’s class where we got tips and tricks on how to use language techniques to get our message across. It really became evident for me how impactful words and body language can be, if done right. With a little practice and the right tools, it is possible to become a really strong communicator, which is key when leading people.
In what ways do you use the skills that you’ve learned in the ALP in your work and how has the program helped you become a better leader?
I am much more aware of how I communicate. I observe how the great communicators in Coloplast use the same tools as we were thought by Simon so it is a skill that can be mastered. It was also great to get more insight in how to create a great strategy and execute on it successfully.
Besides the classes, being part of a network of women in leadership positions has been a great benefit. It was very inspiring and encouraging and has motivated me to push even harder to reach my career goals.
What is next for you in your career, since finishing the ALP, and what are your long-term career aspirations?
For the next 2 years I will be working on building our new factory in Costa Rica. Being part of a start-up will broaden my business understanding even more and will give me the possibility of influencing the setup and culture at a new site using my experience.
Long term career goals are definitely to get more organizational responsibility and being able to impact the business at a larger scale. Who knows – maybe I will be the first female CEO of Coloplast one day.
What has been your biggest leadership challenge since finishing the ALP and how did you deal with it?
The biggest leadership challenge since finishing the ALP was actually recently where I was transitioning from my former position, to a new position at Coloplast. I was extremely excited about my new position, but l had also invested a lot in my former team so it was also very important for me that the transition period was smooth and easy on the team. I found it hard to balance between how much to influence the new managers on my way of leading the team and how much to let them figure it out themselves because maybe they will see other opportunities than me. I decided to make myself available but let it be up to the new managers to contact me if they wanted the sparring. This way I figured they will grow more and I learned to let go of my control.
What one thing could encourage more women to pursue a career in leadership?
If I should mention only one thing, then I would definitely say that women should start embracing the imperfect and take more risks! I know a lot of talented women with leadership potential who hesitate on trying out leadership roles or women that are middle managers and hesitate to take it to the next level. In some cases these talented women completely disregard the possibility of advancing to upper management because they do not think they are competent or would have the time to perfect the job. I say go for it. What is the worst thing that can happen?
Name: Hella Roashan
Education: Master of Science in Medicine and Technology, Technical University of Denmark (DTU)
Title: Head of Quality, Costa Rica Manufacturing
Civil Status: Single
Fun fact: I was born in Afghanistan and came to Denmark when I was 10. Before moving to DK and starting in a public Danish school I was homeschooled by my parents.