Question Time with Isabelle Le Gal-Maier


Originally hailing from Canada, Isabelle has worked mostly in marketing/multimedia/consulting for the Healthcare Industry in North America and Europe. She now lives in Germany and—being the wonderful human that she is—has let us ask her some meaty questions about how her career journey and aspirations.

What is the most exciting aspect of your work?
Working with people and helping them solve issues based on the knowledge they already have, without telling them what to do.  For example, a product is not selling well and the salespeople did not “buy-into” it.  Through discussions with various stakeholders, I collect feedback; identify potential issues and dig deeper, using the formulated issues to help find a solution.  Once I have the key points, I build an easy to read story that can be used either internally or with customers. To quote Disney (might sound corny) I help uncover the “diamond in the rough”.

How did you decide what you wanted to do after school?
Well… I did not really get to decide, my parents were paying my tuition and although I wanted to go into Film and communications, I was pushed in the “business administration” path.  By the time I reached university, I managed to squeeze some creativity in by studying marketing and taking other courses in fine arts.

What are you proudest of achieving?
 On a personal level: helping my son developing into a resilient, curious and strong man (work in progress).  On a professional level: having successfully moved from Canada and the Internet industry to Germany and a Medical devices position without having any medical background (except having been a patient).

What advice have you received that has been the most rewarding?
Focus on ideas and tasks at hand and ignore what people are saying about you.

What does flourishing mean to you?
For me, it is almost synonym to life, and touches humans as well as nature.  Something or someone with the right environment and care goes beyond their limits and can grow to something really beautiful.

What is one of your top tips for overcoming setbacks and challenges in your career?
Time passes faster for the others as for oneself.  People in a business network forget how long you have had a certain position.  Instead of worrying about what others think of your career (which they probably don’t because they are focused on themselves), do something else for a while, go back inside and work out the emotions generated by the setbacks.  And repeat the same phrase like a mantra: “Has someone died? No? Then everything is fine.”

What advice would you give someone still at school who wants to do what you’re doing now?

Be curious of the other (travelling and learning languages/cultures helps).  Learn to be open-minded and curious about many things.

An overall comment would be: Success is in the eyes of the beholder.  Make sure you go after things that you really want, not something that would please your parents.  Cultivate real, deep and honest relationships with a few friends (no one can do that with 800 people).  A strong emotional network is essential to being resilient in life and to bounce ideas off.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
Happy, with a strong and stable network of friends/colleagues and having the ability to influence positively society one person at a time.

What has been your experience with bad bosses and wonderful mentors at work?
Bad bosses come and go, one needs to be patient and not take everything personally.  One must also learn not to mistake work with family/social.  A boss is not a parent and a company doesn’t “owe” anything to you.  Do an honest work for an honest pay.  If the bad boss does not go, then look for another position.  Don’t expect mentors to come to you with “how to/step-by-step guide”, do your homework about the questions you are seeking answers to.  Don’t be disappointed if someone you admire does not have time to mentor you.  Mentors “happen” in a career – they also have to get something out of mentoring you (for themselves).

What motivates you and brings out the best in you at work?
People:  meeting them, cultivating relationships, learning from others and how they do things; finding a solution to a complex situation after having done the right analysis.

What have you experienced and learned about working with others?
We are all different.  If it is meaningful for me, doesn’t mean that others see it the same way.  Clear communication and validation of what is communicated is key to avoiding misunderstandings.  Clarifying expectations is especially important to ensure that everyone does what they are supposed to do.

What are your strategies for balancing the demands of work with those of your personal life?
Still working on that!

 What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken personally or professionally? Did it pay off?

Moving to Germany, without knowing any German or having a job.  After 10 years in Germany, I have learned a lot about myself, developed my career in another direction (from Internet and multimedia to Medical Devices and pure Marketing consulting).  On a personal level, I am married and have a child.