Daniela Klasen-Martin, Rosa Villalobos, Carolina Lazo, Denise Voss, Lisa McLean, Ekaterina Volotovskaya, Catherine Larue, Jessica Bauldry, Kavitha Ramachandran, Yvonne O'Reilly and Karen J. Wauters
Photo: Maison Moderne
Expat women from 10 different countries have shared their experiences about working and living in Luxembourg.
Photo: Maison Moderne
Paperjam Club invited 10 successful expat women for a 10x6 evening at the Tramschapp on Wednesday 29 March. They talked about the challenges, but also the opportunities, that they encountered:
“You need a compelling reason to leave Luxembourg”
Daniela Klasen-Martin, managing director and country head of Crestbridge, defined herself as a “born expat”: she was born in Italy to Swedish parents, and never felt anywhere quite “normal” until she came to Luxembourg with her French husband in 1997. She is now the proud mother of two daughters and loves Luxembourg because there is culture for every taste, and the nature is lovely and close to the centre. She said she feels less like an expat now.
“Women are trusted by the board of directors here”
Dr Catherine Larue, CEO of the Luxembourg Institute of Health, has previously worked in industry and developed numerous patents and published extensively on cardio-metabolic biomedical research. Catherine emphasised that working in Luxembourg had certain advantages: the proximity between deciders and actors, and the fact that Luxembourg is a wealthy country and can invest significantly in health technologies and research, and that the people are welcoming. She was also positively surprised by the fact that women can become CEOs or members of the boards of directors here. Catherine noted two downsides: her husband works in Lille at the moment, so she is quite far from her family. But she said that they always meet up in Paris!
“Beauty is in all of these places, and they’re all my home”
Carolina Lazo, architect at Slideshore, is from Venezuela, studied at the University of California in Berkeley, and worked in the US and Venezuela before coming to Luxembourg. She has two kids and works from home and has an office in Hollerich with another expat.
“Meeting people leads to doing business together”
Lisa McLean, managing director of Ara City radio, has been in Luxembourg for 22 years. She raised her three kids with her German husband here and is applying for Luxembourg nationality because of Brexit. Lisa told the audience that she never had a great master plan, but wanted “work to work for me”. She found her first jobs through contacts and connections, and argues that Luxembourg’s small size is actually an asset. When she started her own communications agency, Ara city radio was a client--and now she is the managing director. Lisa told the audience the advice she gives her kids: “When things don’t go your way, it’s an opportunity to do something different”.
“Crossing your own borders: big changes need big risks”
Yvonne O’Reilly is founder and managing partner of Avanteam Consult. She is a certified executive & systemic team coach and organisational development consultant. At 30, after teaching for 10 years in Ireland, she moved with her husband to Luxembourg. She was pregnant at the time and it all felt like a new start. She applied for jobs she never thought she would get, but she did, and started to forge a new career in HR. When she got laid off during a reorganisation, she took the decision to start her own company as a business coach which aims at developing better leadership and better decisions. She has also done TEDx.
"Find comfort in being uncomfortable”
Kavitha Ramachandran, senior manager responsible for business development and client management with Maitland Luxembourg, said that she always thought that risk taking was equal to irrational behaviour. But then she realised that taking risks was essential to grow. She was never interested in Indian classical music, but when she got asked to do a radio show on that topic, she started to research and has invested considerable time into it, bringing her now back to her roots in a way. Professionally, she thought that Luxembourg had a great entrepreneurial spirit and was very diverse.
“To make a lasting impact, you must give back as much as you received”
Rosa Villalobos, managing director in Macquarie infrastructure and real assets, was the first woman in Luxembourg to become a certified director by the Luxembourg Institute of directors. Love brought her to Luxembourg from Barcelona, but she has started to love Luxembourg as well. She loves the fact you can get much more done here than in a big city, where travelling from one meeting to the next can take up so much of your time. “Networking is also much easier here, acquaintances facilitate introductions and you get to know so many people”, Rosa said. Another big advantage is that “all the major financial institutions are in one place, and you can be part of a truly global team.”
“You don’t have to lose your identity to be successful in business”
Ekaterina Volotovskaya, business development leader for CIS and Russian markets and partner at Deloitte, arrived from Moscow in Luxembourg in 2001. Ekaterina talked about the challenges she faced when she arrived here. She thought that she was not taken seriously because of the way she dressed and was really upset. She changed clothes, hair and stopped wearing the same makeup. A kid and a few years later of trying to fit in by wearing “normal” clothes, Ekaterina decided that she needed to feel like herself again, and changed back to her own, unique style.
“Come for two years, stay forever”
Denise Voss is conducting officer at Franklin Templeton Internationall Services and, since June 2015, ALFI chairwoman. She arrived in Luxembourg in 1990 for what should have been just a few months for an exchange programme. 27 years on, she is still here. She loves the ever present spirit of cooperation in Luxembourg and the work-life balance.
“We are part of the fabric of Luxembourg; we are tomorrow’s history”
Karen J Wauters is an independent director and advisor and came from Canada to Luxembourg 27 years ago. She talked of the “hybrid experience”--the familiar and the different--“you mix contents and create something new”. The international exposure you get here is exceptional; Luxembourg is global and local at the same time. In Luxembourg, it is normal to meet 10 different nationalities in one day!