10 questions for SIMONA COMANDE’

What were you like when you were younger? How were you educated? How did your parents’ cultural diversity influence your growth?

I was born in Finland to a Finnish mother and Sicilian father, I was raised and educated in Genoa. I was a shy, pensive and observant child; my education was strict, characterised by rules and a firm hand but softened by warmth, smiles and affection. Having parents from two different cultures that are worlds apart was a very positive thing for my own personal growth. My deep curiosity about different people and cultures, which probably stems from growing up with parents from different countries, meant that I am instinctively for inclusion and the welcoming of people who aren’t “part of the group”.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

My character and probably my strict and structured education meant that I was drawn to technical subjects, what are known as STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). As I got older, I started to especially like chemistry and maths, fields that I thought were best suited to my analytical skills and desire to learn new things.

What did you study? Did you study in Italy or abroad?

My pragmatism kicked in when it came to choosing what to study and, conscious of how much my academic decisions would influence my future, I decided to take Chemical Engineering with a specialisation in Environmental Engineering at the University of Genoa.

Which of your post-graduate jobs most influenced the person that you are today and why?

After graduating, I started interviewing for Chemical Engineering positions but,in most cases the roles were unpaid which I didn’t think was correct. Again, bolstered by my pragmatism, I decided to accept a position in sales offered by J&J Medical. I put myself on the line and worked with great determination to grow not only professionally but to mature as a person too.

What was your first role at Philips and what expectations did you have when you started there?

When I accepted the position at Philips, I stepped out of my professional comfort zone to face new challenges: a new company, a new business and new people. I started out as the Sales & Operations Leader in the Health Systems sector for Italy, Israel and Greece. I decided to accept the job because of the strategic vision and transformation that Philips was committed to. And, two years later, I can confirm that these changes are happening.

How have you seen the company change in the last 4-5 years?

I have seen the company’s transformation over the two years that I have been here. What started out as a mainly consumer goods company (from bulbs to TVs), is now to all effects a Health Technology company that aims to create innovative and valuable technology to guarantee more thorough clinical service and accurate data analysis for medical professionals and better treatment results for patients. This big change is felt within the company as a constant quest for improvement, with an approach that is focused around people, their skills, their contribution and, consequently, their wellbeing.

What are your best and worst characteristics?

My best qualities are determination, courage and my analytical skills, which come from my studies and my own personal attitude. Then I would say speed, a quality that defines the way I think and act, but also inspires my lack of patience, a defect that I recognise and am working on.

What are the issues that need to be resolved today and what positive changes does the near future bring? How would you like to effect change?

I really want everybody at Philips to feel actively involved in our story and change. I think that the big change, initiated in recent years through specific programmes, is making sure that Philips staff feel happy and empowered in the working environment and are recognised for their contribution. By promoting inclusive leadership, our challenge is to welcome new people from outside the company who bring skills that can help our organisation to better understand market trends and continue to effectively satisfy our clients.

Inclusion and diversity: avoiding clichés and advertising buzz words, why does it make sense for a multinational to use inclusion to drive innovation in 2019?

Our staff, clients and consumers aren’t all the same. Our task today is to hear and understand the real needs that people have in order to improve their lives while respecting them as individuals. Until a few years ago, there was a lot of homogenisation in the traditional vertical hierarchy of the workplace. Nowadays, authenticity, which we identify at Philips with the pay-off “Lifeisbetterwhen#youareyou”, is a precious value that improves both the company and the community.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Where do you see Philips in five years?

I sincerely hope that I, along with the whole team, will have driven forward the transformation of a company that is redefining the boundaries of the health sector and promoting models that are increasingly connected, efficient and sustainable. I also hope that the people-focused approach, which I continue to work on along with the Management Team, will increasingly become the driving force that powers our group. I imagine myself standing in front of our staff to talk about how much we have achieved over those five years and how it all started by listening in order to identify issues and implement concrete projects.

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