Maja Pawlowska, Head of Country-by-Country Reporting, shares her experiences on defining a truly unique leadership career.
Meet Maja. #EmpoweredtoLead
A Unique Opportunity
I joined Shell in 2013, the very first day that the Transfer Pricing team was created in Krakow.
Just after I had completed a stint as a professional services consultant, Shell contacted me about an opportunity to join this newly-formed team. Transfer Pricing was my specialty, but not many companies had a dedicated function for it. So I jumped at this unique opportunity to develop my discipline further.
The Transfer Pricing team started as five people with a fairly limited scope of work. Fast-forward five years and we have rapidly grown the function into a 19-person international team with myself at the helm as the Transfer Pricing Manager. Just this year, I received a further promotion to Head of Country-by-Country reporting, broadening my expertise into new areas such as Tax Compliance and Financial Data.
There are just so many opportunities you can create here. I feel like I’ve already had multiple job roles across a varied career, when it’s really only been 5 years at Shell!
Becoming a Leader
I was promoted internally through the team, and although I had plenty of time to prepare, you never know how it’s going to turn out. You begin to ask yourself questions like “am I really the one to lead this team?” What I discovered was that you need to have an honest conversation with yourself at the beginning and decide what kind of leader you want to be.
So, I started defining that person. I knew I wanted to be someone that people could look up to, and that would take authenticity and transparency. In my eyes, these are the attributes that separate a manager from a leader.
Working with People
Being promoted from within your team has its benefits, such as existing technical competency and familiarity with requirements. But the challenging part is the social side: how do you go from being someone’s colleague to their manager? Will I still be able to have fun with them?
As it turns out, becoming team leader was the best thing that could have happened to me in this respect. I never expected how being appreciated by others gives you such a sense of belonging and forms even deeper bonds.
Shell conducts a leadership survey where your team members get to feedback on your performance. The first year, I was dreading it as you never know what’s inside people’s heads. When they shared the results, I saw that I had received 100% positive feedback. It was an incredibly proud moment.
Despite getting 100%, when it came around to the next years’ survey, I was still terrified to see the results. And I think this best demonstrates my philosophy that you should never take anything for granted. It will take constant work for me to be the best leader I can be. It’s a journey of continuous improvement and it’s important to never get too comfortable.
A Place for Women Leaders
Outside of my job responsibilities, I am also a member of the gender balance leadership network. We’re all about making Shell a great place for women to succeed, and although the times are changing, we still don’t see that happening at all companies. It’s about having the chances and recognising the people, regardless of their gender or ethnicity.
If you just take a look around Shell, there are so many great female role models who have successful careers. Both my line manager and my associate Transfer Pricing manager are women, and without them I would not be the leader I am today.
Shell has so many opportunities for leadership, but it’s important to understand that it isn’t for everyone. Some people perform better as individual contributors and others in technical roles. There’s no point in wanting to be a manager for the sake of prestige – that’s not how we see it at Shell. The best leaders are those who give people the inspiration and ability to grow and develop along their own paths.
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